A young Tibetan stabbed himself and jumped to his death from the roof of a building in Tibet’s Chamdo prefecture on Wednesday after authorities tried to halt his protest against a Chinese mine being built in the area, Tibetan sources in exile said.
Phakpa Gyaltsen, 32, died instantly after throwing himself from a building in Dzogang (in Chinese, Zuogang) county's Tongbar town, a Tibetan living in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Wednesday, citing local sources.
After telling local Tibetans that he would “do something” to oppose Chinese mining in Dzogang, Gyaltsen “went to the town center, climbed onto a high building, and called out for Tibetan freedom,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“When attempts were made to stop him, he stabbed himself twice and jumped off the building, dying instantly,” he said.
Tibet—called Xizang, or Western Treasure, by China—has become an important source of minerals needed for China’s economic growth, and mining operations in Tibetan regions have led to frequent standoffs with Tibetans who accuse Chinese firms of disrupting sites of spiritual significance and polluting the environment as they extract local wealth.
Chinese mining operations at a site near Madok Tso called Ache Jema began almost two months ago, an exile source in Europe said, also citing contacts in Dzogang.
“They claimed that they are working to build a dam, but in reality they are planning to mine in the area, the source said.
“So the local Tibetans decided to stop the plan, and every day three Tibetans were sent to guard the area, working in rotation.”
Some of those watching the site were later detained by police in Tongbar but were released after a few days, he said.
“Local authorities also tried to convince area residents not to oppose the mining by offering each family 10,000 yuan [U.S. $1,603] in compensation,” RFA’s India-based source said, adding, “But the Tibetans argued that mining would have negative impacts [on the area].”
“Phakpa Gyaltsen then told the local Tibetans that he would do something himself so that they would not have to protest and cause problems.”
Gyaltsen, the elder son of the area’s Choeshoe family, is survived by a wife and three small children, with another child on the way, he said.
“Phone connections to the area are now blocked, and it is difficult to learn anything more about what is happening,” he said.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 131 Tibetans to date self-immolating to protest Chinese rule and call for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.