Tibetan villagers in western China’s Sichuan province were fired on by police this week after the group confronted Chinese Muslims who they accused of stealing livestock to take to a slaughterhouse, sources in the region and in exile said.
At least three Tibetans were badly hurt in the shooting, with two later taken to a hospital in the provincial capital Chengdu for treatment, sources said.
The March 30 incident near Horshul village in Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) county in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture followed the discovery by local herders that over 10 of their animals had gone missing, a Tibetan living in Switzerland told RFA’s Tibetan Service, citing contacts in Serthar.
“When the owners went looking for their animals, they found them loaded onto vehicles, and when they made enquiries they learned that the culprits were Muslims who steal animals for their slaughterhouse,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
When local police intervened in the dispute, the animals’ owners could not clearly communicate their concerns, and the police opened fire on the Tibetans, the source said.
“This resulted in severe injuries on the Tibetan side.”
“When I spoke to my contact in Serthar, he said that at least three Tibetans were badly wounded, and that one of them was seriously hurt,” he said.
Thieves helped by police
As many as 30 yaks, a significant source of wealth for herding families, may have been stolen in the theft that sparked the shooting, a second European-based Tibetan source told RFA, also citing local contacts.
“Later, the Tibetans found them in vehicles owned by Muslims,” the source, named Golok Jigme, said.
“When the Tibetan owners asked them to say who had sold the animals to them, they refused to tell the truth, and the Muslims called for help from the police.”
Police then fired on the Tibetans, Jigme said, and in the process two Tibetans named Ngakge and Soephel were badly wounded.
“They could not be treated at the hospital in Serthar and had to be moved to a hospital in Chengdu for further treatment,” Jigme said.
Conflicts over the operation of slaughterhouses in Tibetan areas have led to frequent clashes between Tibetans and Chinese in recent years.
On Nov. 29, 2011, Tibetan herders angered at the theft of their livestock attacked a Chinese-owned slaughterhouse in Sichuan, demolishing the building and scattering meat along the road.
The incident sparked a clash between Tibetans and local police, with protesters seizing and destroying police weapons and damaging vehicles.
In a 2007 report, No One Has the Liberty to Refuse, New York-based Human Rights Watch noted spreading “concerted protests” by Tibetans against Chinese-operated slaughterhouses being built in Tibetan areas.
“Local people in areas where these incidents took place claim that they have been ordered to donate animals for slaughter on a per-household basis,” the report said.
In some cases, local protests have been led by religious figures, who have spoken against the killing of animals for their meat.
Reported by Dawa Dolma and Sonam Wangdu for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.