More than 30 Tibetan villagers opposing Chinese mining operations on a nearby sacred mountain have been taken into custody for questioning by police after news of the project leaked last month to foreign media contacts, according to Tibetan sources.
The mountain, called Sebtra Dzagen and located in Driru county in the Nagchu prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region, is a pilgrimage site and home to many rare wild animals, local sources told RFA’s Tibetan Service in earlier reports.
When Chinese officials at the end of February forced local villagers to sign their approval for the mining to proceed, a village head named Karma refused to sign and was taken into custody, and Chinese workers began on March 5 to set up red flags to make off areas on the mountain to build camps for miners.
Then, after reports of local opposition to the mine appeared in March outside Tibet, Driru police moved quickly to make arrests, a source in the Tibetan capital Lhasa told RFA this week, citing contacts in Driru.
“The mining project on the sacred Sebtra Dzagen mountain was reported by foreign media, and Chinese police began to detain local Tibetans for allegedly leaking the information,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Many of those taken into custody were also beaten in detention, the source said, adding that arresting officers had focused their attention especially on local Tibetans with connections to Tibetans living in India.
“A strict clampdown on mobile phones and other kinds of communication has now been imposed on villages in the area of Sebtra Dzagen to block the flow of information to the outside world,” RFA’s source said.
The whereabouts of Karma, the village head who had earlier refused to sign his approval for the mine, are still unknown, he said.
Tibet has become an important source of minerals needed for China’s economic growth, and Chinese mining operations in Tibetan areas have led to widespread environmental damage, including the pollution of water sources for livestock and humans and the disruption of sacred sites, experts say.
Reported by Dolma for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tseten Namgyal. Written in English by Richard Finney.