Chinese authorities detained 20 Tibetans in a massive crackdown this week on protests against the construction of tunnels for a road project which led to the collapse and damage of residential buildings in a county in Sichuan province's Kardze (in Chinese) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, according to sources.
More than 1,000 People's Armed Police, a paramilitary force, swooped on Pondha town in Dege county to contain rising opposition to the project, nabbing those leading the protests, the sources said.
Local residents had vehemently opposed the project when it was first launched in May last year, citing "disruption of the local environment, daily livelihood, and safety of the houses lying near the site of the tunnel" but their protests were ignored, a Tibetan in India with contacts in the area told RFA's Tibetan Service.
Seven months later, work on the tunnel stretching from Dege Tsokok village to Dege Kamthok village resulted in cracks appearing in nearby houses, some of which have collapsed, he said.
Frustrated over the damage to their homes, about 100 Tibetans stormed the construction site and blocked work there while several other Tibetans went the Dege county office to complain, demanding that their concerns be attended to immediately, a source inside Tibet told RFA.
"Then on January 7, more than 1,000 armed paramilitary forces suddenly arrived in Pondha town and detained about 20 Tibetans." the source said.
Dege is among Tibetan-populated counties in Chinese provinces that are under the close watch of the Chinese authorities following previous protests in the area against Beijing's rule and calling for the return of Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who has been living in exile in India since 1959, sources said.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.
A total of 125 Tibetans have also set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests in China calling for Tibetan freedom.
Reported by Lobsang Sherab for RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.