05/26/2009, 00.00

Hundreds of Tibetans ready to die to defend ‘sacred mountain’ from destruction

For Tibetans, Ser Ngol Lo is a sacred place; for Chinese authorities it is a gold mine to develop. Locals are ready to die to prevent excavation. Security forces have been sent in.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Hundreds of Tibetans are facing off against armed security forces at Ser Ngol Lo, site of a planned gold mine in Tsangshul sub-district (Lhara Village, Markham County, Chamdo Prefecture) which natives consider a sacred mountain.

In Tibetan Ser Ngol Lo means ‘Year of Gold and Silver’. It is a place where Tibetans have historically worshiped, conducting rituals in the event of drought.

Now a Chinese mining firm, Zhongkai Co., has been authorised to excavate the area, causing locals to protest.

The authorities responded to the peaceful occupation of the area by the native population by sending in armed security forces. Radio Free Asia reported that on Sunday 300 armed police were deployed.

The standoff has been going on for several months. Residents are not willing to give in even though the authorities insist on excavating the mountain.

Local sources said that Pema Thinley, vice chairman of the Tibetan Communist Party, was sent to Markham to try to convince the local population to accept the mine.

On 16 May, a contingent of police and security forces arrived, but as many as 500 Tibetans blocked the road leading to the planned mine. Since then they have been there night and day, whilst the Chinese stayed at a nearby school.

“They [the Chinese] have said they will force their way through and go to the site,” a resident said referring to the armed police and miners.

Another local Tibetan said security forces cut off the protesters from the rest of the village.

“They blocked all phones and even cellphones aren’t reachable,” he said. However, the protesters said “that they are ready to die to protect the sacred hill,” another resident said.

In order to justify its military crackdown in 1959 China has claimed when it invaded it freed the Tibetan people from an oppressive feudal monarchy and brought economic prosperity.

Tibetans retort saying that Chinese authorities do not respect their culture and customs and whatever economic benefits Chinese occupation might have brought they have gone to Chinese companies and ethnic Han settlers.

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