Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Police have fired on Tibetans protesting in a peaceful manner, in Palyul (Chinese: Baiyu) County Kardze (Ganzi), Sichuan, against the expansion of a mine that is considered highly detrimental to the environment. At least 4 people are dead and 30 wounded, several seriously, and are now hospitalised in Chengdu. A standoff is still ongoing between the public and police.
The episode dates back to 17 August but has only recently emerged through Tibetans in exile, due to Beijing’s strict censorship on news about Tibet and social unrest.
Drim Gyaltsen, a monk in exile in India, told Radio Free Asia that on August 13 a group of ethnic Tibetans from the village of Sharchu Gyashoe, Tromtar city, led by village leader Tashi Sangpo, protested outside County government buildings against major excavations planned for the local gold mine. The project proposed by Chinese firm Kartin, would devastate arable land, increase pollution and compromise the environment. There is fear that the excavations may also alter the geophysical balance: nearby counties Drukchu (Zhouqu in Gansu) and Gyegudo (Yushu, Qinghai), have suffered recent earthquakes and landslides which locals attribute to mining and excavation for public works. Therefore they have asked for more geological inquiries and tests.
The Tibetans are also asking for compensation for any damage caused by the mine. In response, the authorities arrested the petitioners. Then other residents came who protested for three days before the government buildings. In the early hours of August 17 the police arrived in force, firing gas into the crowd and began arresting people. The crowd "began to scream and protest. Then the police opened fire". In the clashes two policemen were also wounded.
Drim adds that the police then sent additional forces, "who blocked all roads to Palyul. Now residents can not even move freely anymore."
There have been no official comments and when the local authorities were contacted by phone they merely responded that "discussions are ongoing."
The Kartin company has been running the mine for 20 years, but since 2006 it has been expanding operations and has employed more and more machinery to increase excavations.
Kardze County is inhabited by ethnic Tibetans: here in March 2008 anti-Beijing protests broke out, later sedated by a massive military intervention. Tibet is rich in gold and precious metals and the residents accuse the Chinese of exploiting their wealth without any benefit to local community and of polluting the environment.