02/26/2024, 16.51
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Despite protests against dam construction in Tibet, Beijing is proceeding with its plans

Tibetan monks who took to the streets against Chinese authorities were arrested and mistreated in detention. Plans to build a hydroelectric power plant would see two villages and six monasteries submerged, which is why Beijing has issued an order to relocate residents, which the latter are resisting.


Dharamsala (AsiaNews) – Chinese police have begun questioning Tibetans arrested over the weekend for protesting the construction of a dam in Dege county, Sichuan province, on the border with Tibet.

Those taken into custody are being held at various locations in Dege County as no single site could detain more than a thousand individuals at once. 

A source that spoke to Radio Free Asia (RFA) on condition of anonymity for personal safety said that the detainees were “slapped and beaten severely each time they refused to answer important questions,” while “Many had to be taken to the hospital.”

Another source added that some prisoners “passed out because of the lack of food amid the freezing temperatures.” 

For their part, Chinese authorities imposed COVID-19-like restrictions, banning people from leaving their homes.

Local monks and residents began to protest peacefully on 14 February, after receiving a forced relocation order from Beijing due to the construction of the Gangtok (Kamtok in Tibetan) hydroelectric power plant.

For the project to be completed, the villages of Upper Wonto and Shipa, home to about 2,000 Tibetans, and six monasteries – three in Dege County and three in Chamdo (Changdu) township, must be demolished before they are submerged by water.

Several videos posted online show the monks prostrating themselves before Chinese officials (a gesture that Tibetans consider “awful”), urging them to review the decision and stop the demolition of their places of worship.

In particular, the monasteries in Wonto (which contain precious painted walls dating back to the 13th century) and Yena, the closest to the construction site, are home to about 300 monks and  carry important religious and cultural value for local Tibetans.

Beijing, however, seems unwilling to stop the project.

The 2,240-megawatt Gangtuo (Kamtok) hydroelectric power plant is located along the upper Yangtze River (Drichu in Tibetan and Jinsha in Chinese).

It is part of a broader plan by the National Development and Reform Commission to build dozens of the world's largest hydroelectric stations in the Three Parallel Rivers (Yangtze, Mekong, Salween) protected area in Sichuan, Yunnan, and Tibet, where they originate.

The area, which has long been targeted by China for clean energy production, is also a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site.

According to Tibet advocacy groups, Beijing approved the construction of the dams while sending partial information to the UN agency about possible environmental damage.

Complaints by the local population and environmental activists seem to fall on deaf ears; in early December 2023, China announced that it had completed 50 per cent of the construction of the Yebatan dam, just south of the Gangtuo dam.

According to the Chinese government, the plant, in which Beijing has invested more than 33 billion yuan (US$ 4.6 billion), will be operational by the end of 2025 and will serve the region’s social and economic development.

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