UPDATE: Rinchen Samdrup was sentenced to 5 years in prison by a court in Chamdo prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region on July 3, 2010. His lawyer, Xia Jun, told The Times (UK) that the main charge against him centered around the posting of an article about or mentioning the award of the Nobel Prize to the Dalai Lama on the website of Rinchen Samdrup’s environmental group. While there is no formal law in China against posting photos of or references to the Dalai Lama, charges can be brought up if authorities interpret the information as amounting to incitement to splittism, meaning to push for independence, oppose the Communist Party, or stage a protest. While the question of who posted the article remains unanswered, the lack of political involvement by Rinchen Samdrup and his brothers further calls into question the court’s basis for its verdict.

Rinchen Samdrup

Rinchen Samdrup, an award-winning Tibetan environmentalist, received a five year prison term from a court in Chamdo prefecture, TAR on July 3, 2010.

An award-winning Tibetan environmentalist, Rinchen Samdrup, goes on trial today (July 3), following his younger brother Karma Samdrup’s sentencing to 15 years in prison last week. Forty-four year old Rinchen Samdrup was detained together with his brother, Chime Namgyal, who is now in a labor camp, after they attempted to stop local police and officials poaching wildlife in their home area, according to Tibetan sources.

Rinchen Samdrup, who is to go on trial in his home area of Chamdo (Chinese: Changdu) prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region, faces charges of “incitement to split the country,” according to The Times (UK), a serious charge that carries a heavy penalty in China (July 2, 2010). The case was originally due to be heard in Lhasa.

The three brothers, who are all in prison, were previously acclaimed even in the Chinese state-run media as model citizens and pillars of their local community. There is no evidence that they were involved in any political activities. A detailed article by Chinese environmental journalist Feng Yongfeng published in the state-run media several months after Rinchen Samdrup’s arrest (translated into English below in full) praises him for his environmental work, saying that it is helpful to the government’s aims of ecological protection.

Sources close to Tibetans in the area indicate that the case against Rinchen Samdrup appears to have been driven by the Tibet Autonomous Region authorities after local officials or police objected to interference in their hunting of endangered animals in Rinchen Samdrup’s home area of Gonjo, Chamdo.

The Chinese journalist’s article published in the official press and translated below details Rinchen Samdrup’s work in organizing villagers from his home area to protect and revitalize their local environment. Rinchen Samdrup is praised for being a “protector of the environment” who “exudes the pure tranquility of an intellectual.” The article, which appears on the Chinese Ministry of the Environment’s website, is dated February 3 – around five months after Rinchen Samdrup was detained and imprisoned in August, 2009. Shorter versions of the same article appeared a month or so earlier in People’s Daily and ChinaTibetNews websites. It is not known whether Rinchen Samdrup’s arrest was known at the time by officials who posted the article, or whether this indicates a difference in perceptions of the case in the Tibet Autonomous Region and Beijing.

Rinchen Samdrup’s environmental and cultural work was also recognized internationally, and received an award from the Ford Motor Company Conservation and Environment Protection Grants (China) (http://www.chinatibetnews.com/huanbao/2010-01/12/content_384895.htm) in 2006 as well as an award from Jet Li’s One World Foundation.

In an interview that accompanied the February article in the state media, Rinchen Samdrup discussed the difficulties the villagers faced in their work, saying: “Sometimes I think that our greatest hardship is actually that we didn’t think we could be environmental protection volunteers before.”

Eschewing the individual praise he has received for the organization’s work, Rinchen said that he was “Not the founder or anything, all I did was to say that everyone in the village should join together to do something to protect the environment in our village and everyone thought that’d be good.” Rinchen later reiterated the importance of the shared commitment of their work, saying that “Everyone has to discuss democratically, everyone has to express their ideas and suggestions because there is wisdom in your ideas. If you never say anything, your wisdom will be washed away by the river.”

The article outlines in detail Rinchen Samdrup’s leadership in organizing the local community to plant trees and collect litter. It appears to point to the context for his detention in stating that: “Compared to planting and tending trees, patrolling the mountains was far harder because as the number of wild plants and animals increased, it meant that the number of hunters also increased.” The article applauds Rinchen Samdrup and his association’s work monitoring the environment, and makes it clear that they were aware of the importance throughout China of environmental work on the Tibetan plateau. Feng Yongfeng writes: “Starting in 2003 and with Rinchen Samdrup taking the lead, each year villagers would plant trees in their hometown. Zirong Village is in the Yangtze River watershed, and planting trees is not only good for the protection of water and soil on the upper reaches of the Yangtze, it also plays a major role in improving the local environment.”

The article also includes praise from Chamdo Prefecture Deputy Party Secretary Wang Dongsheng for Rinchen Samdrup’s work, who says that it has helped the government with reforestation and other environmental protection projects.

During the police raid on the brothers’ home last August in which Rinchen and his brother Chime were arrested, their mother, who is in her seventies, was beaten unconscious by police led by a Party official from Chamdo prefecture called Chen Yue.

The case against Rinchen Samdrup is part of a larger case against his two brothers, two cousins, and other relatives and supporters and stands as a major case in which prominent Tibetans have been targeted and imprisoned despite no evidence of political activities. (ICT report, Fears for three environmentalist brothers as ‘gaunt’ Karma Samdrup on trial after torture).

Mary Beth Markey, Vice President for International Advocacy at the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “Rinchen Samdrup and his brothers were engaged in environmental work that should have been embraced by the authorities as being in the common interest of both the Chinese government and local people. ÿInstead they seem to have been targeted for trespassing against some local interests. This calls into question whether the central authority’s priority is to protect the environment or cater to corrupt officials?”

Chime Namgyal, the youngest brother, is serving one year and nine months re-education through labor for “endangering state security” and is due to be released on July 13, 2011 after having already served 30 days in detention while awaiting trial. According to a copy of Chime Namgyal’s sentencing document obtained by ICT, the authorities stated that compiling audio-visual materials on ecology was part of the reason for his administrative detention, stating that he “assisted and coordinated with his elder brother Renqing Sangzhu [Rinchen Samdrup] in illegally compiling three discs of audio-visual materials on the ecology, environment, natural resources and religion of Chamdo Prefecture; he illegally possessed reactionary propaganda materials from the Dalai clique abroad; he supplied photographs and material for the illegal publication ‘Forbidden Mountain, Prohibited Hunting.'”

Rinchen Samdrup, the planter of trees in “Heavenly Beads”

February 3, 2010
Author: Feng Yongfeng
Source: China Environment News, p. 8

In 2009, “Heavenly Beads” became a best-seller. One of the main characters Rinchen Samdrup is a real person

Bio: In 2005 Rinchen Samdrup won the first “Alashan Environmental Award,” the “Hu Yang Prize,” and in 2006 he was awarded the “Environmental Protection First Prize” by the “Ford Motor Car Environmental Awards.” In 2003 under his leadership, 11 Tibetan villages centered on Dongba Village in the Zirong River valley in Xiangpi Township, Gongjue County jointly established “The Kham Regional Anjiong Seng’ge Nanzhong Ecological and Environmental Protection Voluntary Association” to vigorously undertake local ecological and environmental recovery and protection work, planting trees and grass, collecting litter, and jointly protecting the natural environment of their hometown.

Special correspondent Feng Yongfeng

Richen Samdrup turned his family home into a resting place for people circumambulating the mountain, where people who stayed could learn basic and easy-to-use information about environmental protection.

2009 was the year of the Earth Bull in the Tibetan calendar. There are some similarities between the Tibetan calendar and the Han Lunar Calendar, where every 12 years is a “cycle.” On the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, there are some mountains that local people regard as holy mountains, and people go and circumambulate each of these holy mountains in order to accrue spiritual merit. Holy mountain are also frequently regarded as having a house in the astrological zodiac, and when the “birth year” of that mountain’s house comes, circumambulating that mountain once is equal to circumambulating it 12 times. And therefore, every time a holy mountain has a birth year, all people who cherish their religious beliefs call their friends and family together and head off to circumambulate the mountain.

There’s a holy mountain behind Rinchen Samdrup’s home, which transliterated out of Tibetan is called “seng’ge Nanzong,” and which translated means “Lion Mountaing.” This mountain’s astrological year is the year of the Bull, and so 2009 was the birth year of this holy mountain. Therefore, starting from the beginning of the first month in the Tibetan calendar, groups of people came to circumambulate the mountain.

Rinchen Samdrup’s home is built next to the mountain’s circumambulation path, and he deliberately leaves his door open to invite people circumambulating the mountain in to rest, taking the opportunity to pass on information on environmental protection.

Rinchen Samdrup is a self-taught Tibetan medicine practitioner, computer expert, and an expert on the environment. He’s also a self-taught magazine editor and video filmmaker.

Rinchen Samdrup is a shy person, and exudes the simple tranquility of an intellectual. Starting from when he was very young he loved learning from newspapers and loved getting involved in charitable and public welfare projects. When he became an adult, and noting the environment around him, he was saddened at seeing fewer and fewer trees each year, and he developed a natural sense of mission. “During my grandfather’s time this all used to be thick forests with tigers and other wild animals. But then all the trees were cut down like a head being shaved,” he says.

And so it was inevitable that he would became a protector of the environment. First, he covered his walls at home with state policies on environmental protection and maps; then he established the Seng’ge Nanzong Environmental Protection Voluntary Association and mobilized everyone to collect litter. There are around 1700 people in Zirong Village and practically everyone was a member of the Seng’ge Nanzong Environmental Protection Voluntary Association. Each day everyone participated in collecting their own litter, then going out in regular joint dispatches to collect litter left behind by others; and every year he edits the environmental protection association’s magazine “Self-Initiative,” a small handbook which gave out useful information in Tibetan on environmental protection.

Rinchen Samdrup said, “Environmental protection is an environment culture slowly formed throughout the historical development of the Tibetan people. The Qinghai-Tibet plateau where the Tibetan people live is a place with the most delicate natural environment. In the development of mankind, the Tibetan people have experienced more natural disasters than other peoples, and these disasters are all reflected in Tibetans’ culture, religion and customs.” Therefore, it is very easy to talk about environmental protection with Tibetans. Rinchen Samdrup frequently “suggests” to people circumambulating the mountain who pass by to take away the litter that they themselves “generate,” and bury what can be buried, burn what can be burned, and take out and sell anything that can be taken out and sold, saying that they shouldn’t just drop litter as this was bad for other people, and it was bad for their own beliefs. There were numerous large bags around Rinchen Samdrup’s home full of plastic bottles and metal cans, and when convenient he was going to take them all down to the town and sell them to collectors and use all of the money he gets in return for the association’s running costs.

When he has spare time, Rinchen Samdrup patrols in the mountains with his daughters, collecting Tibetan medicinal plants along the way and teaching his daughters about them. They take photographs of the plants and animals they see, such as brown-eared pheasants, blood pheasants, wolves, bears, pikas and marmots to be printed in the Tibetan-language magazine “Self-Initiative,” and invite experts to provide relevant scientific information on all of the above. If the experts aren’t too sure, they themselves go and find the relevant information, which makes the other villagers very proud of them at the same as teaching them the basic means of protecting these plants and animals. If the association receives any kind of award, the prize money goes to support the editing and printing of the magazine “Self-Initiative.” Printed copies of the magazine are left on the shelf and whoever wants a copy can take one away. And so it is that everything silently progresses. Rinchen Samdrup said, “We don’t want to make the people who come by into deliberate targets for propaganda, we just want to explain to them in passing the things that we feel are correct. If everyone is willing to do these things with us, of course that’s best.”

Allow me to quickly step into a time machine and go back to a day in late November 2005. In a large room on the roof of a hotel the “Mount Kailash, Lake Mansarovar and Protected Land Management Seminar” is being held. The Chinese Academy of Science academician and Dean of Beijing University Xu Zhihong is meeting with people including the internationally famous wildlife protection specialist George Schaller, the famous environmental protection expert and Beijing University Professor L Zhi, and the famous civil environmental protection personage and Executive Deputy Secretary General of the Three River Sources Environmental Protection Association, Hashu Tashi Dorjee.

Rinchen Samdrup is sitting in the audience and doesn’t understand Chinese too well, but he’s holding up his mobile phone as though it’s a tape recorder, trying hard to catch the speeches of all the important people at the meeting.

His mobile phone is performing the unique function of providing a live, on-the-spot broadcast.

He wants to broadcast all of the voices from meeting directly from his mobile phone to his hometown, to his house. Gathered in his home are all the people who were able to make it and they are all assembled around a landline phone with the speaker-phone activated so the words from a mobile phone hundreds of kilometers away can come to them via their phone.

“Rinchen Samdrup, don’t hang up, let us hear what people at the meeting are saying,” said Sonam Chophel, a friend from his village and a member of the association.

“But you’re the same as me – you don’t understand Chinese,” said Rinchen Samdrup.

“Don’t worry about it, just don’t hang up,” the villager said. They lean closer to the phone. This is a rare opportunity for them to be in touch with the outside world. Every time they hear laughter in the meeting room the villagers urgently ask Rinchen Samdrup, “What are they laughing about? Is it anything to do with us?”

Rinchen Samdrup is wearing a Tibetan chuba and sitting in the front row at the meeting staring intently at the face of the Dean of Beijing University, Xu Zhihong. This peasant from the great mountains of Gonjo County in Tibet has never spent a day at school, but now he hopes to be able to guess what Xu Zhihong is saying from watching his face.

Xu Zhihong is an authoritative expert in the field of life sciences, and he says that southwest China’s animal and plant diversity and cultural diversity are extremely rich, but also extremely delicate. Protection for this area has come more and more to the attention of the government. Many grass-roots cadres and ordinary people in the community have invested themselves in environmental protection activities, and this is an important foundation for environmental protection which should be supported by all circles of society. At the same time, the local people must be a solid force for environmental protection.

Xu Zhihong lamented in his speech, “All land is holy mountains and holy lakes,” “every living thing and non-living thing is worthy of respect.” In his speech he was full of admiration for the voluntary environmental protection model of Rinchen Samdrup and all the other villagers. He even said the “communal management” model represented by the “holy mountains and holy lakes” and the “protection associations” should be encouraged in legislation.

Hashu Tashi Dorjee stood next to Rinchen Samdrup and hearing these important words shouted a translation from one phone through to the other. Rinchen Samdrup paid more than 300 yuan on his phone bill to make this “live broadcast” happen.

The meeting asked for every “association” committed to protecting the local environment to put down on a board of a certain size what each of them had done in the area of environmental protection and what they planned for the future, and the group of experts would then select from among the boards. The board made by Rinchen Samdrup came in at first place. When the appraisal committee there discussed the board they said that Rinchen Samdrup’s board showed priorities, it was concise, and the concepts were all clear – anyone seeing the board would know straight away what they were doing, and furthermore, it was aesthetically rather good.

On December 1, 2005, Rinchen Samdrup and all the other representatives from the meeting in Kangding [Dartsedo] together discussed, voted upon and passed the “Kangding Initiative.” This initiative set forth some beautiful ideals for the “communal voluntary model” of environmental protection:

  • Fully recognize the value of cultural variety [duoyuan wenhua] and bio-diversity to the existence and development of mankind, and the urgency of protecting them.
  • Respect and promote the environmental protection values in minority nationality cultures.
  • Encourage communities to use their own means to engage in work to protect biodiversity, and assist communities to raise their ability to engage in environmental protection.
  • Formally place “communally protected land” into the national system of protected land, and provide policy and legal support.
  • Encourage nature reserves to create varied management models, promote communities” active participation in protection, and allow community participation to combine with existing protection systems.
  • Focus on sustainable economic development in the southwest mountain regions and raise the people’s standard of living, and closely combine development with environmental and cultural heritage protection.

Starting in 2003 and with Rinchen Samdrup taking the lead, each year villagers would plant trees in their hometown. Zirong Village is in the Yangtze River watershed, and planting trees is not only good for conserving water and soil along the upper reaches of the Yangtze, it also plays a major role in improving the local environment.

Zirong Village stands next to the Jinsha River, an upper tributary of the Yangtze and in the village there’s a stream called the “Requ.” There’s not a lot of water in the stream, and the water flows constantly away and into the Jinsha River. Stabilizing plant cover in the upper reaches of the river in Zirong Village was extremely important for the environmental protection of the middle and lower reaches.

When they started, Rinchen Samdrup and the villagers wanted to restore the deeply forested natural environment of before, but as they started planting trees they weren’t aware of government policies and had to plant the trees secretly. At the beginning of 2003, the Executive Deputy Secretary General of the Three River Sources Environmental Protection Association Hashu Tashi Dorjee came on an inspection of the Zirong River valley and he told the villagers that planting trees was entirely above board and that protecting the environment was something that the government encouraged. “The villagers all brightened up immediately,” said Rinchen Samdrup.

And so it was that the Seng’ge Nanzong Environmental Protection Association was founded by Rinchen Samdrup and the 1700 or so villagers all became members.

In the spring of that year when they started planting trees, the plan was to plant 10,000. A person at the Gonjo County Forestry Bureau said, “This is really something that you’re doing!” and gave them 1000 saplings and a sack of grass seed. In 2004, the government gave them some news that nearly knocked them off their feet. Gonjo County had an annual quota of 800,000 seabuckthorn bushes to plant, but they didn’t have enough hands. The villagers said “We’ll do it “we’ll plant however many you have.” The forestry bureau immediately gave them 400,000 bushes, and 400,000 other trees. At the time, the road hadn’t yet been built and so the villagers had to go down to the main road and carry the trees back to the village one by one.

The villagers were so excited they couldn’t sleep, and they sang and danced as they went deep into the mountains to plant trees. They kept a tab running:

  • In 2004, they planted 446,850 various kinds of tree throughout the different villages, returning a total 373.8 mu [61.6 acres] of farmland to forest.
  • In 2005, they planted 94,755 various kinds of tree in the different villages.
  • In 2006, they planted 85,523 various kinds of tree in the different villages, making outstanding achievements in returning farmland to forests.
  • In 2007, they planted 101,023 various kinds of tree in the different villages.
  • In 2008, they planted 105,300 various kinds of tree in the different villages.

The villagers not only planted the trees, they also carefully measured the survival rate of the saplings. The villagers kept statistics on their outstanding results from 2003 to 2008: “In those five years, a total of 833,451 various kinds of tree were planted. A total of 261,100 pine trees were planted with a survival rate of over 70%; a total of 159,451 willows of five different varieties were planted with a survival rate of only 30%; the local survival rate of the willows was quite high, but the number planted was quite low.”

A villager called Wangdu said, “In those five years, the villagers worked hard planting trees, and we established village rules where supposing there was a tree that didn’t survive, then 10 more trees would be planted in its place. Everyone worked very closely, very patiently and meticulously, and the survival rate of the trees slowly rose each year. Planting trees in spring is just what villagers go out and do now – it’s become a local custom.”

Rinchen Samdrup made everyone who loves their hometown into an environmental protection volunteer.

Compared to planting and tending trees, patrolling the mountains was far harder because as the number of wild plants and animals increased, it meant that the number of hunters also increased.

As the numbers of trees in the mountains multiplied over time, the villagers started patrolling the mountains. Rinchen Samdrup and the association members created four kinds of table, with three of them used to record the condition of the trees, the animals and plants, and the soil. People patrolling the mountains would enter what conditions they saw into the tables. The fourth table was put in villagers’ homes, and if they had any ideas or suggestions for protecting the environment they could write them up and give to everyone to discuss. Richen Samdrup said, “The benefit of democratic discussion is that everyone acts conscientiously.”

They discussed what to do about the problem of wolves eating their sheep. Before 2002, there was a disastrous number of wolves and the villagers were all terrified that it’d be their milking cattle that the wolves would kill next. They decided that whoever killed a wolf would have to pay a fine of 50 yuan. This meant that people could kill a wolf when it was threatening the livelihood of the farmers and nomads, but the fine told everyone that such actions were not to be encouraged.

Strange things happened. From 2004 to 2005, not a single sheep or cow was killed and there were no mountain floods. The villagers simply didn’t dare believe it. “What amazing spirits! We’ve only been doing voluntary environmental protection work for one year!”

The villagers continued to observe the changes they were seeing around themselves, and they saw animal tracks in the winter barley fields that looked like Blue Sheep. The Blue Sheep seemed to provide an explanation for this miracle: villagers patrolling up in the surrounding mountains had planted trees and grass, and the numbers of wild animals grew; wolves had food to eat, and so no longer took cattle or sheep. Some of the villagers said, “The mountain gods must have made a phone call to the animals and told them that these villagers protect the environment and animals and so go! Wolves won’t take their cattle and sheep any more.”

As far as the villagers were concerned, patrolling the mountains certainly wasn’t just about monitoring changes among the wild animals, they also dared to propose advice to people who damaged the environment, and in particular those people who still went out hunting as before with rifles. When they heard the news about the animals in the Zirong River valley, more and more people went there to hunt.

Every day the villagers scattered throughout the area to work and as such, whenever anyone came in hunting and a rifle shot was heard the villagers were able to quickly detect where it was and rush to the scene. If the hunters had just arrived in the mountains, the villagers would patiently explain the situation to them. If they had already made a kill without the villagers being able to get there, they’d hold them; if they hadn’t yet made a kill they’d make a call to the local public security department.

Chamdo Prefecture Deputy Party Secretary Wang Dongsheng has a great deal of praise for the work done by the voluntary environmental protection association jointly founded in the 11 villages of the Zirong River valley. He says, “Tibetan people have always had a fine tradition of respecting life and protecting the natural environment. And the five or six years of voluntary protection activities carried out by Rinchen Samdrup and the 1700 villagers is an extremely beneficial supplement to the government’s environmental protection work. Their protection work is highly supported by the government. They help the government complete many projects, such as the Development and Reform Committee’s reforestation project, which they completed extremely well.”

Jampa Gyaltsen, the Bureau Head of Gonjo County Public Security Bureau, says: “The villagers’ conscientious actions to protect the environment and protect wild animals and plants greatly promotes our public security work. We’ve discovered that there is more and more unity among the villagers under the impetus of environmental protection. Villagers are cooperating every more happily with us in the area of environmental protection work. With everyone working together the beautiful mountains and rivers will be maintained forever, and remain as beautiful as ever.”


Feng Yongfeng: You use digital video – what do you shoot?

Rinchen Samdrup: I made a short film, which is just like our magazine and is also called “Self-Initiative,” which was included in the March 2009 “South of the Clouds Photography and Documentary Exhibition.” We filmed the process of how the Seng’ge Nanzong Environmental Protection Association” made “Self-Initiative,” the first village-level independent magazine in Tibetan areas. It’s a story that starts with an idea, a sheet of white paper, and then by pulling together all of the villagers’ ideas and suggestions, finally a magazine is formed that’s rich in content. It also records all of the details of creating the magazine that appear interesting but in fact were quite dangerous, and how such a magazine could have such an impact within our region and even beyond. Some tulkus in the monastery carry copies of this magazine in their hands when they read the scriptures, and some 30 monasteries have been in touch saying they want the magazine.

Feng Yongfeng: Can you tell us how you started shooting video?

Rinchen Samdrup: My younger brother Karma Samdrup is a businessman, and he brought a video camera, and that was when I started shooting stuff. I never used to shoot anything interesting, but then I discovered I could record change, images that compared before and after. Now I’m deliberately shooting the environment and recording the work and the meetings. I don’t speak Chinese or English, but I’ve learned to use editing software on the computer and can show the footage to the villagers. There’s a lot of DVD players in the village, and during festivals people love watching things that they themselves appear in, and so it’s like a combination of movie night and community education.”

Feng Yongfeng: Is it true to say that everyone in the 11 villages of the Zirong Valley is an environmental protection volunteer? Is everyone that active?

Rinchen Samdrup: A lot of people are now accustomed to saying I’m responsible, but in fact I’m not. And I’m not the founder or anything, all I did was to say that everyone in the village should join together to do something to protect the environment in our village, and everyone thought that’d be good. We Tibetans always enjoy thinking about this kind of thing, and sometimes when we see a tree that’s been damaged we’re saddened but can never think of anything to do about it. Everyone just suffers in silence. And so when I spoke to everyone, everyone said we should have done this earlier. And so we talked about all sorts of things. The men came to talk about it, the women came to talk about it, and the children came too. After the discussions everyone went back to discuss it with the members of their family who weren’t there, but if they wanted to be a part of it all, then they were a member. Everyone went back to discuss it with their families and everyone was willing.

Feng Yongfeng: Aren’t there certain hardships in having so many people engaged in environmental protection activities?

Rinchen Samdrup: Actually, we haven’t spent any money. It’s as though everyone is just working for themselves and their families. You till the land, you tend flocks in the mountains, and in passing you see what’s changed in the surroundings, and in passing you see if anyone’s harmed the animals, and in passing you tidy and clear away litter – there’s no hardship in this. In the early years it used to be that the greatest hardship was editing and printing the magazine “Self-Initiative.” Another hardship is that there isn’t enough money to buy saplings, but we’ve had great support from the county forestry bureau and the prefecture forestry bureau. Sometimes I think that actually our greatest hardship is that we didn’t think we could be environmental protection volunteers earlier.

Feng Yongfeng: There are some people who worry that your association will be seen by people as an “illegal organization.” Have you thought about going to register it?

Rinchen Samdrup: We don’t have anything to worry about. But, we’re also getting ready to have it formally registered in the county. I know that Tashi Dorjee’s Three River Sources Environmental Protection Association has already been registered in Xining, and that their office has moved from Yushu Prefecture to Xining, changing it from prefecture-level to provincial-level – it’s being run better and better. We’re not concerned about being provincial-level or village-level. The state is now encouraging environmental protection, and I think that as soon as we start the registration process it’s going to be fairly smooth. Everyone is saying that you need several systems, that you can’t just rely on one person or one group of people, and we’ll be paying close attention to this side of things. Everyone has to discuss democratically, everyone has to express their ideas and suggestions because there is wisdom in your ideas. If you never say anything, your wisdom will be washed away by the river.