Footage has emerged from Tibet of local people boldly challenging a mining project at a holy mountain in Amchok, eastern Tibet today (May 31). The mine has previously been the site of two self-immolations by Tibetans.
The footage, which has been posted on Youtube, depicts local Tibetans confronting armed police forces, and shows banners in the background calling upon the authorities to prevent the mining going ahead. A Tibetan speaking in the video can be heard making references to Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s speeches, which have voiced support for ecological and environmental protection.
A Tibetan source from the area, in Sangchu (Chinese: Xiahe) county, Kanlho (Chinese: Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu province (in the Tibetan area of Amdo), told Tibetans in exile: “Today’s protest indicates the level of desperation in the area, as Tibetans’ concerns about the exploitation of their land and destruction of the environment have been ignored for more than two decades. This particular mining project has not only created great damage to the environment, but also disrespects the religious faith and traditions of the Tibetan people, and their concern about this sacred mountain.”
In November 2012, in the same week, two Tibetans set fire to themselves and died near the entrance to the gold mine, which is at Gong-ngon Lari mountain in Amchok township. Tsering Dhondup, 35, set fire to himself on November 20, 2012, and Kunchok Tsering, 18, set fire to himself six days later on November 26.
According to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, “Tsering wanted to highlight the hardship and suffering of the local Tibetans harmed by mining activities.” Local sources told TCHRD that Tsering was a “gentle character” and devoted to Tibetan freedom as well as environmental issues.
Following the circulation of the footage of today’s protest, there are fears about the potential response by armed police. Protests against mining and to protect Tibet’s fragile high-altitude environment have become increasingly frequent, and dangerous, as the Chinese authorities accelerate large-scale mining in copper, gold, silver, chromium and lithium. Tibetans who express even moderate concern about the impact of toxic waste, deforestation, and large-scale erosion risk being imprisoned, tortured, or killed.