By Kalsang Rinchen
Armed police in riot gear massing outside the cement factory in Madang Township. (Photo:ICT)
Dharamsala, May 18 - Chinese Police in Amdo Labrang Saturday (May 15) opened fire on ‘unarmed’ Tibetans who were protesting against a cement factory which they accuse of polluting the local environment and obstructing religious sentiments of the local Tibetans.
Washington based International Campaign for Tibet says fifteen people were taken to hospital with injuries sustained from gunshots and police beatings. No deaths, however, have been reported so far.
Local Tibetans from 7 villages in Madang Township, Xiahe County (Labrang) in the traditional Tibetan province of Amdo have signed a writ petition expressing their disappointment over the pollution caused by ‘Amdo Cement Factory’ that employs around 600 workers. In addition to the expressed concerns about pollution, local Tibetans claim the factory was built on a site of religious significance.
Amdo Cement Factory in Labrang (Photo:ICT)
The ICT, which has translated into English the petition, say that the language used in the petition “indicates an awareness not only of national law and policy on environmental protection, but also an understanding of current Communist Party slogans including "harmonious development" and a "scientific viewpoint."
Tension ran high after villagers started to rebuild a road that was earlier blocked for the factory’s expansion. Photographs show armed police in full riot gear at the site. According to exile Tibetans with contact in the area, the Tibetans in Madang were preparing to rebuild a road leading to Yarshul (Ch: Yaxiu) village which had been made inaccessible by a road blockade by the Chinese authorities to expand the factory.
Staff from the cement factory, cadres from Madang Township and police officers warned them to stop the road construction. The deputy governor of the county asked the Tibetans to withdraw from the site threatening them with action if they did not allow the factory’s vehicles to pass. The Tibetans were given 15 minutes to clear the area and they did move back from the road, according to the source but the police still opened fire. “...He gave them a 15-minute warning, and the villagers did start to move back from the road. But even so armed police moved forward and started to shoot," ICT quoted its source as saying.
Earlier this month, Tibetan villagers in Markham (Ch: Mangkang) in the Tibetan area of Kham carried out protests against mining leading to the injury of at least five Tibetans, including two women. Tibetans in Markham have renewed protests against mining operations on mountains they consider sacred, despite strong presence of armed Chinese police, RFA
earlier reported, citing sources in the region. Markham was the site of vehement protests last year against mining on a mountain called Ser Ngul Lo.