Chinese Police Arrest Hundreds of Tibetan Protesters

Chinese police have arrested hundreds of ethnic Tibetans after protests about a huge dam project.

The detentions occurred in Dege County in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan Province, an area with a large population of ethnic Tibetans.

Hundreds of people who had protested against the construction of the 2,240-megawatt Gangtuo hydropower station on the Drichu River (Jinsha in Chinese) were arrested, Radio Free Asia reported on February 22.

The protesters included Buddhist monks from local monasteries and the residents of villages who could be forced to relocate because of the dam. The Gangtuo hydropower project is planned for the Jinsha River, the upper stretch of Asia’s longest river, the Yangtze.

Pro-Tibet protesters confront supporters of Chinese President Xi Jinping during demonstrations at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Week in San Francisco on November 15, 2023. Chinese police have arrested hundreds of ethnic Tibetan protesters in…

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The hydropower project was approved in 2012 by China’s National Development and Reform Commission, a government development agency. It could lead to the destruction of six monasteries and displace residents from two villages.

Wanto Monastery, which dates back to the 13th century, could be one of the monasteries to be destroyed for the hydropower project. Other monasteries that could be affected also have histories dating back hundreds of years, a family member of one protester told Newsweek on condition of anonymity.

“Including both monks and the lay community, over 1000 people joined one protest against the project,” they said. “Around a hundred made a direct appeal for the forced relocation and dam construction project to be stopped.”

Newsweek couldn’t independently verify the number of protesters.

“Police used unimaginable force on nonviolent Tibetan protesters,” the family member said, adding that sticks, water cannons and pepper spray had been used.

A monk from Wonto Monastery was rushed to the hospital after being badly beaten, a source told Radio Free Asia.

Newsweek contacted China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment via email. Newsweek also contacted the U.S. State Department for comment.

“China is a country under the rule of law,” Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, told Radio Free Asia last week. “China protects the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese nationals in accordance with the law.”

Over the past few days, a video showing Chinese police arresting Buddhist monks and local Tibetan residents has circulated on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

“China’s continued suppression of Tibetan people’s voice and aspiration is a serious crime against humanity. China must be held accountable for its coercive policies in Tibet,” Tenzin Lekshay, the spokesperson of the Central Tibetan Administration, the Tibetan government-in-exile, told Newsweek.

A senior U.S. State Department official has raised concerns over the arrests.

“Deeply concerned by reports of the PRC’s mass arrests of Tibetans protesting construction of a dam that threatens displacement of villages & destruction of monasteries,” Uzra Zeya, U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, wrote on X.

About 40 of those arrested have been released from detention, Radio Free Asia reported on Tuesday.

Uncommon Knowledge Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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