China detains 30 Tibetans with alleged exile contacts after mining protest news leaked

Chinese authorities in Nagchu (Chinese: Nagu) Prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region have detained 30 villagers. (Photo courtesy: TCHRD)
Chinese authorities in Nagchu (Chinese: Nagu) Prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region have detained 30 villagers. (Photo courtesy: TCHRD)

(, May16, 2018) – Chinese authorities in Nagchu (Chinese: Nagu) Prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region have detained 30 villagers and rendered disappeared a village head as well as a town Tibetan official after news about a project to extract mineral ore from a sacred mountain nearby was reported by foreign media, according to Dharamshala-based Tibetan centre for Human Rights and Democracy May 14. The ground for suspecting them for leaking the information, including about the detention of a village head who opposed the project, was that they had contacts, mostly relatives, living in exile.

Mining in Tibet
Mining activities at Sebtra Zagyen. (Photo courtesy: TCHRD)

The Tibetans were said to have been rounded up around Apr 2 from Markor, Wathang, Sernye, Lhegyhen and Gochu villages in Shakchu (Shaqu) Town of Diru (Biru) County. The centre said the detention was accompanied by severe beating and followed news about the mining work as well as the earlier detention in late Feb of the Markor Village head Karma were reported by the international media in March. The authorities had targeted for detention Tibetans with connections to relatives and others living in India, said the Tibetan Service of Apr 27.

The mining site, Sebtra Zagyen, is a sacred mountain that overlooks several villages. Karma was taken away after he questioned the legality of the mining project and demanded proof of approval for it from higher authorities.

When news about his detention was reported by the exile Tibetan media, local authorities immediately ordered a public meeting at which 30 Tibetans suspected of leaking the information were detained. The centre said it had names of nine of the detainees, including two women. Among them was stated to be a man named Khenrab, 36, a Shakchu Town government official.

He was stated to have been detained for engaging in “separatist activity” after he had lectured villagers on the importance of environmental protection. His whereabouts too remain unknown.

Two other detainees – Rinchen Namdol, 39, and Tsultrim Gonpo, in his 50s, were stated to be monks of Drong Ngur Kagyu Phelgyeling Monastery in Wathang Village.

Both Khenrab and the two monks had earlier been detained in 2015, the former for six months for “maintaining contacts with separatists” and the latter for engaging in “separatist activity”.

Also known to be among those detained are Jangchup Ngodup, in his 60s, a resident of Markor Village; Dhongye, 51, a businessman and resident of Gochu Village and a winner of a ‘Clean Environment’ competition held at Sernye village in the past; a doctor named Sogru Abhu, 39, from Lhegyen village; and Namsey, 39, from Dakra village.

Sogru Abhu was said to have previously served a two-year imprisonment under ‘separatism’ charges in 2009.

The Tibetan villagers were stated to be worried that the mining work would destroy the sacred Sebtra Zagyen Mountain, which is home to endangered animals such as Tsoe (Tibetan antelope), Nah (Blue Sheep) and Gowa (Tibetan gazelle). Besides, they fear that mining would cause landslides at another sacred mountain called Drakar lying to the right of Sebtra Zagyen, which in turn would block the water supply to the villagers.


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