Commotion between two communities lead to arrest of 30 Tibetans

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) received confirmed information from reliable sources that a commotion between the migrant Chinese Muslim traders and Tibetan youths on 27 June 2007 in Yagra neighborhood in Sog County, Nagchu Prefecture “TAR” and subsequent protest by Tibetans against the highhandedness of the traders has led to the arrest of around 30 Tibetans.

On 27 June 2007, a commotion between the migrant Chinese Muslim traders and Tibetan youths broke out in the Yagra neighborhood of Sog County while transacting medicinal plant caterpillar fungus (Tib: Yartsa Gunbu, Botanical name: cordyceps sinensis). According to sources, during the initial commotion two Tibetan youths were said to have been tied-up and beaten by a group of migrant Chinese Muslim traders of the area. After the incident hundreds of Tibetans gathered to protest against the treatment meted out to the two Tibetan youths. And the subsequent protest incident in Yagra neighborhood has led to the arrest of 30 Tibetans by the Chinese authorities.

The local authorities of Sog County in order to bring the situation under control sought the intervention of a high ranking Rinpoche of Sog Tsenden Monastery. “Without the help of Rinpoche the situation could have taken an ugly turn. It was due to his intervention in the matter that helped to bring an end to the situation” a local told TCHRD. The Chinese migrant shops around the Yagra neighborhood remained closed for a day after the incident.

Resentment towards the migrant traders and settlers are palpable and only a spark is needed to trigger protests. Often official indifference and disregard to local inhabitants’ problem provides this spark. Today in many parts of Tibet, the collection and sale of Yartsa Gunbu is a lucrative business although it is looked down upon as an unwholesome activity. However, many inhabitants are left with no alternative other than to engage in this business with shrinking grassland and restriction put on by the authorities on the number of livestock that each family can raise which have failed to provide sufficient subsistence to mostly nomadic inhabitants. Over the years with migrant Chinese settlers entering the lucrative trade, it has further aggravated the problem of local Tibetan inhabitants.

This is not the first incident of its kind to have taken place in Sog County, the first major conflict happened in 1993 when local Tibetans and migrant Chinese Muslim traders came face to face and later a large number of Tibetans protested against their presence in their locality. While in the same vein, in year 2004, a large number of local Tibetans of Tsaray Village in Yagra neighborhood of Sog County protested for two consecutive days against the Chinese mining activities in their area. The protest had resulted in a scuffle between the officials and the local Tibetans. Since there has been no information on the 30 Tibetan arrestees, TCHRD expresses its deepest concern on their condition and whereabouts.

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