Tibetans in India march in solidarity with those arrested in dam protest in China

Other rallies were held in India’s Bir and Clementown, and in London.
By Thinley Choedon for RFA Tibetan
2024.02.28
Tibetans in India march in solidarity with those arrested in dam protest in China Tibetans and Buddhist leaders march in Ladakh, India, on Feb. 28, 2024, to show their solidarity with Tibetans in Dege county, southwestern China's Sichuan province, who were arrested for protesting China’s planned construction of a dam on the Drichu River.
Thinley Choedon/RFA Tibetan

Tibetans and Buddhist leaders in northern India on Wednesday participated in a march to show their solidarity with Tibetans in southwestern China’s Sichuan province arrested for peacefully protesting the planned construction of a dam. 

Similar solidarity rallies were held in London and other cities the same day.

The large Buddhist community in Ladakh – in Jammu and Kashmir – expressed concerns that the dam project will submerge several significant monasteries with ancient murals that date back to the 13th century. 

The Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, which organized the march and rally, said Buddhists there were concerned about the humanitarian situation and the violation of cultural and religious rights stemming from the expected impact of the dam on several monasteries and villages near the Drichu River.

On Feb. 23, police arrested more than 1,000 Tibetans, including monks and residents, of Dege county in Sichuan’s Kardze Autonomous Tibetan Prefecture, who had been protesting the construction of the Gangtuo Dam, meant to generate electricity.

If built, the power station could submerge monasteries in Dege’s Wangbuding township and force residents of at least two villages near the Drichu River to relocate, sources told RFA. 

Rigzin Dorjey, president of the youth wing of the Ladakh Buddhist Association Leh, said there is an urgent need to address the ongoing human rights abuses and environmental destruction perpetrated by China’s communist government. 

He underscored the interconnectedness of global Buddhist communities and the shared responsibility to stand in solidarity with Tibetans in their struggle for justice, freedom and dignity.

‘Collective commitment’

Lobsang Tsering, vice president of the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress of Ladakh, said the rally serves as “an expression of solidarity and support for Tibetans facing challenges and oppression in Dege county.”

“It symbolizes a collective commitment to standing up against oppression, promoting human rights and preserving Tibetan culture and identity in the face of adversity,” Tsering said. 

Tenzin Peldon, who participated in the march in Ladakh said while Tibetans everywhere usually gather to raise their voices against China on politically significant dates such as March 10, known as Tibetan Uprising Day – which commemorates the thousands of lives lost in the 1959 uprising against China’s invasion and occupation of their homeland – it is crucial that they come together during dire situations like the one being faced by Tibetans in Dege to collectively speak up against China’s oppression. 

“I urge all Tibetans in exile not to give up hope and to continue to raise awareness on online platforms about the plight of Tibetans in Dege county,” she said. 

Other protests were held in Bir village and Clement town in India, and in London, where Tibetans demonstrated outside the Chinese Embassy to show their support for the Dege county protesters, demand the release of the detainees, and call for an immediate halt to the dam construction.

“Risking arrest and torture, Tibetan residents of Kham Derge [Dege county] have shared images and videos of the protest with the outside world,” the Tibetan Community UK said in a statement. “They want the international community in the free world to know about their plight and to raise their voice.”

Authorities released about 40 of the arrested monks on Feb. 26 and 27, RFA reported on Tuesday.

Chinese authorities released about 20 monks each on Monday and Tuesday, said the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity for safety reasons. 

Also on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch called on Chinese authorities to immediately release the detained Tibetan monks.

“The Chinese authorities have long been hostile to public protests, but their response is especially brutal when the protests are by Tibetans and other ethnic groups,” said Maya Wang, the group’s acting China director, in a statement. 

“Other governments should press Beijing to free these protesters, who have been wrongfully detained for exercising their basic rights,” she said.

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi and Tenzin Pema for RFA Tibetan. Additional reporting by Pelbar for RFA Tibetan. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.

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