Dharamshala - Armed police have been sent to the township of Akhori in eastern Tibet to monitor Tibetans who have been protesting against a local Chinese mining project.

The residents of Akhori Township, which is located in Chuchen County in Ngaba, have been subject to surveillance, threats of arrest and other forms of psychological as well as violent oppression.

Armed police were deployed to the township on 20 May 2016, and since arriving, have made threats through loudspeakers to severely punish anyone caught disturbing the mining project, including with arrests and fines.

The residents of Akhori have been protesting against the mine since the project started in March 2013. The mining company as well as authorities claimed to be constructing a hydroelectric power plant. Employees later divulged digging a mine to be the true motive of the company.

Once work on the mine started, Chinese workers began digging into a mountain which is sacred to four Tibetan nomadic villages in Chuchen County. Locals also complained of Chinese workers stealing livestock from local Tibetans and hunting wildlife, thus disregarding and negatively affecting the local Tibetans religious and cultural beliefs, environment and livelihood.

The mining was temporarily halted after community representatives and local Tibetan nomads made several appeals to higher authorities. However, on 28 March 2016, Chinese workers reappeared in Akhori with digging equipment and earth moving tractors. They were accompanied by local authorities and the deputy head of the county police.

Around 200 local Tibetans gathered in response to appeal for an immediate withdrawal. Despite agreeing to withdraw, authorities sent over 80 armed police to Akhori, who on arrival started to violently subdue the residents. In the ensuing clashes between the police and Tibetans, 20 Tibetans were randomly beaten up by armed police and seven people were arrested, including a 60 year-old man. Those arrested were held for periods ranging from seven to 20 days before being released. A few of the detainees were severely beaten while in police custody.

Responding to the increased surveillance and repression, a Tibetan from Akhori said: “It's very hard to say whether we can protect the land for long under the suppression of the government or not. Local people are continuously protecting the sacred mountain. Therefore, we are hoping to get the attention of the media that will highlight the actions of the Chinese government to the world. Especially those groups related to environmental protection may support us on this issue to stop it by giving great attention''.

Chinese-state sponsored mining has been disrupting the lives of Tibetans for decades. With utter disregard to the environment, culture and local lives the Chinese in their hunt for minerals such as copper, gold, molybdenum, chromium have adversely impacted many Tibetan lives in addition to local Tibetan flora and fauna.

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