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Tibetans demand China halt Derge dam work

16 Mar 2024 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

(The Statesman) - The Tibetan community in the region has demanded that the Chinese government stop the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Drichu river in Derge town in Dege County in Sichuan in Southwest China.

According to Tibetan leader Jamyang Bhutia, the chairman of the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress in Mirik in Darjeeling, over 1000 Tibetans were arrested in one day in Derge as there were unprecedented protests against the construction of the dam very recently. Bhutia said that the proposed Gangtuo hydropower station would force the displacement of thousands of people living in the area.

“The proposed dam would also cause significant environmental harm and destroy six monasteries, including the Wonto monastery founded in the 14th century, which has one of the finest examples of Tibetan, Buddhist murals, and is a great historical and cultural significance,” Mr Bhutia said on the side-lines of a peace rally in Siliguri the community organised a few days ago to mark the 65th anniversary of the Tibetan people’s uprising against China’s occupation in Tibet in 1959.

People from the Tibetan community came in from the northeast zone, including nearby places like Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Mirik, Odlabari in the Dooars, Gangtok in Sikkim and Salugara in Siliguri, marched in the peaceful protest rally that started from Salugara and ended at Biswadeep hall on Hill Cart Road in Siliguri.

The protestors strongly condemned the “brutal crackdown” and urged the international community to call upon China to free the protesters and halt the construction of the dam.

“Tibet remains an occupied territory under tight military surveillance. Since 2008, over 160 Tibetans have self-immolated in protest against China’s repressive policies. United Nations experts have raised alarms about the forced separation of one million Tibetan children from their families for assimilation into Chinese colonial boarding schools,” Mr Bhutia said.

“As Tibet has consistently been ranked as one of the least free countries in the world by freedom houses with little to know information making its way out, Tibetans inside Tibet have shown extraordinary courage. Language, culture, history and identity are under threat in Tibet, but resistance is as strong as ever,” he said.