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(Solidarity protests in Dharamsala. Source: The Tibet Express)

Mass Arrests of Tibetans Protesting Against Hydropower Station in Dege, Tibet

Large and unprecedented protests erupted in Dege (Ch. Gengqing) in the Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. The Dege area is part of Kham and historical Tibet, but the Chinese government incorporated it into Sichuan province. 

Tibetans living in Wangbuding township and other areas in Dege County began protesting in large numbers for several days starting February 14. They were opposing Chinese government plans to build the 1,110-megawatt Gangtuo hydropower station on the Drichu River (Ch. Jinsha) on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River.

The controversial dam project first proposed in 2003 will submerge Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and 50 villages and displace close to 100,000 people. The Tibetan monasteries at risk of destruction are Wonto (Wangdui), Tashi, Gonsar, Yena (Yinnan), Rabten and Khardho. The Wonto monastery and its ancient murals date back to the 14th to 15th century. 

Radio Free Asia and other sources have reported that over 1,000 Tibetans including monks have been arrested and Chinese authorities deployed specially trained armed police on February 22, 2024. In a region where it is most daunting to get access and information, people have managed to send out videos of monks, nuns and residents being arrested.  

I’m “deeply concerned by reports of the PRC’s mass arrests of Tibetans protesting construction of a dam that threatens displacement of villages & destruction of monasteries. 🇨🇳 must respect human rights & freedom of expression and include Tibetans in the development & implementation of water and land management policies,” said US Under Secretary Uzra Zeya who also serves as the US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues.