Villagers boycott their work to show solidarity with self-immolation protests.
An undated photo by Free Tibet shows Chinese paramilitary police marching on the streets of Ngaba.
Farmers in a Tibetan-populated region of China’s Sichuan province are vowing not to cultivate their fields in a gesture of respect for Tibetans who have self-immolated in protests against Chinese rule and to demand the release of relatives and friends detained in earlier protests, according to a local source.
“Eight villages in the Ngaba in Chinese, Aba prefecture’s Andu township have decided not to till their land this year to express solidarity with the Tibetans who self-immolated and to express their pain over the violent crackdown on Tibetans in Ngaba by Chinese authorities,” a Tibetan resident of the area told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The move echoes a 2009 farm boycott in neighboring Kardze prefecture, in which Tibetan farmers refused to cultivate their land following a week of other protests and detentions during a tense and politically sensitive month.
Tibetans in Andu are now declaring they will not cultivate their land or gather cordyceps fungus, a valuable local commodity, “unless all those members of their community detained by Chinese police are released,” the source said.
“Local officials are putting pressure on the Tibetan farmers and nomads to carry out their regular activities, but the Tibetans are determined not to comply,” he added.
Some still held
On May 1, a group of women from the villages in the township—one from each family—set out for the Ngaba county center to press the authorities to release their husbands and other male family members, the source said.
“However, they were stopped at a place called Kashu before they could reach Ngaba town.”
“Though seven Tibetans from Andu have already been released from detention, they are still being held at the township center for ‘reeducation’ and have not been allowed to return to their families,” he said.
“Four others from Andu are still in detention,” he added.
An earlier boycott
During a similar protest in 2009, Chinese authorities in Sichuan forced villagers into their fields in a bid to end a farming boycott aimed at protesting Chinese crackdowns in the region, Tibetan sources said.
“The Tibetans didn’t cooperate at first, but later tilled their fields under pressure and with the assistance of government workers and security personnel,” one source said at that time.
Sichuan’s Ngaba and Kardze prefectures have been the scene of repeated protests in recent months by Tibetans challenging rule by Beijing, including many of the 35 self-immolation protests reported in Tibetan regions since February 2009.
These have resulted in a major security crackdown in the province and in two other Tibetan-populated Chinese provinces, Qinghai and Gansu, as well as in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Reported by Joleb Chophel for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.