On May 27, 2006, Sichuan Province officials sent armed forces to suppress a group of over a thousand Tibetans protesting the exploitation of the sacred Yala Mountain.
A local resident explained that the government had arbitrarily sold the mountain to a lead-zinc mining company. When the protesters gathered outside the offices of the company who had purchased the mountain, they were beaten and driven away by public security officers and armed police. At least ten Tibetans were injured in the assault and twenty individuals, including tribal leaders, were arrested.
“Many armed troops were called to the scene,” explained one local resident who witnessed the event. “They jumped on and beat the protesters recklessly without giving a reason. Many protesters were injured and hospitalized. One in particular had to be put on a respirator.”
According to one resident, public security officers and armed police have taken over a local school as their headquarters, leaving children without a school to attend for the past seven days. Officers have also been sent to search protesters' homes, destroying personal property and arresting about a dozen people in the process. The twelve tribal leaders who met with provincial party committee members to discuss the preservation of the sacred mountain are believed to have also been detained.
Armed public security personnel and police are said to be patrolling the area to prevent future protests, yet Tibetans believe strongly that Yala Mountain is sacred and must not be violated. One Tibetan woman explained that mining not only destroys the environment but also keeps tourists from visiting. “Many soldiers have been sent to our small town,” she said. “Our governor and county magistrate have stepped down. With guns pointing at them, the residents are too afraid to speak out. There is no use in protesting. People say that the mining business enjoys strong support in Beijing.”
This woman said that Tibetans had previously sabotaged another mining site in an attempt to prevent exploitation of this holy mountain. According to Reuters, protestors destroyed over twenty homes and more than ten police and government vehicles. Unidentified sources claim that several Tibetans were killed in the conflict, but Radio Free Asia sources had not heard of any deaths.
When reporters contacted the Bamei County government office, officials stated that they were unaware of such an event. The Bamei Police Station and the Sichuan provincial party committee did not return calls for this report.
Bamei County is located on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateu in western Sichuan. It is a beloved tourist destination. Over ninety percent of residents are Tibetan and rely on farming for a living.