Tibetan truck owners seeking work on road and railway projects in Tibet have been pushed aside in favor of drivers working for Chinese companies, sparking protests and clashes, Tibetan sources say.
Chinese authorities responded by sending riot troops and police to contain unrest in Shigatse in Central Tibet and Lithang in the east, sources said.
“On June 1, about 100 Tibetan drivers protested in front of Lithang county headquarters,” said Lobsang Gawa, a Tibetan living in India and citing contacts in the region.
“Because improvements to a section of the highway connecting Chengdu in China’s Sichuan province with the Tibetan capital Lhasa were planned for their area, they felt the work should be given to them,” Gawa said.
Instead, Gawa said, Chinese authorities assigned the work to 24 companies based in mainland China, which then brought in Chinese workers, sparking the protests.
Riot troops, police sent
“A large number of Chinese riot troops and police were sent to subdue the protesters, who were not successful in their demands,” Gawa said, adding that many local Tibetans—on hearing of plans for the project—had already purchased trucks in hopes of work.
Chinese drivers have now begun work on the road and have blocked their work sites with large iron gates, Gawa said.
Meanwhile, Tibetan truck owners in Rinpung county near Shigatse in Central Tibet clashed in April with drivers working for Chinese owners, according to a Tibetan resident of the area.
“The Chinese owners alerted officials and police, who came from Shigatse in 15 to 20 vehicles and detained 10 Tibetan truck owners,” the caller, named Dondrub, said.
“The Tibetans were severely beaten before they were taken away,” he said.
Promises of work
Dondrub said that Chinese authorities had earlier told local Tibetans that construction of a railway linking Shigatse to Lhasa would soon pass through their area, and that if they purchased trucks they would be provided with work.
“So the local Tibetans took out loans and bought 60 vehicles with the hope of getting contracts to haul materials to and from the work sites,” Dondrub said.
“When construction began on the rail line, the local Tibetans were given the task of moving materials. Then, trucks owned by Chinese with Tibetan drivers were allowed to haul materials.”
“The Tibetan truckers were gradually given fewer assignments, and the other trucks were given more loads. Soon the Tibetan truckers were without jobs,” Dondrub said.
Dondrub added that Tibetans in the area have become concerned that the rail line being built may eventually link to a Chinese-owned mining project near Bumri, a sacred hill located near Jewa township in Rinpung.