Tibetan community pushes back against plan to divert their water supply

Location of Chone County (credit RFA)
Location of Chone County (credit RFA)
Location of Chone County (credit RFA)
13th November 2018

The community in Chone County protested after local authorities announced their intentions to divert a nearby river

Residents of Se-Tsang Township in eastern Tibet have gathered to protest plans by local authorities to divert a nearby river.

The river is set to be diverted away from Se-Tsang Township, which is located in Chone County, Kanhlo Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, and towards Hrin-Tsang Township, a majority Han Chinese community, in the nearby Bha-Tse County.

Se-Tsang Township is a rural area, composed of a mix of nomadic Tibetans and farmers, who are heavily dependent on the nearby river as a source of clean drinking water. They also use the water for farming and for their cattle.

The announcement was made on Saturday 10 November, when Sangshang, a local leader in Hrin-Tsang Township, arrived at Se-Tsang Township accompanied by a large number of Chinese officials and police.

In video footage obtained by Free Tibet’s research partner Tibet Watch, a voice can be heard saying: “Look! Look! They are here today to subjugate us... subjugating our water. Such a huge number of Chinese vehicles are here. These Chinese people are here seizing our water ... Akor Sangshang is leading it”.

Sangshang informed the residents that the water would be diverted to Hrin-Tsang Township. He also announced that anyone planning to resist this order could be arrested.

A second video shows an official asking seven people from Se-Tsang Township to come forward to represent the township and to discuss the water diversion project. In response, a voice in Tibetan can be heard saying: “Water is an issue for the entire village, not just a concern of few. Whether few or all, the word and demand would be same”. In the same videos, lots of vehicles and officials can be seen at the site of the protest.


Residents launched their protest the day after this announcement. The protest has been accompanied by an online petition, entitled A tearful appeal from the heart of residents of Se Tsangkhog. In one section, the petition asks the local authorities: "Have you considered what we and our cattle should drink if our water is diverted to another township and county? […] Why we don't have the rights over territory and village which is ours?”

The petition launched by residents of Se Tsang Township
The petition launched by residents of Se Tsang Township
The petition launched by residents of Se Tsang Township

Translation of the petition

A tearful appeal from the heart of residents of Se-Tsangkhog (the Se-Tsang area).

Our Se-Tsang Township is located within the boundaries of Chone County of Kanlho Tibet Autonomous Prefecture. We, the residents of this place, mainly carry out herding.

Recently, the Chief of Hrin-Tsang Township, who is a native of Akhor, led by this old dog (Sangshang), along with many officials from the township and county, arrived to our place. Forcefully and in an authoritarian manner, he said that they were going to divert our pure water to Hrin-Tsang Township and Bha-Tse County. Have you, the chief, ever thought about what we the residents, and the cattle, will drink if you divert our water to an another county and township?

For what reason and for what purpose does the water belonging to our own area have to be diverted there? Do people in your county and township not have drinking water, or have your people finished the water in the past years? Why do you need to extract our water? Why does Sangshang need to lead? Why don’t we have the freedom of ownership to our own water? Is there any huge secret behind this action that you cannot mention?

The leaders of the party and fellow Tibetans are requested to be attentive about this. Kindly spread the word and expose the secret lies behind this move.

Afternoon of 11 November, 2018

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