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Award-winning Tibetan environmentalist on trial today

July 5, 2010

ICT Report
July 3, 2010

An award-winning Tibetan environmentalist,
Rinchen Samdrup, goes on trial today (July 3),
following his younger brother Karma Samdrup's
sentencing to 15 years in prison last week.
Forty-four year old Rinchen Samdrup was detained
together with his brother, Chime Namgyal, who is
now in a labor camp, after they attempted to stop
local police and officials poaching wildlife in
their home area, according to Tibetan sources.

Rinchen Samdrup, who is to go on trial in his
home area of Chamdo (Chinese: Changdu) prefecture
in the Tibet Autonomous Region, faces charges of
"incitement to split the country," according to
The Times (UK), a serious charge that carries a
heavy penalty in China (July 2, 2010). The case
was originally due to be heard in Lhasa.

The three brothers, who are all in prison, were
previously acclaimed even in the Chinese
state-run media as model citizens and pillars of
their local community. There is no evidence that
they were involved in any political activities. A
detailed article by Chinese environmental
journalist Feng Yongfeng published in the
state-run media several months after Rinchen
Samdrup's arrest (translated into English below
in full) praises him for his environmental work,
saying that it is helpful to the government's aims of ecological protection.

Sources close to Tibetans in the area indicate
that the case against Rinchen Samdrup appears to
have been driven by the Tibet Autonomous Region
authorities after local officials or police
objected to interference in their hunting of
endangered animals in Rinchen Samdrup's home area of Gonjo, Chamdo.

The Chinese journalist's article published in the
official press and translated below details
Rinchen Samdrup's work in organizing villagers
from his home area to protect and revitalize
their local environment. Rinchen Samdrup is
praised for being a "protector of the
environment" who "exudes the pure tranquility of
an intellectual." The article, which appears on
the Chinese Ministry of the Environment's
website, is dated February 3 - around five months
after Rinchen Samdrup was detained and imprisoned
in August, 2009. Shorter versions of the same
article appeared a month or so earlier in
People's Daily and ChinaTibetNews websites. It is
not known whether Rinchen Samdrup's arrest was
known at the time by officials who posted the
article, or whether this indicates a difference
in perceptions of the case in the Tibet Autonomous Region and Beijing.

Rinchen Samdrup's environmental and cultural work
was also recognized internationally, and received
an award from the Ford Motor Company Conservation
and Environment Protection Grants (China)
in 2006 as well as an award from Jet Li's One World Foundation.

In an interview that accompanied the February
article in the state media, Rinchen Samdrup
discussed the difficulties the villagers faced in
their work, saying: "Sometimes I think that our
greatest hardship is actually that we didn't
think we could be environmental protection volunteers before."

Eschewing the individual praise he has received
for the organization's work, Rinchen said that he
was "Not the founder or anything, all I did was
to say that everyone in the village should join
together to do something to protect the
environment in our village and everyone thought
that'd be good." Rinchen later reiterated the
importance of the shared commitment of their
work, saying that "Everyone has to discuss
democratically, everyone has to express their
ideas and suggestions because there is wisdom in
your ideas. If you never say anything, your
wisdom will be washed away by the river."

The article outlines in detail Rinchen Samdrup's
leadership in organizing the local community to
plant trees and collect litter. It appears to
point to the context for his detention in stating
that: "Compared to planting and tending trees,
patrolling the mountains was far harder because
as the number of wild plants and animals
increased, it meant that the number of hunters
also increased." The article applauds Rinchen
Samdrup and his association's work monitoring the
environment, and makes it clear that they were
aware of the importance throughout China of
environmental work on the Tibetan plateau. Feng
Yongfeng writes: "Starting in 2003 and with
Rinchen Samdrup taking the lead, each year
villagers would plant trees in their hometown.
Zirong Village is in the Yangtze River watershed,
and planting trees is not only good for the
protection of water and soil on the upper reaches
of the Yangtze, it also plays a major role in improving the local environment."

The article also includes praise from Chamdo
Prefecture Deputy Party Secretary Wang Dongsheng
for Rinchen Samdrup's work, who says that it has
helped the government with reforestation and
other environmental protection projects.

During the police raid on the brothers' home last
August in which Rinchen and his brother Chime
were arrested, their mother, who is in her
seventies, was beaten unconscious by police led
by a Party official from Chamdo prefecture called Chen Yue.

The case against Rinchen Samdrup is part of a
larger case against his two brothers, two
cousins, and other relatives and supporters and
stands as a major case in which prominent
Tibetans have been targeted and imprisoned
despite no evidence of political activities.
(See: 'Fears for three environmentalist brothers
as 'gaunt' Karma Samdrup on trial after torture,'

Mary Beth Markey, Vice President for
International Advocacy at the International
Campaign for Tibet, said: "Rinchen Samdrup and
his brothers were engaged in environmental work
that should have been embraced by the authorities
as being in the common interest of both the
Chinese government and local people. ÿInstead
they seem to have been targeted for trespassing
against some local interests. This calls into
question whether the central authority's priority
is to protect the environment or cater to corrupt officials?"

Chime Namgyal, the youngest brother, is serving
one year and nine months re-education through
labor for "endangering state security" and is due
to be released on July 13, 2011 after having
already served 30 days in detention while
awaiting trial. According to a copy of Chime
Namgyal's sentencing document obtained by ICT,
the authorities stated that compiling
audio-visual materials on ecology was part of the
reason for his administrative detention, stating
that he "assisted and coordinated with his elder
brother Renqing Sangzhu [Rinchen Samdrup] in
illegally compiling three discs of audio-visual
materials on the ecology, environment, natural
resources and religion of Chamdo Prefecture; he
illegally possessed reactionary propaganda
materials from the Dalai clique abroad; he
supplied photographs and material for the illegal
publication 'Forbidden Mountain, Prohibited Hunting.'"

Press contact:
Kate Saunders
Director of Communications, ICT
Tel: +44 7947 138612

Rinchen Samdrup, the planter of trees in "Heavenly Beads"

Date: February 3, 2010. Author: Feng Yongfeng.
Source: China Environment News, p. 8.

In 2009, "Heavenly Beads" became a best-seller.
One of the main characters Rinchen Samdrup is a real person

Bio: In 2005 Rinchen Samdrup won the first
"Alashan Environmental Award," the "Hu Yang
Prize," and in 2006 he was awarded the
"Environmental Protection First Prize" by the
"Ford Motor Car Environmental Awards." In 2003
under his leadership, 11 Tibetan villages
centered on Dongba Village in the Zirong River
valley in Xiangpi Township, Gongjue County
jointly established "The Kham Regional Anjiong
Seng'ge Nanzhong Ecological and Environmental
Protection Voluntary Association" to vigorously
undertake local ecological and environmental
recovery and protection work, planting trees and
grass, collecting litter, and jointly protecting
the natural environment of their hometown.

Special correspondent Feng Yongfeng

Richen Samdrup turned his family home into a
resting place for people circumambulating the
mountain, where people who stayed could learn
basic and easy-to-use information about environmental protection.

2009 was the year of the Earth Bull in the
Tibetan calendar. There are some similarities
between the Tibetan calendar and the Han Lunar
Calendar, where every 12 years is a "cycle." On
the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, there are some
mountains that local people regard as holy
mountains, and people go and circumambulate each
of these holy mountains in order to accrue
spiritual merit. Holy mountain are also
frequently regarded as having a house in the
astrological zodiac, and when the "birth year" of
that mountain's house comes, circumambulating
that mountain once is equal to circumambulating
it 12 times. And therefore, every time a holy
mountain has a birth year, all people who cherish
their religious beliefs call their friends and
family together and head off to circumambulate the mountain.

There's a holy mountain behind Rinchen Samdrup's
home, which transliterated out of Tibetan is
called "seng'ge Nanzong," and which translated
means "Lion Mountaing." This mountain's
astrological year is the year of the Bull, and so
2009 was the birth year of this holy mountain.
Therefore, starting from the beginning of the
first month in the Tibetan calendar, groups of
people came to circumambulate the mountain.

Rinchen Samdrup's home is built next to the
mountain's circumambulation path, and he
deliberately leaves his door open to invite
people circumambulating the mountain in to rest,
taking the opportunity to pass on information on environmental protection.

Rinchen Samdrup is a self-taught Tibetan medicine
practitioner, computer expert, and an expert on
the environment. He's also a self-taught magazine editor and video filmmaker.

Rinchen Samdrup is a shy person, and exudes the
simple tranquility of an intellectual. Starting
from when he was very young he loved learning
from newspapers and loved getting involved in
charitable and public welfare projects. When he
became an adult, and noting the environment
around him, he was saddened at seeing fewer and
fewer trees each year, and he developed a natural
sense of mission. "During my grandfather's time
this all used to be thick forests with tigers and
other wild animals. But then all the trees were
cut down like a head being shaved," he says.

And so it was inevitable that he would became a
protector of the environment. First, he covered
his walls at home with state policies on
environmental protection and maps; then he
established the Seng'ge Nanzong Environmental
Protection Voluntary Association and mobilized
everyone to collect litter. There are around 1700
people in Zirong Village and practically everyone
was a member of the Seng'ge Nanzong Environmental
Protection Voluntary Association. Each day
everyone participated in collecting their own
litter, then going out in regular joint
dispatches to collect litter left behind by
others; and every year he edits the environmental
protection association's magazine
"Self-Initiative," a small handbook which gave
out useful information in Tibetan on environmental protection.

Rinchen Samdrup said, "Environmental protection
is an environment culture slowly formed
throughout the historical development of the
Tibetan people. The Qinghai-Tibet plateau where
the Tibetan people live is a place with the most
delicate natural environment. In the development
of mankind, the Tibetan people have experienced
more natural disasters than other peoples, and
these disasters are all reflected in Tibetans'
culture, religion and customs." Therefore, it is
very easy to talk about environmental protection
with Tibetans. Rinchen Samdrup frequently
"suggests" to people circumambulating the
mountain who pass by to take away the litter that
they themselves "generate," and bury what can be
buried, burn what can be burned, and take out and
sell anything that can be taken out and sold,
saying that they shouldn't just drop litter as
this was bad for other people, and it was bad for
their own beliefs. There were numerous large bags
around Rinchen Samdrup's home full of plastic
bottles and metal cans, and when convenient he
was going to take them all down to the town and
sell them to collectors and use all of the money
he gets in return for the association's running costs.

When he has spare time, Rinchen Samdrup patrols
in the mountains with his daughters, collecting
Tibetan medicinal plants along the way and
teaching his daughters about them. They take
photographs of the plants and animals they see,
such as brown-eared pheasants, blood pheasants,
wolves, bears, pikas and marmots to be printed in
the Tibetan-language magazine "Self-Initiative,"
and invite experts to provide relevant scientific
information on all of the above. If the experts
aren't too sure, they themselves go and find the
relevant information, which makes the other
villagers very proud of them at the same as
teaching them the basic means of protecting these
plants and animals. If the association receives
any kind of award, the prize money goes to
support the editing and printing of the magazine
"Self-Initiative." Printed copies of the magazine
are left on the shelf and whoever wants a copy
can take one away. And so it is that everything
silently progresses. Rinchen Samdrup said, "We
don't want to make the people who come by into
deliberate targets for propaganda, we just want
to explain to them in passing the things that we
feel are correct. If everyone is willing to do
these things with us, of course that's best."

Allow me to quickly step into a time machine and
go back to a day in late November 2005. In a
large room on the roof of a hotel the "Mount
Kailash, Lake Mansarovar and Protected Land
Management Seminar" is being held. The Chinese
Academy of Science academician and Dean of
Beijing University Xu Zhihong is meeting with
people including the internationally famous
wildlife protection specialist George Schaller,
the famous environmental protection expert and
Beijing University Professor L Zhi, and the
famous civil environmental protection personage
and Executive Deputy Secretary General of the
Three River Sources Environmental Protection Association, Hashu Tashi Dorjee.

Rinchen Samdrup is sitting in the audience and
doesn't understand Chinese too well, but he's
holding up his mobile phone as though it's a tape
recorder, trying hard to catch the speeches of
all the important people at the meeting.

His mobile phone is performing the unique
function of providing a live, on-the-spot broadcast.

He wants to broadcast all of the voices from
meeting directly from his mobile phone to his
hometown, to his house. Gathered in his home are
all the people who were able to make it and they
are all assembled around a landline phone with
the speaker-phone activated so the words from a
mobile phone hundreds of kilometers away can come to them via their phone.

"Rinchen Samdrup, don't hang up, let us hear what
people at the meeting are saying," said Sonam
Chophel, a friend from his village and a member of the association.

"But you're the same as me - you don't understand
Chinese," said Rinchen Samdrup.

"Don't worry about it, just don't hang up," the
villager said. They lean closer to the phone.
This is a rare opportunity for them to be in
touch with the outside world. Every time they
hear laughter in the meeting room the villagers
urgently ask Rinchen Samdrup, "What are they
laughing about? Is it anything to do with us?"

Rinchen Samdrup is wearing a Tibetan chuba and
sitting in the front row at the meeting staring
intently at the face of the Dean of Beijing
University, Xu Zhihong. This peasant from the
great mountains of Gonjo County in Tibet has
never spent a day at school, but now he hopes to
be able to guess what Xu Zhihong is saying from watching his face.

Xu Zhihong is an authoritative expert in the
field of life sciences, and he says that
southwest China's animal and plant diversity and
cultural diversity are extremely rich, but also
extremely delicate. Protection for this area has
come more and more to the attention of the
government. Many grass-roots cadres and ordinary
people in the community have invested themselves
in environmental protection activities, and this
is an important foundation for environmental
protection which should be supported by all
circles of society. At the same time, the local
people must be a solid force for environmental protection.

Xu Zhihong lamented in his speech, "All land is
holy mountains and holy lakes," "every living
thing and non-living thing is worthy of respect."
In his speech he was full of admiration for the
voluntary environmental protection model of
Rinchen Samdrup and all the other villagers. He
even said the "communal management" model
represented by the "holy mountains and holy
lakes" and the "protection associations" should be encouraged in legislation.

Hashu Tashi Dorjee stood next to Rinchen Samdrup
and hearing these important words shouted a
translation from one phone through to the other.
Rinchen Samdrup paid more than 300 yuan on his
phone bill to make this "live broadcast" happen.

The meeting asked for every "association"
committed to protecting the local environment to
put down on a board of a certain size what each
of them had done in the area of environmental
protection and what they planned for the future,
and the group of experts would then select from
among the boards. The board made by Rinchen
Samdrup came in at first place. When the
appraisal committee there discussed the board
they said that Rinchen Samdrup's board showed
priorities, it was concise, and the concepts were
all clear - anyone seeing the board would know
straight away what they were doing, and
furthermore, it was aesthetically rather good.

On December 1, 2005, Rinchen Samdrup and all the
other representatives from the meeting in
Kangding [Dartsedo] together discussed, voted
upon and passed the "Kangding Initiative." This
initiative set forth some beautiful ideals for
the "communal voluntary model" of environmental protection:

Fully recognize the value of cultural variety
[duoyuan wenhua] and bio-diversity to the
existence and development of mankind, and the urgency of protecting them.

Respect and promote the environmental protection
values in minority nationality cultures.

Encourage communities to use their own means to
engage in work to protect biodiversity, and
assist communities to raise their ability to
engage in environmental protection.

Formally place "communally protected land" into
the national system of protected land, and provide policy and legal support.

Encourage nature reserves to create varied
management models, promote communities" active
participation in protection, and allow community
participation to combine with existing protection systems.

Focus on sustainable economic development in the
southwest mountain regions and raise the people's
standard of living, and closely combine
development with environmental and cultural heritage protection.

Starting in 2003 and with Rinchen Samdrup taking
the lead, each year villagers would plant trees
in their hometown. Zirong Village is in the
Yangtze River watershed, and planting trees is
not only good for conserving water and soil along
the upper reaches of the Yangtze, it also plays a
major role in improving the local environment.

Zirong Village stands next to the Jinsha River,
an upper tributary of the Yangtze and in the
village there's a stream called the "Requ."
There's not a lot of water in the stream, and the
water flows constantly away and into the Jinsha
River. Stabilizing plant cover in the upper
reaches of the river in Zirong Village was
extremely important for the environmental
protection of the middle and lower reaches.

When they started, Rinchen Samdrup and the
villagers wanted to restore the deeply forested
natural environment of before, but as they
started planting trees they weren't aware of
government policies and had to plant the trees
secretly. At the beginning of 2003, the Executive
Deputy Secretary General of the Three River
Sources Environmental Protection Association
Hashu Tashi Dorjee came on an inspection of the
Zirong River valley and he told the villagers
that planting trees was entirely above board and
that protecting the environment was something
that the government encouraged. "The villagers
all brightened up immediately," said Rinchen Samdrup.

And so it was that the Seng'ge Nanzong
Environmental Protection Association was founded
by Rinchen Samdrup and the 1700 or so villagers all became members.

In the spring of that year when they started
planting trees, the plan was to plant 10,000. A
person at the Gonjo County Forestry Bureau said,
"This is really something that you're doing!" and
gave them 1000 saplings and a sack of grass seed.
In 2004, the government gave them some news that
nearly knocked them off their feet. Gonjo County
had an annual quota of 800,000 seabuckthorn
bushes to plant, but they didn't have enough
hands. The villagers said "We'll do it "we'll
plant however many you have." The forestry bureau
immediately gave them 400,000 bushes, and 400,000
other trees. At the time, the road hadn't yet
been built and so the villagers had to go down to
the main road and carry the trees back to the village one by one.

The villagers were so excited they couldn't
sleep, and they sang and danced as they went deep
into the mountains to plant trees. They kept a tab running:

* In 2004, they planted 446,850 various kinds of
tree throughout the different villages, returning
a total 373.8 mu [61.6 acres] of farmland to forest.

* In 2005, they planted 94,755 various kinds of
tree in the different villages.

* In 2006, they planted 85,523 various kinds of
tree in the different villages, making
outstanding achievements in returning farmland to forests.

* In 2007, they planted 101,023 various kinds of
tree in the different villages.

* In 2008, they planted 105,300 various kinds of
tree in the different villages.

The villagers not only planted the trees, they
also carefully measured the survival rate of the
saplings. The villagers kept statistics on their
outstanding results from 2003 to 2008: "In those
five years, a total of 833,451 various kinds of
tree were planted. A total of 261,100 pine trees
were planted with a survival rate of over 70%; a
total of 159,451 willows of five different
varieties were planted with a survival rate of
only 30%; the local survival rate of the willows
was quite high, but the number planted was quite low."

A villager called Wangdu said, "In those five
years, the villagers worked hard planting trees,
and we established village rules where supposing
there was a tree that didn't survive, then 10
more trees would be planted in its place.
Everyone worked very closely, very patiently and
meticulously, and the survival rate of the trees
slowly rose each year. Planting trees in spring
is just what villagers go out and do now - it's become a local custom."

Rinchen Samdrup made everyone who loves their
hometown into an environmental protection volunteer.

Compared to planting and tending trees,
patrolling the mountains was far harder because
as the number of wild plants and animals
increased, it meant that the number of hunters also increased.

As the numbers of trees in the mountains
multiplied over time, the villagers started
patrolling the mountains. Rinchen Samdrup and the
association members created four kinds of table,
with three of them used to record the condition
of the trees, the animals and plants, and the
soil. People patrolling the mountains would enter
what conditions they saw into the tables. The
fourth table was put in villagers' homes, and if
they had any ideas or suggestions for protecting
the environment they could write them up and give
to everyone to discuss. Richen Samdrup said, "The
benefit of democratic discussion is that everyone acts conscientiously."

They discussed what to do about the problem of
wolves eating their sheep. Before 2002, there was
a disastrous number of wolves and the villagers
were all terrified that it'd be their milking
cattle that the wolves would kill next. They
decided that whoever killed a wolf would have to
pay a fine of 50 yuan. This meant that people
could kill a wolf when it was threatening the
livelihood of the farmers and nomads, but the
fine told everyone that such actions were not to be encouraged.

Strange things happened. From 2004 to 2005, not a
single sheep or cow was killed and there were no
mountain floods. The villagers simply didn't dare
believe it. "What amazing spirits! We've only
been doing voluntary environmental protection work for one year!"

The villagers continued to observe the changes
they were seeing around themselves, and they saw
animal tracks in the winter barley fields that
looked like Blue Sheep. The Blue Sheep seemed to
provide an explanation for this miracle:
villagers patrolling up in the surrounding
mountains had planted trees and grass, and the
numbers of wild animals grew; wolves had food to
eat, and so no longer took cattle or sheep. Some
of the villagers said, "The mountain gods must
have made a phone call to the animals and told
them that these villagers protect the environment
and animals and so go! Wolves won't take their cattle and sheep any more."

As far as the villagers were concerned,
patrolling the mountains certainly wasn't just
about monitoring changes among the wild animals,
they also dared to propose advice to people who
damaged the environment, and in particular those
people who still went out hunting as before with
rifles. When they heard the news about the
animals in the Zirong River valley, more and more people went there to hunt.

Every day the villagers scattered throughout the
area to work and as such, whenever anyone came in
hunting and a rifle shot was heard the villagers
were able to quickly detect where it was and rush
to the scene. If the hunters had just arrived in
the mountains, the villagers would patiently
explain the situation to them. If they had
already made a kill without the villagers being
able to get there, they'd hold them; if they
hadn't yet made a kill they'd make a call to the
local public security department.

Chamdo Prefecture Deputy Party Secretary Wang
Dongsheng has a great deal of praise for the work
done by the voluntary environmental protection
association jointly founded in the 11 villages of
the Zirong River valley. He says, "Tibetan people
have always had a fine tradition of respecting
life and protecting the natural environment. And
the five or six years of voluntary protection
activities carried out by Rinchen Samdrup and the
1700 villagers is an extremely beneficial
supplement to the government's environmental
protection work. Their protection work is highly
supported by the government. They help the
government complete many projects, such as the
Development and Reform Committee's reforestation
project, which they completed extremely well."

Jampa Gyaltsen, the Bureau Head of Gonjo County
Public Security Bureau, says: "The villagers'
conscientious actions to protect the environment
and protect wild animals and plants greatly
promotes our public security work. We've
discovered that there is more and more unity
among the villagers under the impetus of
environmental protection. Villagers are
cooperating every more happily with us in the
area of environmental protection work. With
everyone working together the beautiful mountains
and rivers will be maintained forever, and remain as beautiful as ever."


Feng Yongfeng: You use digital video - what do you shoot?

Rinchen Samdrup: I made a short film, which is
just like our magazine and is also called
"Self-Initiative," which was included in the
March 2009 "South of the Clouds Photography and
Documentary Exhibition." We filmed the process of
how the Seng'ge Nanzong Environmental Protection
Association" made "Self-Initiative," the first
village-level independent magazine in Tibetan
areas. It's a story that starts with an idea, a
sheet of white paper, and then by pulling
together all of the villagers' ideas and
suggestions, finally a magazine is formed that's
rich in content. It also records all of the
details of creating the magazine that appear
interesting but in fact were quite dangerous, and
how such a magazine could have such an impact
within our region and even beyond. Some tulkus in
the monastery carry copies of this magazine in
their hands when they read the scriptures, and
some 30 monasteries have been in touch saying they want the magazine.

Feng Yongfeng: Can you tell us how you started shooting video?

Rinchen Samdrup: My younger brother Karma Samdrup
is a businessman, and he brought a video camera,
and that was when I started shooting stuff. I
never used to shoot anything interesting, but
then I discovered I could record change, images
that compared before and after. Now I'm
deliberately shooting the environment and
recording the work and the meetings. I don't
speak Chinese or English, but I've learned to use
editing software on the computer and can show the
footage to the villagers. There's a lot of DVD
players in the village, and during festivals
people love watching things that they themselves
appear in, and so it's like a combination of
movie night and community education."

Feng Yongfeng: Is it true to say that everyone in
the 11 villages of the Zirong Valley is an
environmental protection volunteer? Is everyone that active?

Rinchen Samdrup: A lot of people are now
accustomed to saying I'm responsible, but in fact
I'm not. And I'm not the founder or anything, all
I did was to say that everyone in the village
should join together to do something to protect
the environment in our village, and everyone
thought that'd be good. We Tibetans always enjoy
thinking about this kind of thing, and sometimes
when we see a tree that's been damaged we're
saddened but can never think of anything to do
about it. Everyone just suffers in silence. And
so when I spoke to everyone, everyone said we
should have done this earlier. And so we talked
about all sorts of things. The men came to talk
about it, the women came to talk about it, and
the children came too. After the discussions
everyone went back to discuss it with the members
of their family who weren't there, but if they
wanted to be a part of it all, then they were a
member. Everyone went back to discuss it with
their families and everyone was willing.

Feng Yongfeng: Aren't there certain hardships in
having so many people engaged in environmental protection activities?

Rinchen Samdrup: Actually, we haven't spent any
money. It's as though everyone is just working
for themselves and their families. You till the
land, you tend flocks in the mountains, and in
passing you see what's changed in the
surroundings, and in passing you see if anyone's
harmed the animals, and in passing you tidy and
clear away litter - there's no hardship in this.
In the early years it used to be that the
greatest hardship was editing and printing the
magazine "Self-Initiative." Another hardship is
that there isn't enough money to buy saplings,
but we've had great support from the county
forestry bureau and the prefecture forestry
bureau. Sometimes I think that actually our
greatest hardship is that we didn't think we
could be environmental protection volunteers earlier.

Feng Yongfeng: There are some people who worry
that your association will be seen by people as
an "illegal organization." Have you thought about going to register it?

Rinchen Samdrup: We don't have anything to worry
about. But, we're also getting ready to have it
formally registered in the county. I know that
Tashi Dorjee's Three River Sources Environmental
Protection Association has already been
registered in Xining, and that their office has
moved from Yushu Prefecture to Xining, changing
it from prefecture-level to provincial-level -
it's being run better and better. We're not
concerned about being provincial-level or
village-level. The state is now encouraging
environmental protection, and I think that as
soon as we start the registration process it's
going to be fairly smooth. Everyone is saying
that you need several systems, that you can't
just rely on one person or one group of people,
and we'll be paying close attention to this side
of things. Everyone has to discuss
democratically, everyone has to express their
ideas and suggestions because there is wisdom in
your ideas. If you never say anything, your
wisdom will be washed away by the river.
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