Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

International SQUALL

Chinese Pressed To Halt Nuclear Tests

Squall 13, Summer 1996, pg. 54.

MV GREENPEACE, the ship damaged during actions against French nuclear testing, has been sent to China with a message for the Chinese Government demanding an end to nuclear testing.

China is the only remaining nuclear power which is refusing to end all testing. The Greenpeace mission is described by a spokesperson as: “non-confrontational.”

China conducted two nuclear tests in 1995, let off another in June and is planning at least one other explosion to develop a new weapons system. At the current Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty talks in Geneva, China has attempted to reserve the right to set off “peaceful nuclear explosions”. These are part of a scheme to construct a 500-mile long underground irrigation channel from the Yarlung Tsangpo river (the Brahmaputra) right across the Tibetan plateau to irrigate the Taklimakan desert.

Apart from creating water- shortages for millions of plain dwellers in Bangladesh and India, this mad, profoundly bad idea would contaminate vast tracts dismissed as “barren areas” by the Chinese. They are in fact inhabited by Tibetans and Uighurs, mainly nomads.

A Greenpeace spokesperson described the idea as “not very well thought-out. The Chinese also want to blast the desert for three years in order to irrigate it, then leave the area unused for 47 years. Even after this period the water would remain contaminated. There is no such thing as a peaceful nuclear test, and never any good reason for using nuclear explosions. We want the Chinese to stop testing.” China has now dropped its unconditional insistence on continuing ‘peaceful’ testing.

Almost all China’s nuclear programme, civilian and military, is located in minority areas inhabited by Uighurs, Tibetans and Mongolians. Testing takes place at Lop Nor in the Xinjian region, home to the mainly Moslem Uighur people. There have been 43 known nuclear bomb explosions there since 1964, 23 in the atmosphere, 20 underground. No independent or outside assessment of environmental or health impacts have ever been permitted. International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War estimate the atmospheric explosions alone released approximately 43 kgs of plutonium-239. One millionth of a gram can cause cancer if inhaled. Uighurs claim to have born the brunt of illnesses caused by radioactive fallout. An Uighur activist was recently jailed for three years for writing texts calling for independence for Xinjiang, according to a recent Reuters report.

China’s primary nuclear weapons research and design facility, known as the ‘Ninth Academy,’ was constructed on the Tibetan plateau during the sixties, in the Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, near Lake Kokonor.

In 1984 a Tibetan doctor, Tashi Dolma, conducted a blood sample survey near the Ninth Academy to prove that Tibetans were genetically linked to Chinese people. “The local Tibetans and their animals were coming down with unusual symptoms and diseases,” Dr Dolma said. The samples were never tested for radioactivity and Dr Dolma was not permitted to persue these reports.

She also worked in a hospital where children of nomads who grazed animals near the Ninth Academy were developing a cancer that caused their white blood cell count to rise uncontrollably. Seven such children aged 8-14 died during her time at the hospital. Dr Dolma, who was forced to have an abortion after her first child, fled to India with her husband when they heard he was about to be arrested.

Uranium mining, nuclear-waste dumping and the siting of nuclear weapons have all also been reliably reported in areas inhabited by Tibetans.