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Wild Yak Brigade Heroes Charged With Selling Antelope Pelts

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 01/03/29; January 17, 2001.]

BEIJING, Thursday, March 29, 2001. (South China Morning Post)

Eight men once hailed as local heroes who fended off poachers hunting wild antelope in the Qinghai-Tibet plateau have been arrested for alleged corruption, the Beijing Youth Daily reported yesterday.

They were formerly members of the famous Wild Yak Brigade in Qinghai province. It was founded in 1992 to defend China's largest uninhabited area - the 45,000 square km Kekexili - against poachers who were slaughtering 25,000 Tibetan antelopes annually for their valuable shahtoosh fur. The brigade was disbanded early this year and most of its members were absorbed into the Kekexili District Protection Administration.

According to the newspaper, the eight were arrested on March 16 and accused of selling 94 antelope pelts they seized from poachers in August 1998. Each of the eight members was said to have received about 4,000 yuan (HK$3,760) from the sale.

Wives of the men interviewed by the newspaper admitted their husbands did sell the pelts but they had no choice because they had been owed months of wages by the authorities.

The wives also said their husbands had reported the sale to their superiors who agreed to offset the proceeds from the wages.

For two years, their husbands had not been paid a yuan because of it, the wives said.

While the brigade members had to risk their lives fighting poachers, they were paid only about 260 yuan a month - barely enough to survive on, they said.

"The wages of 260 yuan were rarely paid, and when they sold the pelts it was because we didn't have enough to eat or money to buy vegetables, and they never killed any animals," explained the wife of former brigade member Xie Zhou - one of the eight arrested.

The wives said they were shocked when their husbands were taken away on charges of corruption because they had thought that the money from the pelt sales had been classed as pay the authorities owed their husbands.

"The men paid back the money, the problem was solved. Why were they arrested?" asked one distraught wife.

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