Wednesday, October 18, 2006
NEW IMAGES FROM NANGPA LA; CALL FOR TESTIMONIES
ew images have been obtained by the International Campaign for Tibet, of the aftermath of the Nangpa La refugee shootings. In this series of photographs, taken by a British mountaineer from the Mount Cho Oyu advance base camp, Chinese "People's Armed Police" officers (and possibly local government officials) are seen taking notes and photographs of the body of 17 year old Kelsang Namtso on the day after she was killed.
The images, taken through a telescope by a British climber at advance base camp on Cho Oyu at the time, show around 12 personnel gathered around the nun's body in the snow. One of the officials or police is apparently taking notes and at one point another is pictured, after most of the group has left, lying in the snow with his hands behind his head. Several climbers have confirmed that they saw members of the group taking pictures of the body. A shovel can be seen planted in the ground, which appears to confirm several eyewitness reports that the nun's body was buried where she died in the snow.So let us recap for a moment. It's instructive to examine how Chinese officialdom responds to embarrassing incidents, piling lie upon refuted lie in childish repetition, apparently believing it will save their faces.
Tibetan refugees are killed, wounded and/or captured by a Chinese border patrol. At least one dead body is left on the slopes for more than a day, during which time it is photographed and notes taken, and finally buried in the snow by Chinese officers. Almost a week later, the outside world begins getting wind of the murder through climbers' reports. All Chinese officials contacted for comment disavow any knowledge of such an incident. In the second week following the shooting, surviving Tibetans reach safety in Nepal, while Chinese diplomats there attempt to intimidate witnesses (by then also in Kathmandu) into silence. Chinese official response remains, "We know naw-tink!"
Middle of the second week, the first photos of the incident are brought forward, proving the refugees were fleeing away from the soldiers. About the same time, the US lodges a formal protest by its ambassador in Beijing. At the end of the second week, the Chinese Foreign Ministry finally acknowleges the shooting and claims self-defense against aggressive refugees, stating that the single death was attributed to "lack of oxygen." About the same time, Romanian ProTV releases video of the actual shooting, further proving that the refugees were shot down in cold blood, and from a safe distance by Chinese officers.
The ICT article linked above also makes note of something that troubled me about the video.
Close study of the footage of the shooting taken by Romanian cameraman Sergiu Matei on September 30 (English language version here) reveals that three Tibetans from the group of more than 70 Tibetans crossing the pass into Nepal fell after being shot.We still have no clear idea of the number of refugees shot, nor indeed whether more may have been killed. What we know is that at least three were shot, and fell. Chinese officials have not acknowledged the photos, nor the video which absolutely refute their claims that: 1.) officers shot refugees in self-defense; 2.) Kelsang Namtso died of altitude sickness. With all this note-taking and photographing of her body the day after her death, one must wonder who ended up receiving all this documentation if not the "P"RC government.
Of course the government has this documentary evidence. But having painted itself into a corner with such pathetic explanations, it cannot come up with a plausible statement which wouldn't contradict its earlier nonsense. The only thing worse for them than losing face before the world, is when they've caused it themselves. And now, being stumped for any explanation of Pavle's photos, or Sergiu's video, they will have to explain these new photos from a British climber which prove they had gathered this documentation more than two weeks ago.
The climber is quoted in the ICT article:
"After the shooting, a yak caravan came along the pass from Nepal and stopped by the body before moving on. The yaks were chest-deep in powdery snow. No one could run far in those conditions, particularly young children. Those of us who watched realized how easy it would have been for the soldiers to detain the Tibetans, instead of shooting at them."Go to the full article to see the whole set of pictures, including more scenes of the soldiers in the base camp taking away their captures. An interesting inclusion is one shot that seems to show one of the soldiers, dressed in jungle camouflage like the others, being led away from the camp by his comrades while blindfolded. Another picture shows a line of Tibetans being marched away from the camp, one of whom carries a knapsack depicting one of the cutesy Chinese mascots for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
Foreign explorers and mountaineers have played a critical role in documenting the truth about Tibetan history over a period of several centuries (an Italian Jesuit studied in Lhasa for 5 years in the early 1700's). Explorers Web and Mount Everest Net continue excellent coverage of the current event, with an admirable awareness of the mountaineers' and the mountain peoples' historical bond.
The most amazing part in last week’s events, was not that China made a rare official confirmation, or even the international headlines. The most startling thing was a force of a bigger kind; the empowerment of the very sons and daughters of the Himalayan peaks we know so well. On Cho Oyu this fall, we put heart behind the Buddhist flags we bring back home - and the response from Tibet is tremendous.The writer notes that the Explorers Web mailbox has been flooded, with some correspondence from climbers reporting other incidents, and many from Tibetans:
"Though we feel terribly and shamelessly helpless, your actions have shown and encouraged us to further hang onto our faith in a world where money and power dictates everything. Thank you for your sticking by the truth. I hope the world will one day, sooner rather than later, realize the sheer magnitude of torture and executions that is taking place in Tibet."Another Tibetan's email prompts the writer to recall the self-immolation of 60 year old Thupten Ngodup in Delhi, April 1998, when police raided a hunger strike protest by the Tibetan Youth Congress. Thupten Ngodup remains a national hero for Tibetans, and the Everest site points out a short memorial tribute for him on the web.
Imagine the man's despair: It's one thing to be attacked as Tibet was; it's an entirely different ball game for the assault to take place in front of a world of good people - who don't care. That pain felt even stronger than fire to Thupten Ngodup.The renewed call for testimony can be answered by contacting either the International Campaign for Tibet or Explorers Web, at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. If you know of anyone who is keeping quiet about this, get busy with some gentle persuasion.
Last week, all that changed for a brief moment. Let's make it last a little longer: Were you at Nangpa La? This year - or other years? Have you seen this or other shootings there? Let us know.
You won't change Chinese politics perhaps; but you can help Tibetans let the world know. And remember, walls come down the way we climb them - rock by rock.