Tuesday, October 24, 2006
TIBETAN REFUGEES REACH INDIA
he 41 remaining members of a Tibetan refugee group, fired upon by Chinese police resulting in loss of lives, have reached New Delhi with a flight from Kathmandu on Sunday.
Meanwhile, according to Associated Press, Chinese officials yesterday admitted to a second killing on Nangpa La Pass in the September 30 shooting incident. There is no word yet whether this refers to Kelsang Namtso, the 17 year old Buddhist nun (whom AP persists in citing as a "25 year old") shot dead on the pass. The earlier Chinese admission cited only one death due to "oxygen shortage," although photos (see earlier posts) showed Chinese officials swarming all around her body on the day following her murder. Other refugees were known to have been wounded in the attack -- and as usual, Chinese officials have not been forthcoming with credible accounts of what happened.
To date, only the United States and Canada have lodged official protests with the Chinese government, with Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay addressing the issue in Parliament last week:
"Canada strongly condemns this act of violence against unarmed civilians as an egregious violation of human rights. We have formally raised these concerns with the Chinese government," MacKay told the House of Commons.The European Parliament is set to raise the issue this week, as the Tibet issue is one of three human rights resolutions to be debated and voted upon. Last week, at an EU-China "Human Rights Dialog," the EU raised the shooting incident and "asked for clarification and urged China to investigate..." The EU has so far not issued any statement of condemnation for the killings.
"We have called upon the Chinese to conduct a full, independent investigation and punish those responsible, as well as release the detained Tibetan children immediately to their families," he said, citing China's obligation under the UN Convention on the Rights of Children.
The 41 Tibetans who successfully reached freedom in India, were able to meet representatives of the international media in New Delhi on Monday, organised by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). Some of the survivors replied to media questions through an interpreter, including Venerable Thupten Tsering, a 23 year old monk; Dolma Palkyi, a 16 year old childhood friend of the slain nun; and Lobsang Choden, 26, from Kardze county. Mr. Choden is the one we saw in the video who had hidden in the mountaineers' camp, and whom cameraman Sergiu Matei helped get across the pass after the Chinese had left.
Dolma Palkyi says that she didn't know her friend had been killed until days later:
"I had gone ahead and I did not know she was shot at. It was only four days later I heard the news," said her childhood friend Dolma Palkyid, 16, who paid smugglers about 630 dollars to help her make the journey.Dolma is now hoping to pursue her Buddhist studies in India, as she and her friend Kelsang had planned together. The group is expected to continue on to Dharamsala, the spiritual and political centre of Tibet in exile, within the next few days.
"It was a very sad moment for me. She was a very calm and nice friend."
Thupten Tsering was asked about his life in a Tibetan monastery under Chinese rule. These ancient institutions are now overseen by Chinese communist "democratic management committees" and under constant watch by security forces. He answered simply, "It was stifling. Being a monk who has taken a vow to live by the faith, we were always under threat from the Chinese political authorities." Tsering told another reporter about the government's "patriotic education campaign" and its requirements:
"The Chinese government has started a patriotic campaign where they are forcing us to denounce His Holiness, the Dalai Lama," Tsering told a news conference.Forced to flee their own country if they wish to enjoy religious freedom -- namely the freedom not to renounce their spiritual teacher, the Dalai Lama; the freedom to pursue studies in their own 2,500 year old religion without dogmatic, communist indoctrination; basically, the freedom to be Tibetan. So several hundred a month set out for an (average) month-long journey, most of it on foot through rugged mountains and snow-bound passes; facing the trip with their faith and little else (inadequate food, footwear that will not protect against frostbite over such an extended period); and as we can see, facing the final threat from the Chinese state, whose armed apparatus is evidently given the orders to "shoot them on sight." Just like animals, as the mountaineers were heard to say as the shootings took place.
"But we cannot do this. It bears heavily on our conscience, so I had no alternative but to leave."
That isn't hyperbole, and it isn't only Tibetan culture that is threatened with extinction. The completion of China's railway into Lhasa is hastening the population transfer that is swamping Tibetans in their own sacred city, as it also hastens the extinction of one of Tibet's enduring symbols. The Snow Leopard won't survive much longer, with this new railway greasing the way for phenomenal fortunes to be made by poachers and traders in its hide. [registration may be required, alternate site here.]