Agam's Gecko
Wednesday, October 11, 2006

he surviving group of around 40 Tibetan refugees reached the Nepali capital Kathmandu on Monday night, nine days after their group was attacked on September 30 by Chinese military forces as they crossed Nangpa La pass seeking freedom outside their homeland. Officials of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kathmandu stated that they had received accounts of two deaths, and were looking for more eyewitness accounts of the incident. Reports indicate that Chinese agents in Kathmandu are engaged in an effort to gag witnesses to the killings.

Among those eyewitnesses were two British mountaineers, who recounted the graphic details in an interview on Monday with the Times.
“As we watched, first I heard a shot, then I saw one [guard] stop and there was a second shot and a third,” Mr Marsh told The Times.

“The rearmost of the group fell to the ground. Someone helped them up and they continued for another 30 metres. Then there was another shot and someone fell and they left that person behind in the snow. Through the telescope we could clearly see it was a body.”
The body of this Tibetan nun was left lying in the snow for a day and a half before the Chinese troops retrieved it. However less than an hour after the armed assault, dozens of troops overran the Advanced Base Camp at Mount Chu Oyu, marching a group of frightened Tibetan children through it, on their way to certain detention. Steve Lawes, a British police officer describes the scene:
'The children were in single file, about six feet away from me,' Lawes said. 'They didn't see us - they weren't looking around the way kids normally would, they were too frightened. By that time, advance base camp was crawling with soldiers. They had pretty much taken over, and the atmosphere was very intimidating. We were doing our best not to do anything that might spark off more violence.'
Lawes had been having breakfast at the base camp when the shooting started:
'Those of us at the advance base camp heard two shots, which may have been warning shots. The group started to cross the glacier and there were more shots. This time it definitely wasn't warning shots: the soldiers were putting their rifles to their shoulders, taking aim, and firing towards the group. 'One person fell, got up, but then fell again. We had a telescope with us but the soldiers took this. Later they used it to look at the body.'
Phayul News has the first accounts of the survivors from Kathmandu. According to a member of the group, Kelsang Namtso was the young Buddhist nun slain by the Chinese, a 17 year old girl from Driru County, Tibet.
'Kunsang Namgyal, a 20 year old boy from Kandze was hit by bullets on his leg, he could not escape and along with him 30 other Tibetans including 14 minor boys were arrested by Soldiers wearing camouflage dress and fur cap and they would be probably taken to Dringri County Town and detained.'
The 41 refugees and two guides who managed to get across the pass and into Nepal walked for nine more days "via Solukhumbu District and reached the road head at Katari Town in east Nepal," from where they caught a public bus to the capital. The refugee group ranges between 7 - 30 years of age.

Another member of the group is a Buddhist monk from Gyamda County:
'75 of us came together from Lhasa in a truck, drove for two days and reached a place from where we walked for about 20 days, when we reached near the Nangpa La Pass, we started walking early morning, we begged food from mountaineers and were eating when the soldiers arrived, they started shooting and we ran, it was around 8 AM (China time), there were 15 small children aged 8-10, only one escaped and rest were arrested, I just ran to save my life by praying to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, I think the soldiers fired for about 15 minutes, there were five soldiers, three were chasing us and two were holding those who were arrested, the soldiers were shouting, probably warning us but I did not hear them as I was terrified, I just heard gun shots passing my ears, I was so sad that many got arrested, I paid 4500 Yuan for guide, I don’t exactly remember how many people were shot as we panicked, first 36 people escaped the gun shooting spree, and the rest came later, maybe they were hiding and came later, the Pass was about two hours and the snow on the Pass was knee deep, the nun was with us and she was shot and a boy from Kandze was shot on leg, we were the first group who were shot and there were people behind us who might be arrested, we don’t know because we crossed the Pass and reached Nepali territory, I saw that western mountaineers took pictures, I am sure they would have pictures, there were two men and a woman. Two of us were from Kongpo and I don’t know about rest, they were many from Driru County.'
The Independent reports from Kathmandu that Chinese "diplomats" are tracking down, and trying to silence witnesses to the incident. Fears for the safety of Western climbers still inside Tibet, as well as concern for the lucrative climbing industry, has kept many witnesses and mountaineering outfits from raising their voices.
An American climber, who asked not to be identified, told of his revulsion at the failure of other climbers to speak out.

"Did it make anyone turn away and go home? Not one," he said. "People are climbing right in front of you to escape persecution while you are trying to climb a mountain. It's insane."
British police officer Steve Lawes, quoted earlier in this article, was contacted yesterday by the Chinese embassy and called in for an interview. Chinese officials are known to have a virtually free hand in their operations in Nepal, and have previously been known to round up Tibetan refugees there, and take them forcibly back across the border.

International Campaign for Tibet continues following this matter closely, and says that while this is the first such killing to be witnessed by such a large number of witnesses, it isn't the first time refugees have been fired upon, nor is it the first time they've been killed by Chinese soldiers.
The Nangpa Pass is commonly used as an escape route for Tibetans transiting into Nepal and from there to exile in India. Tibetans leaving Tibet along this route have been fired upon before by both Chinese and Nepalese security, on both sides of the border - in November 1998, a 15-year old Tibetan was shot dead near the border in Saga county, Shigatse prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
ICT identifies the likely perpetrators of this atrocity as units of the "People's Armed Police,"
...a paramilitary unit formed from the PLA in the early 1980s, which is responsible for internal security, border control, and protection of state installations, including prisons. The PAP, which is the main body that patrols the high mountain passes where Tibetans attempt to escape into Nepal, is under the control of both a government Ministry and the Party. Bases of the PAP in the region are all fortified, have detention capability, and are used when necessary by People's Liberation Army personnel. According to sources in the area, increased numbers of military personnel may now be being deployed in the region following the incident.
Increased Chinese troop movements have been reported toward the Tibetan border town of Tingri.

While this incident has been little noticed by the mainstream media, more climbers' reports are coming out on the Everest mountaineers' site, including these accounts by two Romanian climbers, Alex Gavan and Sergiu Matei (wai PJM):
“While I was up the mountain, pursuing my personal dream, other people were trying to pursue theirs...some 80 tibetan people were trying to cross Nangpa La into Nepal and from there to Dharamsala, India, on a pilgrimage to see the Dalai Lama,” reported Alex. “They were men, women and children, barely wearing decent winter clothes. After an actual human hunt, 8 of them won’t live to see their dream fulfilled. They have been killed in cold blood by the Chinese militia after a snitch between them. This happened in front of many expedition teams. The dead were simply buried in the glacier and left there without any memorial symbol.”

”Big expedition outfitters like HiMex, Jagged Globe, Adventure Consultants or Alpine Ascents will never speak about that. Otherwise they will be banned from the Tibetan side of the Himalayas. And this will mean no more bucks for them anymore. And they don't want that, of course. It has indeed nothing to do with the spirit of mountaineering (which has been lost in those commercial outfits) but with the basic human values.”

”China, a country to host the Olympic Games in 2008, is slaughtering its citizens.”

”I've been here, I saw that: Tibet is a country under communist occupation. Tibetans are slowly losing their identity – which is exactly what Chinese intend. Tibetans are treated as a sub-human race in their own country. If one speaks or wears upon a portrait of the Dalai Lama, one is put in jail.”
Sergiu feels as though he'd seen a human hunting expedition:
”... Just when I thought it's all useless and was no more entertainment for me in ABC, on October 1 I heard machine-gun bursts - I was having my black tea in the chicken tent,” reports Sergiu.

”It was actually the Chinese militias hunting Tibetans onto the glacier... How nice, the season is open! They were shooting Tibetans like rats, dogs, rabbits - you name it.”
After the soldiers had overrun the Base Camp, and marched the Tibetan children through it under the silent gaze of the foreigners, Sergiu was able to help one of the refugees on his road to freedom. The Tibetan man had been hiding in their toilet.
”Later that afternoon the kitchen boy came and told the BC manager a refugee was hiding in our toilet. I rushed in to see it with my own eyes: The guy was there - thank God he was fine. I took him some food and told him to stay put. I don't think he understood a word of what I was saying, but somehow he did what I told him.”

”After a few hours trying to convince the Monterosa crew that we should get him out or he would freeze to death, they gave up and agreed to help.”

”I took him into our mess tent and gave him one polar fleece and a pair of socks that Cosmina had bought for me. I don't know why I didn't film the scene – I just didn’t seem relevant for me back then; all I could think of was to see that guy crossing Nangpa La without becoming a practice-target for the blood-thirsty Chinese boys.”

“I went again in the tent and gave him some milk and cornflakes. Then I told him to leave as soon as possible, since the militia was on the prowl after two missing Tibetans and they might search the camps looking for him. Thirty minutes later I showed him the shortest way across the glacier, and off he went towards what they call their spiritual father. He crossed the col at around 2 am.”
It's important to note that the numbers of killed in this incident have not yet been confirmed. The Filipino doctor quoted in previous reports said that he saw at least three people killed, and that as many as seven may have been killed (and bodies dumped down a crevasse, though it's not clear if anyone saw this). The Romanians are saying it was eight. All these foreigners need to be interviewed in detail by competent authorities, for which I suppose UNHCR in Kathmandu will have to suffice. This must be done immediately, before Chinese "diplomats" have the chance to intimidate them into silence.

Not many big bloggers are mentioning this incident, but Gateway Pundit has thankfully been on the story with a good post yesterday, and an earlier one here. I wai deeply in the general direction of St. Louis. Our earlier post is here.


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