Agam's Gecko
Monday, October 29, 2007
Chinese officers with Kelsang Namtso's body
Three Chinese personel with the body of 17 year-old Kelsang Namtso on the snows of Nangpa La Pass, on China's national day (the day after Kelsang was slain by Chinese security forces on Sept. 30, 2006). The photo was shot by a British climber through a telescope.
Photo: International Campaign for Tibet

hinese forces have once again opened fire on a group of Tibetans trying to reach freedom through the snow-covered pass at Nangpa La, near Mount Everest. Of the group of 46 Tibetans, three were arrested by the Chinese and nine are missing. The rest of the group have reached safety at the Tibetan Reception Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal.

On September 30, 2006 Chinese forces fired upon a group of 75 fleeing Tibetans, killing at least one (17 year old Kelsang Namtso was shot in the back) and wounding several others. The incident was caught on video by mountain climbers in the area. China claimed the shooting was in "self defence," however the video evidence proved otherwise.

Now in an article in Men's Journal (November edition), the back-story of how the earlier incident came to the world's attention, and how some mountaineering interests helped the Chinese government by trying to cover up the murder, is told in Murder at 19,000 feet. The Men's Journal article is not yet online, but Explorers' Web, which played a critical role in revealing last year's atrocity, has taken up the story. It's a sickening tale of multi-million dollar interests trying to hush up a cold-blooded murder in order to stay on the good side of the murderers -- worried that if the incident was made public it might affect their cash flow. The American guide who first sent an email to Explorers' Web about "the story not being told here in Tibet" was confronted by the big climbing honchos in the Cho Oyu basecamp, and was threatened with retaliation for what he had done.

That guide was Luis Benitez of Boulder, Colorado, and the Boulder Daily Camera has also dug into this story. The Camera requires registration, so I'll give it to you from Phayul. The video of the shooting and an interview with the man who filmed it may also be viewed from that page.

What dirt lies within the lucrative climbing business. We had no idea. Reading these pieces, it sounds more like affiliated mafia families carrying out extortion and protection rackets. Were it not for a very few principled guides and climbers, the Chinese may well have gotten away with murder -- and without a peep from anyone. They clearly have not learned any lessons from getting caught red-handed. Following the Nangpa La incident last year, the authorities beefed up restrictions on the frontier and called for strict monitoring and vigilance against the "fleeing individual," launching yet another "Strike Hard" campaign in January 2007, specifically aimed at fleeing refugees.

And now they've done it again. Opening fire on unarmed, thinly dressed Tibetans, who are already courting death by frostbite or crevasse fall merely for a taste of freedom. Trying to shoot them down like animals (which is how many Han Chinese see Tibetans in the first place). Those who were captured are sure to be subject to torture (and I mean real torture, not "Gitmo torture"), just as those captured last year were severely beaten and tortured, including the teenagers.


These Tibetans merely want the freedom to express their culture and their religion, and I dare say their nationhood, the way their countrymen and women in exile are able to do. The Tibetan outdoor celebration for Dalai Lama in Washington earlier this month may still be viewed for a few more weeks, if you'd like to see what's involved.

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