Dangerous Tibet Crossing: ICT press briefing and screening of border shooting footage

(from left to right)  Kate Saunders, Luis and Dr Pierre Maina.
Dangerous Crossing: ICT press briefing and screening of border shooting footage by eyewitnesses Kate Saunders, Luis and Dr Pierre Maina.

Dharamsala,(rushprnews) March 29, 2007 – International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) held a press release on 22nd of March in Dharamsala. Participants in the briefing was Kate Saunders, Communications Director of the International Campaign for Tibet and author of the report, Dangerous Crossing, and climbers Luis from the US and Dr Pierre Maina from Denmark.

This meeting was specially organized to educate about the shooting of a 17-year old Tibetan nun by People’s Armed Police, a paramilitary unit formed from the People’s Liberation Army (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 control of both a government ministry and the Communist Party. The Tibetan nun who was shot dead on the Nangpa Pass on September 30th, 2006 was 17-year old Kelsang Namtso. She was fleeing into exile in order to meet the Dalai Lama, and to obtain a religious education not possible in Tibet. Her story is representative of many Tibetans who escape into exile each year.

As many are aware, this tragic demise was caught on film by an eyewitness, which later on led to international media coverage and official protests to China by the US, the EU and other governments. The briefing provided new information on the reasons why Tibetans continue to make the dangerous journey across the Himalayas into exile in India, and also showed for the first time that irrefutable evidence of China’s treatment of Tibetans escaping into exile as it has been captured on film.

Both the climbers expressed that coming to Dharamsala was an eye-opening experience for them, a small taste to what Tibet could have been instead of where it is now because of Chinese Authorities. ‘In order to learn from history you can never forget it,’ His Holiness the Dalai Lama commented in a meeting with them, strengthening further the act of their bravery in letting the world know about the truth of Tibet’s reality. ‘Chinese Government is quite aware on the international crowd of climbers present at the scene, and to take human lives so casually was nothing but an act of arrogance on their part,’ Luis expressed.
The dangers for Tibetans crossing the Himalayas into exile due to repression in Tibet were dramatically evident over the past year, with a quietly stepped up approach to refoulement (the forcible return of any person to a country where they fear persecution) from Nepal, according to a new report by the International Campaign for Tibet, ‘Dangerous Crossing: Conditions Impacting the Flight of Tibetan Refugees’.

Around 2,500 to 3,000 Tibetans cross the Himalayas into exile transiting through Nepal to India, each year. The sole purpose of the journey for many is to see the Dalai Lama. More than a third of the total each year are children, sent by their parents to study in Tibetan exile schools due to inadequate or unaffordable education in Tibet. Many are monks and nuns seeking to practice their religion in freedom, while others leave because they have lost their land or are unable to make a living due to China’s transformative economic policies in Tibet.
Actor and activist Richard Gere, Chair of the International Campaign for Tibet, introduced Sergiu Matei’s footage at a Cinema for Peace event as part of the Berlin Film Festival last month. He said: ” China’s response to the abhorrent killing at Tibet’s border with Nepal was to claim that this was part of its ‘normal border management’. This is a response that belongs to the ‘old’ China – not a country that is seeking to be internationally respected as an emergent superpower, in a year before Beijing plays host to the Olympic Games. If Hu Jintao wants the internal and international respect he feels China deserves, surely policies and actions must change. China’s people, as well as Tibetans, deserve better.”

Beijing still stands with their hard-line conclusion as this act to be “normal border management” on top of accusing His Holiness the Dalai Lama for recruiting children for ‘splittist’ education in India. It is high time that Chinese Authorities know better not to keep controlling Tibet’s image anymore.

ICT’s new report ‘Dangerous Crossing’ can be downloaded here

It reports the following:

  • How dramatic political developments in 2006 in Nepal – including the end of direct palace rule and the beginning of peace talks following a decade-long conflict between the Maoist insurgency and government troops – affected both Tibetans resident in the Kingdom and those in transit to India
  • An account of the Nangpa Pass shooting in September 2006 including previously unpublished eyewitness reports. An eyewitness account of a previous incident where Tibetans escaping into exile were fired upon and later maltreated while in custody, proving that the shooting in September was not an isolated incident
  • How China’s sensitivity over Tibet continued to be the primary factor of China-Nepal relations in 2006
  • Evidence of a continued quieter, stepped-up approach to refoulement (the forcible return of any person to a country where they fear persecution) of Tibetans by Nepalese police, working with their Chinese counterparts across the border
  • New first person accounts of why Tibetans continue to take the risks of escaping into exile