Western mountaineers witness Tibetan refugee killings
I have just read about recent Chinese atrocities towards Tibetans. The story brought home to me again what a dire situation Tibetans face daily. It has been confirmed that on 30 September 2006 Chinese forces fired on innocent Tibetan refugees (mostly children) on the Nangpa La mountain pass. At least two children were killed and others shot. Chinese officials are reportedly trying to track down and silence Western climbers and Sherpas who witnessed the killings.
Leonard Doyle, Foreign Editor for The Independent, wrote today, …'fears grow for the safety of a group of Tibetan children, aged between six and 10, who were marched away after at least two refugees including a nun, were shot dead.
The children were being sent by their parents into exile in Nepal to be educated as part of a group of about 70 refugees crossing the Nangpa Pass. Secretive crossings are usually made at night or in winter. But this time - probably because of the children in their group - the Tibetans crossed in the morning. They were travelling lightly, clad in jackets and boots without any mountaineering equipment, when they were attacked.
The nun who was killed, Kelsang Namtso, 17, was leading the children. A 13-year-old boy was also gunned down during 15 minutes of shooting witnessed by Western climbers, including two British policemen, 1,000 yards away at Cho Oyu camp.
Later three Chinese soldiers marched the children through the camp - some 12 miles west of Mount Everest - as climbers and Sherpas looked on. None of the Westerners tried to help the Tibetans.
Fears for the safety of Western climbers still in Tibet and worries that China will clamp down on profitable climbing operations - it costs up to £30,000 for an attempt on Everest - have meant that news of the incident has been slow to emerge. 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."’
You can read the rest of the article on the Independent website.
Witnesses say that soldiers fired on the refugees for 15 minutes. It is being reported that up to seven people were shot dead. A Tibetan monk that managed to escape said that the western mountaineers took pictures. The world should see those images – let’s hope that they are not too afraid to make them public. It’s time that China was made accountable for the human rights violations that continue in Tibet.
BACKGROUND (taken from freetibet.org)
Approximately 2,500 Tibetans annually flee over the Himalayas into exile, escaping the brutality of China's occupation. It is difficult to know how many are caught or shot by the Chinese border authorities. Previous similar allegations have remained uninvestigated.
MountEverest.net, a climbers' website, was the first to report of the killing and quoted a "trusted source" (a western mountaineer who was climbing at the time) as reporting that he witnessed the Chinese Army shoot at a line of Tibetan refugees as they made their way to the Nangpa La Pass at the border with Nepal.
The shooting by the Chinese border guards is in violation of the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (1990), which requires that "Law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, to prevent the perpetration of a particularly serious crime involving grave threat to life, to arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting their authority, or to prevent his or her escape, and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives. In any event, intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life." (Principle 9).
Below are links to blogs and further news on this story:
The Independent - China tries to gag climbers who saw Tibet killings
Students for a free tibet blog
Reuters - Climbers watched as Chinese guards shot Tibetans
Times UK Online - Mountaineers see nun shot dead near Everest camp
Daily India - Nun was shot dead near Everest camp
International Herald Tribune - Report: China holding Tibetan Children after refugee shooting
Free Tibet Blog