Radio Free China

Human Rights and Religious Freedom News

RFA Reports on Tibetans Who escaped from China under fire

Posted by radiofreechina on October 11, 2006

Tibetans, Westerners Describe Deadly Shooting at China-Nepal Border (

KATHMANDU, Oct. 11, 2006-Members of a group of 43 Tibetans have described
their terrifying flight to Nepal under deadly fire from Chinese border
guards who took several dozen other Tibetans into custody, Radio Free Asia
(RFA) reports.

Witnesses said at least one person was killed and at least one wounded by
gunfire Sept. 30 near the Himalayan pass at Nangpa La in the Mount Everest
region. Others set the death toll higher. Another 36 or 37 Tibetans were
detained, witnesses told RFA’s Tibetan service.

The group, which originally numbered around 80 Tibetans, began their journey
out of Chinese-controlled Tibet on Sept. 30-Oct. 1, according to members of
the group-41 asylum-seekers and two Tibetan escorts-who arrived in Kathmandu
on Oct. 10.

“When the Chinese fired at us, I was so tense and frightened. It is still
difficult for me to explain what happened,” one man said in an interview
after arriving at the Tibetan Reception Center in Kathmandu. “It was so
tense and confusing that I just thought of staying alive and escaping. I
couldn’t think of anything else or help the others.”

“I think the Chinese fired for about 15 minutes. I felt bullets whizzing
past my ears. In fact I felt about five bullets pass by me and luckily they
missed me. I was so frightened that I crawled in the snow using my hands and
feet. The snow was about knee-deep,” he said.

The man, who asked not to be named, said the group initially thought the
gunshots were fireworks, because there were many Western visitors who had
come to climb the mountains in the area.

“I thought they were playing with fireworks. But then we realized it was
gunshots and about 30 to 40 rounds were fired. In the confusion, we split
into two groups. Those of us who were in the front managed to escape and the
later group of about 30 or more Tibetans could not escape,” he said.

Buddhist nun shot dead

Another Tibetan, who hid in the mountains for two nights before crossing
into Nepal, said: “I saw a small child.There was another young boy who was
shot in the foot and an old man. They were detained in the area until late
afternoon and then the Chinese police took them away.”

“Those who escaped later saw the body of the nun who was killed. She was
Kalsang Namtso, 17 years old from Ngachu Dri-ru (in Chinese, Biru Xian)
county. They gave a local yak herder 100 yuan and asked him to take body
away but we heard that he didn’t do it. So we don’t know what happened
later,” the second man said.

A Western climber who witnessed the incident told RFA’s Tibetan service that
two others in his group had been contacted by the Chinese Embassy in Nepal
and asked to attend a meeting there. “They have since left Nepal and gone
home” without visiting the Chinese Embassy, the climber said.

“We heard five shots very, very quickly,” the climber said. “We saw a line
of refugees making their way up the pass and obviously the Chinese army
coming with guns.”

Tibetans working as cooks at the climbers’ base camp reported that seven
people had been killed and their bodies left in a crevasse, the climber
said, although this information couldn’t be confirmed.

Locals say flight to Nepal tougher

Residents in the mountainous area of Solokhubum, on the Nepal side of the
border, confirmed the shootings had occurred.

“There were about 77 Tibetans who escaped in a group, and the Chinese police
shot at them on Sept. 30,” one resident said in an interview.

“Forty of them managed to escape and about 37 were arrested by the Chinese
police. Among them seven were either injured or killed. Again on Oct. 1,
three more Tibetans crossed the same pass and the Chinese again fired at
them but they managed to escape unhurt. There were about eight or nine armed
Chinese police who fired on the escaping Tibetans.”

The resident said escape across the mountains was becoming more difficult as
what were previously Tibetan border guards were gradually being replaced
with Han Chinese.”Chinese officials recruit Tibetans who are paid to spy and
inform on the escapees. Spies in the area are paid 300 yuan a month, and
they get a special bonus for tracking and informing on Tibetan escapees,”
the resident said.

No comment from Chinese officials

An official at the Tibet Autonomous Region’s Foreign Liaison Office declined
to comment on the incident when contacted by RFA’s Mandarin service. “On
this matter, we are not very clear.  We don’t know about it.  I have never
heard of it,” the official said. “I can tell you nothing,” he said, before
hanging up.

Phone calls on Wednesday by RFA’s Cantonese service to both the external
affairs office of the Tibetan exile government in Dharamsala and the Chinese
Embassy in Nepal went unanswered.

In recent years, thousands of Tibetans have risked the illegal border
crossing into Nepal and India in search of better educational opportunities
and religious freedom. Many end up in Dharmasala, a town in northern India
where their exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, has lived since 1959 after a
failed uprising against Chinese rule. More than 20,000 Tibetan refugees
currently live in Nepal, although those who arrive now are required to
travel on to neighboring India.

Original reporting by RFA’s Tibetan service. Director: Jigme Ngapo.
Translated and edited by Karma Dorjee. Additional reporting by Lillian
Cheung of RFA’s Cantonese service, Xin Yu and Xi Wang of RFA’s Mandarin
service, and Richard Finney. Produced in English by Luisetta Mudie and
edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

Copyright © 2006, RFA. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036.


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