Dangerous Crossing 2006The dangers for Tibetans crossing the Himalayas into exile due to repression in Tibet were dramatically evident over the past year, with a Tibetan nun being shot dead by Chinese police close to the Nepal border last September, and a quietly stepped up approach to refoulement from Nepal, according to a new report by the International Campaign for Tibet to be published on Monday (February 12) and available for download here.

ICT’s report, ‘Dangerous Crossing’, includes previously unreported eyewitness testimony of the Nangpa Pass shootings in September, which led to condemnation of China’s actions by the US and EU governments after it was captured on film. This footage is the first irrefutable documentary evidence of China’s treatment of Tibetans escaping into exile. ‘Dangerous Crossing’ documents a further incident of Tibetans being fired upon by border patrols while attempting to escape over the pass, and the maltreatment of Tibetans en route into exile who are captured and imprisoned.

The report, which will be launched in Berlin by actor and activist Richard Gere and Romanian cameraman Sergiu Matei, who filmed the Nangpa Pass shooting, also documents the insecure situation for Tibetans arriving in Nepal as a result of China’s heavy footprint on that country.

Mary Beth Markey, Vice-President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “The US, EU and other governments have lodged strong protests in Beijing at the killing of a young Tibetan nun near the Tibet-Nepal border, which the Chinese authorities chillingly describe as ‘normal border management’. Beijing’s characterization of the shooting and the incident itself are representative of the repression that compels Tibetans to seek freedom in exile. Until a political solution is reached that provides Tibetans a sense of hope and optimism about their future, we can expect the dangerous crossing of Tibetans to continue.”

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 competition for work from increasing numbers of Chinese migrants, under China’s transformative economic policies in Tibet.

‘Dangerous Crossing’, available for downloading here from February 12, 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

Launch event and details

  • The ICT report, ‘Dangerous Crossing: conditions impacting the flight of Tibetan refugees’ is available for downloading here. For a German language version contact [email protected]. Images of the journey into exile are also available from ICT.
  • At a launch of the report co-hosted by Cinema for Peace in Berlin, chair of the International Campaign for Tibet Richard Gere will present the screening of documentary footage smuggled out of Tibet depicting the Tibetans coming under fire from Chinese border police while crossing the Nangpa Pass at 19,000 ft into Nepal, and Sergiu Matei, the Romanian cameraman who shot the footage, will answer questions. It is the first time that irrefutable evidence of China’s treatment of Tibetans escaping into exile has been captured on film. To register for the press conference, contact [email protected]. The film will also be screened at the Cinema for Peace Gala evening in Berlin on February 12 (www.cinemaforpeace.com).
  • The Tibetan nun who was shot dead last September on the Nangpa Pass 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.

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