ICT report, October 5 2006
A Tibetan nun in her mid twenties was shot dead by Chinese border patrols and at least one other Tibetan may have been killed while on their way into exile in Nepal on the Nangpa pass five days ago, according to eyewitness reports. Tibetans traveling with the nun were unable to bring her body, with evident wounds from several rounds of bullets, with them because they feared arrest before entering Nepalese territory. There are reports that up to seven more Tibetans may have been killed after the group was fired upon by Chinese armed personnel, but these could not be confirmed.
The incident took place on the glaciated Nangpa Pass at 18,753 ft, just a few kilometres west of Mount Cho Oyu, and was witnessed by a number of international mountaineers at advance base camp, who saw Chinese military personnel kneel down, take aim and open fire on the Tibetans, some of whom were children as young as ten.
One of the climbers summiting Cho Oyu, which is approximately 20 km west of Mount Everest at the border between Tibet and Nepal, said in an email communication by satellite that the shooting happened in the early morning of September 30: « I saw a line of Tibetans heading towards the start of the [Nangpa] pass – a common sight. Then, without warning, shots rang out. Over, and over and over. Then the line of people started to run uphill. Watching the line snake off through the snow, as the shots rang out, we saw two shapes fall. The binoculars confirmed it: two people were down, and they weren’t getting up. »
A second climber, a British mountain guide, told ICT that other climbers had witnessed one of the Tibetans getting up after they had fallen, indicating that one of the two might have survived, although it is not known if the person died later from their injuries. Mountaineers contacted by ICT did not wish to be named until they had left Chinese territory, and the full circumstances of what led up to the incident are not known.
Forty-three Tibetans from a group of more than 70 escaping from Tibet were apparently able to escape from the gun-fire and safely reach Nepalese territory, where they are now en route to the Tibetan Refugees Reception Center in Kathmandu. Most of the group, including children as young as ten as well as Tibetans in their twenties and thirties, are apparently from Kham in eastern Tibet. According to local sources, the Tibetans feared that there might be more than one fatality. The whereabouts of the more than 30 remaining Tibetans from the group is not known. A local Tibetan source said that these Tibetans might have been apprehended by Chinese security forces because Chinese military vehicles, including ambulances, had been seen at a motorable road close to the incident area on the same day. Another local Tibetan source said that members of the group had been forced to abandon the bullet-ridden body of the nun on the pass, because they feared that carrying it out of Tibet might lead to their arrest.
The British mountain guide, who was summiting Cho Oyu at the time, told ICT: « There could have been as many as 60 climbers at Advance Base Camp who witnessed the incident. They could see Chinese soldiers quite close to Advance Base Camp kneeling, taking aim and shooting, again and again, at the group, who were completely defenceless. We didn’t know what the targets were but the climbers could see they were human beings. A couple of hours later, a caravan of yaks came along the pass from Nepal and there was no shooting. Clearly distinctions were made between intended targets. This was a deeply shocking incident for all of us. »