SHIMLA- Outrage over the Chinese firing at the 19,000 feet high Nangpa La Pass Nepal-China border that claimed the life of a 17-year-old nun on 30 September has spilled over to touch the lives of Tibetan refugees living at McLeodganj near Dharamshala, also the home of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
Over 4,000 Tibetan shopkeepers and tradesmen recently staged a ceasework and participated in a rally at the behest of Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan Women’s Association and other organisations to protest the incident. Forty one Tibetans, who had escaped the shelling at the Pass and reached McLeodganj, were present at the rally.
Three of them, including a six-year-old girl, were presented to the Press. “We were unarmed and not given a chance by the Chinese forces to explain our position. They just fired indiscriminately. The situation is bad in Tibet ~ there is no religious freedom. We are asked to denounce His Holiness, the Dalai Lama,” an escapee said. He claimed to have seen the Tibetan national flag and heard their national anthem for the first time only after crossing over to Nepal. A video of the firing incident filmed by a Norweigian mountaineer who was part of an Everest team that chanced to view the firing from a greater height where they were located was also shown.
According to recent reports received at the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile, the Chinese border securitymen “fired indiscriminately” at 73 people while they were crossing the Nangpa La Pass, close to the Everest base camp, to reach Nepal on 30 September. Kelsang Namdrol, a 17-year-old nun, was reportedly killed while another nun was injured and captured by the Chinese alongwith 30 others. Condemning the incident, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) has said that the number of casualties “could be more” since the status of the 30 remains unknown. Only about 41 refugees could escape the gunfire and reach the United Nations High Commission for Refugees at Kathmandu.
The Tibetan Center for Human Rights Democracy (TCHRD) at Dharamshala has claimed that Chinese officials have confirmed that one injured person died owing to “shortage of oxygen in hospital.” But, says TCHRD, the Everest mountaineers nearby have stated that “the refugees were running uphill away from the firing,” and at least one person “was killed in the gunfire.” The Tibetan government-in-exile as well as many Tibetan organisations like TCHRD have appealed to the UN Human Rights Commission to ensure justice to those shot in the Nangpa La incident and see that the captured were “freed immediately without any harm.” The just concluded two-day “task force” meeting chaired by Samdhong Rinpoche, Prime Minister of the government-in-exile, decided that an international campaign should be launched highlighting the nun’s killing which proved once again China’s human rights violation in Tibet.
There are also strong indications that the proposed Olympics in Beijing will be used by Tibetan leaders to campaign strongly for their cause. However, sources also claim that the “task force” has reaffirmed that efforts for resolving the Tibetan issue would remain “within the framework” of their temporal and spiritual head the Dalai Lama’s “middle-way approach.”