HUMAN RIGHTS AND REPRESSION IN TIBET

HUMAN RIGHTS IN TIBET

Tibet in many ways resembles a police state. Tibetans can be thrown in jail for possessing a picture of the Dalai Lama or discussing their problems with foreigners. There have been many reports of torture, killing and religious suppression. Commenting on China's efforts to "modernize" Tibetan culture, one monk said, "They try to beat us, to silence us, to overwhelm us. You can see they are not succeeding; just look at all the people who come to worship everyday."

After a visit to Tibet in 1997, U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf described "unspeakable brutal conditions" in Tibet, including systematic torture and efforts to stamp out Tibetan culture. In the year 2000 human rights groups said that human rights violations by the Chinese in Tibet increased from the previous year. There were particularly hard crackdowns on people possessing pictures of the Dalai Lama.

The Chinese use carrot and stick approach to Tibet: providing development and jobs while cracking down hard on dissent. This approach has been successful to some degree. Most Tibetans have resigned themselves to the fact that Tibet will never be independent. Demonstrations for independence are rare. One Tibetan intellectual told the Washington Post: “The government’s strategy is working. Most people are happy to have a little money. They don’t worry about Tibet’s future.”

When talking about the Chinese government to journalists, Tibetans measure their words carefully.

Beijing claims the rights of Tibetans are protected in China. And that the government has gone out of its way to help develop Tibet's economy and preserve its unique culture. And people in China tend to buy that line. Tenzin Tethong, a former cabinet member of the Tibetan government-in-exile, who is now working for Radio Free Asia in Washington, DC, told PRI: "This is the one area where the Tibetan story is least understood. "[The] vast majority of the Chinese public have had a very general understanding that since Tibet became part of the PRC [People's Republic of China], Tibetan life has improved dramatically for the better, when in reality, there are very, very serious issues going on." [Source: Matthew Bell, PRI, February 11, 2014]

See Repression, Death and Violence in Tibet History; Religious Repression, Religion, 2008 Olympics, Sport

Human Rights Groups: Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT). The Tibetan Center of Human Rights and Democracy is based in Dharmsala. It aims to get a picture of what is going on Tibet based largely on accounts by Tibetans who escape to India.

Repression of Tibetans

In July 2014, Tibetan activist Woeser said: “The current situation hasn’t changed, and the oppression still has not been relaxed. As for what will happen in the future, it’s difficult to predict. On the one hand, the authorities’ policy of guilt by association is very harsh, and also the current tactic of control is one of micromanagement. The entire Tibetan area is under a management grid. On the surface, it appears that the situation had been easing up from such strict control, but it hasn’t. The Lhasa that I know is still under tight control. The authorities want to present to the world a Tibet that is happy, harmonious and satisfied. Yet in reality there are many problems. What I talk about are those problems, and I tell the truth. That piques the authorities.” [Source: Edward Wong, Sinosphere blog, New York Times, July 15, 2014]

Tibetans visiting Lhasa from outside the holy city are forced to give up their ID cards. They also are required to stay in designated areas. "This kind of segregation I thought would never happen to us [Tibetans]," Woeser said. "This only applies to Tibetans, not Han [ethnic Chinese] people. If they enter Tibet, they can move around completely freely." [Source: Matthew Bell, PRI, February 11, 2014]

Sonam Rapgha, a Tibetan monk told AFP he was tortured daily over a three-week period by Chinese police after his arrest in 2012 for having the wrong visa in Chamdo region in Tibet where he travelled from India to visit his mother. “I thought I was going to die. Almost every day I fell unconscious from the beatings and I was scared,” he said. Rapgha, who now suffers from kidney disease, said police accused him of trying to spread disharmony in Tibet, before finally releasing him at the Nepal border. [Source: Agence France-Presse, June 5, 2014]

On the life of young woman from a herding family, Annie Gowen wrote in the Washington Post, “When she was growing up, the local school taught classes in Mandarin, not Tibetan, so she received only rudimentary schooling at home. Her family, nomadic herders, could not travel from village to village without permission. They dared not speak the Dalai Lama’s name — even when they were alone in their tent of yak hide. They assumed their cellphone calls were monitored. [Source: Annie Gowen, Washington Post, October 19, 2014]

Torture and Death in Tibet

There have been reports of monks being tortured by having shock batons stuck down their throats, delivering powerful electric jolts through their entire body. There are also reports of monks being routinely starved and isolated and beaten with chains, iron bats and sticks with nails and hung by their shoulder for hours.

Women, particularly nuns, have been raped. Richard Gere often tells a story about a group of nuns who held up a placard saying "Free Tibet" at monastery. "They were immediately arrested with all the other women in their convent," he said. "They were taken to a police station, and stripped naked and tortured and beaten, They were hung by ropes tied behind their backs; and several of them were shocked with electric cattle prods." GereI asked one of the nuns, "How can you handle this?" She said, "It's so much bigger than me, so much bigger than these events."

One Tibetan woman told Newsweek she was beaten at a Lhasa police station for printing an underground newspaper with quotations from the Dalai Lama. "I asked them to stop because I was pregnant," she said. "One of them said, 'So what?' and they kicked me around the room some more before making me stand again." She collapsed and four days later gave birth to a dead fetus.

A Romanian video shot in September 2006 is said to have captured the fatal shooting of a Tibetan escaping from Tibet. It appears to show a border guard shooting a rifle and a man in the distance— said to be with a group of Tibetan refugees attempting to flee to Nepal—running and then falling in the snow. The video was shot by a group of mountain climbers climbing Cho Oyu, a Himalayan peak near China’s border with Nepal. Eyes witnesses told human rights that the victim was a 25-year-old Tibetan nun, attempting to cross from Tibet into Nepal at 5,800-meter-high Nanpa La.

Arrests and Dissidents in Tibet

Children as young as six have been detained in difficult conditions without charges or access to their families and been punished with electric shocks and other tortures. In 1999, a 10-year-old boy was imprisoned for four months for refusing to repeat the phrase, "I am a Chinese citizen" in school. An AIDS educator was given a life sentence for copying illegal CDs in India.

Tibetan dissidents and people perceived of being dissidents are often given long sentences. Ngawang Chiephal, an Indian-born, U.S.-educated Tibetan scholar, was arrested while studying Tibetan music and given a prison sentence of 18 years. The 30-year-old scholar had lived outside Tibet since he was two. It was not clear why he was arrested but under Chinese law, taping Tibetan culture for export qualifies as espionage. He was released six years into his sentence and allowed to return to the United States.

Tibetan dissidents who have been arrested for voicing their support of the Dalai Lama include Kalsang Tsering, Lobsang Chodag and Thubten Kelsang Thalutsogentsang. In 1994, five Tibetans were sentenced to jail terms up to 15 years for smashing a government sign and writing pro-independence slogans on it. In March 2005, Dolma Kyab, a middle school teacher in Lhasa, was arrested and then sentenced to jail for 10 years on charges of espionage. Little has been made public about the case.

In 2002, a 52-year-old monk, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, was sentenced to death in a closed trial on charges that he was involved the the bombing of a pubic park in Sichuan. In 2005, his sentence was commuted to life in prison. A younger man, Lobsang Dondup, described as an assistant to Tenzin Deleg, was charged in the same crime and executed the same day his appeal was denied. Both men had claimed they were innocent. Their trials were regarded as shams. Tenzin Delek was a popular monk based at the Litang Monastery in Sichuan. Some say he was framed because of his pro-independence views, large following, support of the Dalai Lama and unwillingness to do what Beijing told him to do. Lobsang had little connection to him.

In August 1999, a Tibetan-born American named Daja traveled to Tibet on his own and was arrested after photographing a prison labor camp and World-Bank financed projects that resulted in the resettlement of hundreds of Tibetan villagers. After enduring a night of interrogations Daja decided to leap from a three- story window where he was held than give up the names of Tibetans that had helped him. He told the Wall Street Journal he was not afraid to die and his action would draw attention to the Tibetan cause. Two days later he awoke in a hospital with broken feet and internal injuries. His case received international attention. The Dali Lama praised him, a rock concert with Run-DMC and 10,000 Maniacs was held to pay his medical expenses. The World Bank project was shut down.

Recent Arrests of Dissidents in Tibet

In November 2009, the founder of the Tibetan literary website Chodme (“Butter-Lamp”), Kunchok Tsephel, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of disclosing state secrets, charges believed to be connected with information he posted on the Tibetan uprising in 2008.

In June 2010, Tibetan environmental activists Karma Samdrup, who was once praised as a model philanthropist, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of grave robbing and looting antiquities in what many view as trumped up charges in retaliation for charges he made that local officials poached endangered animals.

In July 2010, Chinese authorities sentenced Rinchen Samdrup, a well-known Tibetan environmentalist, to five years in prison on charges of inciting subversion. He was accused of posting an article on his organization’s Web site which referred to the Dalai Lama favorably.

In January 2010, Tibetan film maker Dhondup Wangchen, was charged with trying to split the country and sentenced to six years in prison. His film Leaving Fear Behind, features ordinary Tibetans and himself complaining about Beijing’s policies in Tibet. It was released in the run up to the 2008 Olympics.

In April 2010, police detained Tibetan scholar Shogdung (also spelled Zhogs Dun) after he sent an open letter of solidarity to Tibetan earthquake victims in Qinghai province and criticized relief efforts, reportedly the website High Peaks Pure Earth, which monitors Tibetan-language web postings. [Source: Ben Blanchard and Lucy Hornby, Reuters, April 26, 2010]

The writer, who publishes under the name Zhogs Dung but whose real name is Tagyal, was among eight authors and intellectuals who signed a letter dated 17 April that expressed sorrow for the disaster that left more than 2,000 people dead  most of them Tibetan  and urged wariness of Chinese government relief efforts. Zhogs Dung, 45, is considered a leading intellectual who in the past has written books that largely aligned with the Chinese government's views on modernization, religion and culture in Tibet. However, he published a book this year that was far more critical of the government in the wake of anti-government riots in Tibet in 2008. [Source: AP]

The letter urged people to help victims by offering food, clothes and medicine but warned them not to donate funds to relief organizations because of possible corruption. “Better to send [money] to the disaster zone with people you trust, because nobody can tell where there's no corruption,” said the letter, which was posted on several websites, including the overseas-based Boxun.com, which is critical of the Chinese government. “Just as the news from the mouthpiece for the [communist] party organizations cannot be believed, we dare not believe in the party organization, which issued the order stopping people from going to the disaster zone for political reason,” it said. [Ibid]

Popular Tibetan Writer Detained

In February 2012, Radio Free Asia reported: “A popular Tibetan writer has been detained by Chinese authorities in a county rocked by bloody protests in southwestern Sichuan province, writers and exile sources said, A team of 20 police officers went to the residence of Gangkye Drubpa Kyab, 33, in Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) county just before midnight on February 15 and took him away, according to Beijing-based Tibetan writer Woeser."His present condition and place of detention is unknown," she told RFA. [Source: Radio Free Asia, February 18, 2012]

The detention came amid tensions in Tibetan-populated areas in Chinese provinces on the back of self-immolations and protests against Chinese rule and the arrest of scores, if not hundreds, of Tibetans.Serthar was among three counties in Sichuan province where Tibetans protested in late January and in which rights and exile groups believe at least six were killed and 60 injured, some critically. The protest in Serthar was sparked by posters calling for more self-immolations and cautioning Tibetans not to allow the bodies of those who set themselves ablaze to be taken away by Chinese security forces, sources had said.

Drubpa Kyab was a "well known" writer among Tibetans, Woeser said. Among his popular compositions were "Call of Fate," "Pain of This Era" and "Today’s Tear of Pain." He had worked as a teacher in Serthar for almost a decade. His wife, Wangchuk Lhamo, challenged the police team to show legal documents for detaining him and conducting a search on their home "but they had nothing to show,” an exile source with contacts in Serthar told RFA.”The Chinese police team searched his house but found nothing incriminating," the source said. The police team was led by the head of the Serthar police station and the local secret service chief, the source said.

Drubpa Kyab's detention comes two weeks after a popular advocate of Tibet’s traditional culture and language was believed to have been detained by Chinese authorities. Dawa Dorje, in his late 20's and a government researcher in Nagchu (in Chinese, Naqu) prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region, was believed detained after expressing concern over the closure of Tibetan monasteries, sources said.His family had not heard from him since he returned to Tibet after organizing a conference promoting Tibetan culture in protest-hit Sichuan but his friends believe Chinese authorities have detained him.

Writers, singers, and artists promoting Tibetan national identity and culture have frequently been detained by Chinese authorities, with many handed long jail terms, following region-wide protests against Chinese rule that swept Tibetan areas in 2008.

See Woeser Under Literature

Trouble for Tibetan Girl at the Chinese Border

“The following is a story from a Tibetan student at Qinghai University about crossing the border from Laos into China: “Starting this story, I have to say that I have never talked about politics. Politics has never interested me and I don't find it interesting. I just want to tell a story of what happened to me. Remember, please, that this is not just a story but a true story. [Source: Jacqueline and Martin Winter , MCLC List]

“From Boten it is easy to go to China. I got off the bus and gave my passport to the Laos frontier guard to stamp.” There she met a Canadian man named Philip and two Swedes. They all walked together to the border station. “On arriving at Mohan, the Chinese border station, I handed my passport to the border guard. When he opened my passport he looked at me with his eyes and face showing surprise. He nervously asked, Are you are Tibetan? I said Yes. The other border guards on hearing that got hyperactive and looked scared. They told me to open my bags and said they needed to check my bags...I didn’t see them checking anyone else’s bag. “ [Ibid]

“As a Tibetan girl, I am a Buddhist and pray for Dalai Lama every day and admire him... The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. He is not a king... I have always wished that I could get a chance to read his books on life and how to live one’s life peacefully. I never had a chance to buy any of his books in China but when I was in Cambodia there were many book stores selling his holiness's books. There I had bought two books. One was The Art of Happiness and the other book was, Practicing Wisdom. I had also downloaded some pictures of his holiness from the Internet and had saved some pictures friends from other countries had sent me by internet that I had saved in my Laptop.” [Ibid]

“The frontier soldiers start checking my bags and found my laptop computer and my digital camera. Then they found one of his holiness” book and now they were confident that I am some kind of extremist or fanatic and they were going to give me some problems. They called to some leaders to come...The books I had bought in Cambodia were the main charge against me. “ [Ibid]

Interrogation of the Poor Tibetan Girl

“As one of the frontier guards started checking my laptop, I wrote down my email address on a piece of paper and gave it to Philip. I told him that in case I had trouble here and they arrested me to notify my friends. Another of the frontier guards saw me slip the paper to Philip and took my email address from him. That really upset me then. I hadn’t done anything wrong. But the way they were carrying on that it is illegal to have books written by His Holiness, I figured I may be in for trouble. But I was sure that I would be cleared because I have never done anything to against China or talked against China. ‘ [Ibid]

‘Then a few minutes later a police car parked outside the office of the border police and they told us to get into the car and we would be taken some place else...But just as I was getting into the car, one border guard told me to go back inside. I wasn’t certain what they wanted but I followed him inside where he directed me to another room. Inside, was a female policewoman waiting for me. She said they needed check my body and asked me to remove all my clothing...Of course she didn't find anything and she was checking me everywhere. That was the worst and most humiliating experience I have undergone in all my life including what they did earlier. “ [Ibid]

“We got on the police car and drove about a half hour until we got to a frontier station where they told us, As long as you answer all of our questions, we will let us go very soon...While they were questioning me, they took my laptop into another room where the “computer expert” was checking it. They would ask me the same question 5 times or more. Each question took about one hour as it was repetitious. Sometimes it seemed like more than an hour. I was really doing my best to cooperate with them because they said as long as I answered all of their questions they would let me go. And I trusted them to keep their word. “ [Ibid]

“But their questions sounded more like answers. Whatever I answered I feel like they are making something out of my answers. Some questions I really didn't know how to answer because I never knew the person or had never heard about any of the places. Then they said I needed be honest with them. They always smiled when they were asking me questions. But they should know that for me that smile just like crying. I learned later that these techniques and training was like that copied from the NKVD in Russia. “ [Ibid]

“Late in the afternoon about 1900pm and it was dinner time. They asked us if we wanted some dinner, but I felt full and wasn't hungry. We asked again when we could leave and they replied, Be patient. We are still checking. Whenever we asked to go to bathroom, soldiers came with us. Were we losing our freedom already? [Ibid]

“I was worn out that morning after being 20 hours on the bus. The whole day they hadn’t given me a chance to rest as I was answering their questions and by now I was exhausted. I still thought that they release us as it was completely blown out of proportion to think either Philip or I were involved in anything criminal or had any criminal intent of any kind...However, they began to ask questions the same questions that they has been asking all day...At last I said, I’m sorry I cannot continue. I am tired and I have answered your questions. Just let me alone now. So they stopped questioning me. [Ibid]

‘About midnight I saw 3 police cars drive up and stop outside the frontier station. The policeman got out and went into the office with the leader of the frontier soldiers. About 0130 am leaders in another office, they came out and told us that we needed go with them to the State police office to check more to check my computer. They explained that they didn’t have a local computer expert and had to go to the state level to find a good expert to check my laptop. [Ibid]

“They asked me to sign a paper. When I refused, one of the police man told me, It's OK if you don't sign. We can still keep you and you know we can. There is no justice. If they want to keep someone as a prisoner, they have the power, especially as I am a Tibetan I have been singled out and judged to be a danger. It is unfair as I have broken no law or hurt anyone or plotted to hurt anyone...From Mengla county to Xi Shuang Ban Na is about 4 hours by car. I fell asleep in the car. I was too tired. [Ibid]

Heavier Interrogation of the Poor Tibetan Girl

“We arrived at Xi Shuang Ban Na in the morning and were directed to a hotel. There were three policewomen just to keep watch on me. I was too tired to care. I fell asleep immediately. It was about 09:00 in the morning when they woke me up. They said it was time for breakfast and then I had to go to the office. I couldn't really eat. Just I felt like they were treating me like a rotten piece of meat and I was beginning to smell like it too. After breakfast the police took us to their office and began asking questions. From their questions I knew that they read all of the emails I had saved in my laptop. I have some very good westerner friends who I feel are just like my family. Every email I got from them. I saved. Each of their emails was very important to me..I had also written some short articles about my travel that I describe some of my feelings. I think everyone has some special feelings when you are arrived to some different places or different country. [Ibid]

“From their questions. I realize that all of those emails and pictures from my friends and family are the reasons that why they keeping me. Each of friends and each of family. I need to explain one by one. There was 3 people asking questions. When they finished asking all of those questions for the first time they asked me for a signature on their record. But for the first time I didn't. Because they are encroach upon my rights. Then they said OK. Let's go for lunch. And you should think more careful what you have done. If you are cooperation with us. It will help you much later. But I knew that was rubbish. [Ibid]

“They started to ask their questions again. They asked me explain that from in the beginning of my trip to the end. And why I was travel. Who I met during the travel. And which hotels that I was staying. That was a long story. But they said I have to answer very detail. And asked me if I knew any about protest in Lhasa. “ [Ibid]

Tibetan Girl Sent to Jail

“In the morning...They said because they need check me more. So they have to send me to the jail. And when checked all out clearly. They will release me. But if I wanted to get release. I have to cooperate with them. Then the government will leniently deal with me. I said you have to give a reason to me that why you send me to jail. I didn't do anything against this country...I am a Chinese. On my passport. I am a Chinese . But now you are treating me like that I am not a Chinese. [Ibid]

“But of course they didn't care what I said. They just do what they wanted. They never knew what real justice is. In the morning about 10:00 am .They sent me to the jail. When we arrived to the front door of the jail. I feel bit sad. But still pretended very strong looking. They didn't let me take anything in side of jail. Except my toothbrush and toothpaste. But they break off toothbrush.

“Then ask me go to the toilet one of police lady need check me. My body. I said they checked already. But they said need to check one more time. And I have to be naked. I feel like all of my face were burning and all of my body were shaking. I took off my shirt and said can I keep my bra” She was scream to me and said . No way be quick. Took off all . Then I said with very politely. You should be polite to me. There is no reason and no rights to scream to me. Because your stupid people are keeping me in the jail without any clearly reasons. [Ibid]

“When I took off all of my cloths. In that moment that I wish I never born . As a Tibetan. How seriously problem it is in my culture. But I have to face to it. And Also they broke my pants. Took off waist belt and all of strings and zips on my pants and shirt. And they didn't let me take my glasses. And no strings for my hairs. Open my hairs without glasses. and dressing a broken pants and shirt. [Ibid]

“Those policemen told me that I didn't answer some questions that they wanted to know. I should think it more careful in the night. And they will come in the second day to ask. Then they left. And the jail worker opened door inside of the jail. In the second door. They give me an old broken sheet. And a broken red bowl. I look like a shit I am in that moment. “ [Ibid]

Tibetan Girl Meets the Other Prisoners

“Then opened the third door. There were about more than ten female prisoners looking at me. I couldn't see them very well. Because I don't have my glasses. The wall is so high. And the door is so strong. There was nothing inside except those prisoners. And I lift up my head. There was only iron wire I can see. Everybody just staring at me. Looks like I am from another world. Looks like they never saw another human being. Each of them looks so strange for me. I was standing there didn't move maybe for one minute. And all of those prisoners looking at me as well. I was shocked with view of front. I think they was surprised that a new prisoner came inside. It's like I just arrived to another world that we never heard about in our real life. In our normal life. And I can't believe that I came to this strange world. [Ibid]

“Then I was slowly woke up. Said hi to everyone with very polite way. Some of them said hi to me back. But some is just looks like very angry and don't care what I said. Looks like very cold people. So strange looking. I went inside of the room. There was numbers for each of them. And 14 prisoners. I am the 15th . I found a small corner put down that old sheets and bowl. Also toothbrush and toothpaste. [Ibid]

“Everyone keep looking at me still. One of old lady came to me said: Hey. You can't keep your toothbrush and toothpaste here. You should keep it on the front of iron wire window. I said OK. And put on there. Then one of another lady came to me said: hey. You can't keep like that. Those Prison administrators will punish you. You have to keep like us. Each of them put those stuff in their own plastic cup. But I didn't have. So I said: I don't have a cup. No one speak to me again. [Ibid]

“Everyone looks like lost their soul. Looks like they are not alive. Looks like they are all psycho. And I was little bit get scared to look at them in the beginning . I feel like I am in the dream suddenly. I really thought that I was having a dream. I touched my hands. Looks real. Then I hit my one of leg. It's painful. Shit. Then it wasn't a dream? So it was real? No. I can't accept it. Just sitting on the one of corner. Waiting for some normal one come to me and talk to me. [Ibid]

“The old lady who talked to me first time. She came to me again. Sitting in next to me. And start ask some questions to me. I can see her face very clearly. Slim. Tiny. No energy. But I just like a boat that lost direction in the ocean...She surprised me with her her first question: are you a foreigner? No. I am a Tibetan. I answered. Looks like other prisoners getting interesting in me when I said that I am a Tibetan. Then one of young lady asked me: Wow you are a Tibetan . Sounds like she never meet a person who from Tibet. Or maybe in some other reasons. Looks very shocked. So why you come over here? Like us Drug-smuggling. [Ibid]

“Everyone was looking at me again like the first sight. And looks they are waiting for my answer. Well. I really didn't know how to answer her question. Because I even don't know what is my crime. So I just answered as a joke: Because I am a Tibetan. Of course they don't know what do I mean? Then I continued: I really don't know what I am being charged with. They just checked some pictures and emails from my laptop which included some books written by His holiness. These people don't know who is his holiness. When I tried to explain to them who his holiness, the Dalai Lama was, one of the ladies said: Oh. I understand why you are here. You must a Tibetan separatist. “ [Ibid]

Tibetans Fleeing to India and Nepal

Many Tibetans have fled their homeland in a harrowing journey from Tibet, though the snow-covered passes of Nepal, to Dharamsala. The escapees often travel by foot with nothing more than a blanket, the clothes on their back, some yak meat and a bag of barley. By day they hide behind rocks to avoid detection by Chinese authorities. At night they walk. They often run out of food and get within a whisker of freedom before succumbing to storms, deep snow and glaciers at the last pass into Nepal, 18,000-foot-high Nangpa La, 30 miles from Mt. Everest. Many lose their fingers and toes to frostbite.

In a speech to welcome a group of 300 Tibetans who escaped to India, the Dalai Lama said, "Tibet has survived these past 40 years of Chinese occupation because of your strength and determination. I know you have come here with great difficulty, and you have suffered on your journey. But by coming here you have shown not only your own but Tibet's determination. I give you my greetings, and my gratitude for what you have done."

The escapees who make it typically need 25 days to reach India or Nepal. They pay a guide around $100 and cross some of the world's highest passes with canvas shoes. Refugees who make it to Mustang, Namchee Bazaar or Kathmandu are interviewed by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), who then transfers them to India. The Dalai Lama personally meets with many of the refugees and often encourages them to return to Tibet.

As of 2003 there were about 25,000 Tibetan refugees living in Nepal. That year about 2,500 Tibetans made the difficult journey to get to Nepal. Most were turned over to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees who helped them make their way to India. In 1997, 2,639 Tibetans crossed from Tibet into Nepal and around 5,000 new arrivals showed up in Dharamsala, including 1,000 children. In 2002, the number of Tibetans arriving in Nepal dropped to 1,268. The decline was attributed to increase of police patrols on the Chinese side of the border.

Hardship and Death Fleeing to India

One escapee told National Geographic he and his infant son made it, but his wife died during the grueling trek and his father succumbed to dysentery soon after arrival in the lowlands. Another escapee told the Los Angeles Times that several members in her group died, including a 11-year-old girl that froze to death while being carried on the escapee' back.

In December 1997, four children and a 16-year-old monk died while trying to escape Tibet after getting caught in a blizzard and struggling through three feet of snow. One survivor who got as far as Kathmandu but lost his legs to frostbite told the Los Angeles Times, "Everyone was fainting, falling. The snow was at my chest, and I could not see. It would have been better to die." A woman who lost seven toes and was discovered by Scottish hikers near Namche Bazaar, said, "I was senseless. I kept thinking, 'I am going to die, and I will not live to see His Holiness."

Many of the Tibetan trekkers are children. One aid worker in Kathmandu told Newsweek, "Every winter, so many children die in the snow, while their parents back in Tibet think they are safe and happy in India." Many of the children leave because there is not enough for them to eat in Tibet.

See Torture and Death in Tibet, Above

Image Sources:

Text Sources: 1) Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia/ China , edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond (C.K.Hall & Company, 1994); 2) Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, kepu.net.cn ~; 3) Ethnic China ethnic-china.com \*\; 4) Chinatravel.com chinatravel.com \=/; 5) China.org, the Chinese government news site china.org *|* New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Chinese government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated July 2015

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