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I posted a story about this video a while back, and I decided to upload it to Google video. I think it’s an amazing documentary and one that should be seen by everyone the world over. It brings to light the terrible conditions endured by Tibetan refugees and the apathy with which many Westerners react when confronted with the situation (however, it also highlights some true heroes):

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By Sally Ingleton
Producer, This World

In September 2006, two groups of people crossed paths in the snow-capped Himalayas – one seeking freedom, the other adventure. A brutal shooting threw them together, changing their lives for ever.

Each year an estimated 2,500 Tibetans make the dangerous and illegal crossing through the Himalayas into India.

Many are young teenagers seeking freedom both in religious practice and in their education. A big incentive is the prospect of meeting their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India. 

In 2006 the plight of these refugees came to international attention when a group of mountain climbers witnessed and recorded Chinese border police opening fire on one group of pilgrims as they made their way across the Nangpa pass in the Himalayas, 18,000 feet (5,500m) above sea level.

Escape plan

Among this group were two teenage girls from Tibetan farms, 16-year-old Dolma Palki, and Kelsang Namtso, a 17-year-old nun.

Dolma is now studying at the Suja school in Dharamsala
Dolma is now studying at the Suja school in Dharamsala

They had been best friends since the age of 10 and together they hatched a plan to escape from Tibet and make the pilgrimage to India to see the Dalai Lama and to study.

“Three of us girls made the decision together. Escaping Tibet was always on our minds. Whenever I saw photos of His Holiness, I wanted to see him in person,” recalls Dolma.

“One day Kelsang Namtso and I were in the field. She called me over and said: ‘People are going to India. Do you want to go?'”

Some nuns had just returned to their district from a nunnery in India. The stories of their journey and studies there reassured Kelsang’s parents and they agreed to let her travel to India.

Many young Tibetans risk their lives each year to illegally cross the border but Dolma’s parents thought she was crazy to consider it.

They sought counsel from the local Abbott, who reassured them all that it was a good time to leave.

Lying guide

After an emotional and clandestine farewell, Dolma, Kelsang and their friends travelled to Lhasa to meet with a guide.

They handed over about £500 ($800) and were told they would be travelling with a small group for about four days, including perhaps a half day walk. They did not realise that the guide was lying to them.

Joining the group in Lhasa was 14-year-old Jamyang Samten, who had wanted to get out of Tibet since he was 10.

Jamyang attended a Chinese-run boarding school for nomadic children but was expelled at the age of 11 for misbehaving. After working for four years, Jamyang had saved enough money to escape.

Harsh conditions

The teenagers were packed into a truck with around 70 other refugees. Dodging Chinese patrols, the truck travelled only after dark.

The shooting was documented by a group of mountain climbers
The shooting was documented by a group of mountain climbers

On the third night it stopped more that 100km short of the border. For the next 10 days, the group walked through rugged terrain at night, sleeping rough by day. They had little food or water.

On the morning of 30 September, with the Nangpa Pass just ahead, the refugees heard loud bangs.

“We didn’t know they were gun shots. We thought it was mountaineers setting off fire crackers for fun,” Dolma says.

Meanwhile at the advanced base camp on Mount Cho Oyu, a group of mountain climbers were observing the scene. Many picked up their cameras and began videotaping and photographing the unfolding events.

Chaos ensued as it dawned on the refugees that the Chinese Border Police were shooting directly at them.

Dolma was just ahead of her friend, “I got really scared. I patted Kelsang on the back, ‘Please go faster. We are in big trouble. The Chinese are chasing after us.'”

When Kelsang was shot Dolma says she felt as if her own body had been electrocuted. She wanted to go back and help her. But others in the group dragged her away, urging her to think of her own life.

Jamyang, who had splintered off into another group, was captured along with 30 other refugees and arrested by the Chinese Border Police.

He says he was beaten, interrogated and tortured with whips and electric cattle prods for three days. After three months in a Shigatse jail, his uncle paid a hefty fine and Jamyang was set free.

Everyone knew it was a dangerous journey, but no one imagined it would end like this.

Jamyang Samten and Dolma Palki talk about why they wanted to leave Tibet

Kelsang was shot in the back less than 400m from the Nepalese border and freedom.

At the time China’s state run Xinhua news agency said that the Tibetans had refused orders to turn back, and that they had then attacked the People’s Armed Police.

According to Xinhua, the soldiers were “forced to defend themselves.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a press conference that “it is the responsibility of the Chinese border police to maintain peace and security.”

Jamyang later made a second attempt to leave Tibet by a different route. This time he was successful.

He now goes to school in India with Dolma and other refugees who made it out of Tibet. Jamyang hopes to qualify as a teacher and work for the Tibetan community in exile.

Like all refugees Dolma and Jamyang got the opportunity to meet the Dalai Lama. He advised Dolma “that Kelsang died for a good cause and that her next rebirth will be a special one.”

She says his advice has given her tremendous strength in continuing her education and following her dream to become a nun, in memory of Kelsang.

Click Here to watch a video.

From the BBC:

Demonstrators carrying Tibetan flags marched to the Chinese Consulate to denounce Beijing’s policy on Tibet.

Officials have promised tight security for Wednesday’s torch relay, following chaotic scenes in London and Paris.

Officials in Beijing have condemned the disruption to the torch relay but promised that it will go ahead.

Extra police will line the torch’s route as it travels through San Francisco.

Mayor Gavin Newsom said he had been in touch with officials in the UK and France to discuss ways of handling the protesters.

“I’m not naive to the challenge associated with this event,” he said.

The torch arrived in San Francisco early on Tuesday and was immediately taken to a secret location.

The flame relay will begin at 1300 (2000GMT) and follow a six-mile (10km) route though the city.

Several protests are planned and police say they reserve the right to change the route if necessary.

On Tuesday, activists gathered near City Hall for their march to the Chinese mission and a late-night vigil.

South African Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu urged world leaders not to go to the Games.

“For God’s sake, for the sake of our children, for the sake of their children, for the sake of the beautiful people of Tibet – don’t go,” he said at the vigil.

“Tell your counterparts in Beijing you wanted to come but looked at your schedule and realised you have something else to do.”

Other speakers called for further disruption of the relay.

“This is not about us battling the torchbearers,” Lhadom Tethong, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, told the crowd.

“This is about the Chinese government using the torch for political purposes. And we’re going to use it right back.”

But in Chinatown, community representatives held a news conference to call for a peaceful relay and voice pride over China’s hosting of the Games.

“If I support the Olympics, of course I don’t support the protests,” local resident Ling Li told the Associated Press News agency.

“This is the first time China has had the Olympics. We should be proud of this.”

International Olympic Committee (IOC) members are to discuss the issue in meetings in Beijing in the coming days, but President Jacques Rogge scotched rumours that the relay might be stopped.

“There is no discussion of cancelling any legs,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “What we will do is study the torch relay so far.”

He is due to meet Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao later in the day.

Activists from Reporters without Borders attempted to disrupt the lighting of the Olympic Flame. Their attempt was partially successful in that it did cause some disruption and it made news today–keeping the focus on Tibet.

I’m a bit behind with getting this posted here, but The Burma Campaign UK have a new single for sale by Lo-Star. All profits go to help their cause. The video is available below:

Image from the New York Times

According to the NY Times the Dalai Lama has stated that he won’t stop the protests by the Tibetan people, even though the deadline given by the Chinese Government has passed.

From the NY Times article:

MCLEODGANJ, India — The Dalai Lama said Sunday that he would not instruct his followers inside Tibet to surrender before Chinese authorities, and he described feeling “helpless” in preventing what he feared could be an imminent blood bath.

“I do feel helpless,” he said in response to a question at a wide-ranging, emotionally charged news conference here in what has served as the headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile for nearly 40 years. “I feel very sad, very serious, very anxious. Cannot do anything,”

His aides said they had received reports from Tibet of 80 killings on Thursday and Friday alone, in and around the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, including 26 slain just outside a prison called Drapchi. Chinese state media has reported 10 deaths and characterized most of them as shopkeepers ”burned to death” during protests.

Tibetan exiles here said they had also received news of at least two Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire as an act of protest; that claim could not be independently confirmed.

Read the rest of this entry »

BBC Coverage:

Other:

Fires have broken out in the Tibetan city of Lhasa amid reports of rioting, as rare street protests led by Buddhist monks appeared to gather pace.

One eyewitness told the BBC how large groups of people were setting fire to cars and shops and destroying anything of Chinese influence.

The US embassy in Beijing said US citizens had reported hearing gunfire.

Rallies have continued all week in what are thought to be the largest protests against Beijing’s rule in 20 years.

Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, released a statement expressing deep concern, saying the protests were a “manifestation of the deep-rooted resentment of the Tibetan people”.

The Dalai Lama, who heads Tibet’s government-in-exile in India, called on the Chinese leadership to stop using force and begin dialogue with the Tibetan people.

He also urged Tibetans not to resort to violence.

“As I have always said, unity and stability under brute force is at best a temporary solution. It is unrealistic to expect unity and stability under such a rule,” the statement said.

Tear gas

The US-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said at least one police car had been set on fire on Friday.

ICT spokeswoman Kate Saunders said her group had received reports that the Tromsikhang market in Barkhor Street – a busy commercial neighbourhood – was either on fire or had burnt down.

Read the rest of this entry »

Doing my rounds of the news tonight, I began to fall into a deep despair as I saw Burma and the monks slipping slowly from the pages and falling into obscurity. Anger washes over me and I am incensed that we are not taking more note of this. Thousands of monks have been injured and removed from their monasteries. The military is still raiding monasteries, still removing monks from hospitals and other places.

And what are we doing?

Writing about Britney Spears, Baseball, or how much Ford sales have plummeted.

I’m sorry… but some things are more important. Even on the BBC website it talks how Clinton is now the lead fundraiser (shame it’s all going to be wasted on bullshit political campaigning and not humanitarian work… )

Anyway, that being said, at least the BBC had a report tonight:

“”I’m really scared,” said one woman when she was sure no-one else could hear.

“I don’t want to be the next one to get a knock on the door from the soldiers in the middle of the night,” another man said.

They have good reason to be concerned. Thousands of monks and others who led the marches of the past few weeks have now been arrested – and these arrests are still continuing.

Most are picked up under cover of nightfall and corralled into large, heavily-guarded buildings on the outskirts of the city, such as the Government Technical Centre and the National Library.

The government has yet to confirm any details about the names or numbers of detainees, and families are left unsure whether their loved ones are imprisoned, dead or in hiding.”

More here:

BBC Asia

They have been ignored.

“The whole thing started as a religious movement. It was not an organised democratic movement and there was no intention whatsoever for it to be turned into one. Monks were adamant about it.

They knew that there is no point in asking the generals for freedom. They knew that they don’t have guns and can’t beat the army. All they wanted to do was show the world what their situation is and that they are prepared to die.

They were very hopeful about the UN envoy coming to Burma. But they were quite surprised to hear that the UN envoy met Aung San Suu Kyi.

They love and respect her, but they felt that this time it is about them and that the UN envoy should be speaking to them. They felt that it’s a distraction from them while they are being shot at and need protection.

This was an opportunity for them to express themselves after 20 years. Their eyes are on the international community, their only hope is that the world will see their plight and help them.

But when they hear that support for the demonstrations is dwindling and time passes by without help from anyone, they lose hope. They are getting disillusioned and eventually they’ll give up.”

More Here:

Account from a Monastery

From the BBC:

“Thousands of monks detained in Burma’s main city of Rangoon will be sent to prisons in the far north of the country, sources have told the BBC.
About 4,000 monks have been rounded up in the past week as the military government has tried to stamp out pro-democracy protests.
They are being held at a disused race course and a technical college.
Sources from a government-sponsored militia said they would soon be moved away from Rangoon.

The monks have been disrobed and shackled, the sources told BBC radio’s Burmese service. There are reports that the monks are refusing to eat.”

Dead Monk

Despite assurances that monks were not killed, the above image from the Democratic Voice of Burma would show otherwise.

More here:

BBC Asia-Pacific

Democratic Voice of Burma