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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

China’s crackdown slows Tibetan refugee crossings to freedom in India

October 20, 2014

By Annie Gowen

Washington Post, October 19, 2014 — Kunga Dolma waited years to escape the repressive life of her remote Tibetan village, and one day in July it was time.

The soft-spoken 24-year-old paid a smuggler about $800 to guide her over the Himalayas to what she hoped would be freedom and a better life. Her lace-up shoes were torn to shreds in the snowy passage. But if she was cold, she doesn’t remember. She was too terrified of being caught and beaten by Chinese security forces on the border.

Once, more than 2,000 Tibetans a year made the dangerous crossing from China through Nepal to Dharmsala, the small town in India that is headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile and its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

But that number has fallen dramatically in the past six years, with only about 100 arriving so far this year. Refugees have fled the high Himalayan plateau since the Chinese took control more than a half-century ago, and the 3 million or so who remained have endured forcible relocations, restrictions on Buddhist worship and, in some cases, torture and arrest. Those who have escaped China describe increased restrictions on movement, more surveillance and a rising climate of fear.

Declining numbers of refugees are likely to have a profound effect on the Tibetan diaspora — with an estimated 120,000 living in India alone — who have relied on survivors and their first-hand accounts to help raise support for their cause in the West, experts say. International attention to the issue from the Obama administration and other institutions has diminished, according to Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R.-Va.), who has advocated for Tibetans for years on Capitol Hill. Meanwhile, he said, China’s alleged abuses of ethnic and religious minorities have continued.

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