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Tibet: Murder in the Snow

February 18, 2009

17 February 2009 | 16:15 - By Documentaries @ SBS
SBS (Australia)

Thursday, 19th Feb 8:30PM AEDT
In an incident which shocked the world, a teenage Tibetan nun, Kelsang
Namtso, was killed when Chinese border police opened fire on a group of
pilgrims as they fled Tibet over the infamous Nangpa Pass. The shooting
was witnessed by international mountain climbers, some of whom
videotaped or photographed the events and also helped rescue survivors
and sent the story out to the world.


Using the original climber footage, reenactments and interviews with
witnesses and survivors, Tibet: Murder in the Snow tells of young
Tibetans who risk their lives each year to illegally cross the rugged
Himalaya Mountains in an attempt to see their spiritual leader, the
Dalai Lama, or attend school in India.

Crossing from Tibet to Nepal is a dangerous journey. In September 2006,
more than 70 young people travelled for three nights in the back of a
truck as it drove up towards the mountains. Then the refugees walked for
10 more nights, with inadequate clothing and limited food and water, to
the base of the infamous 6000-metre Nangpa Pass, an ancient trade route
to Nepal.

Among those who paid their hard-earned savings to illegal
mountain-guides, were teenage farm girls Dolma Palki, 16, and her best
friend Kelsang Namtso, a 17 year-old nun. Both wanted to meet to meet
the Dalai Lama and to study without political interference. Also
crossing the mountains were 14-year-old boy Jamyang Samten and Lobsang
Choeden, 29, a farmer.

As the pilgrims picked their way up the snow-covered pass, international
mountain climbers watched them from a nearby camp. Like the Tibetans,
Romanian TV cameraman Sergiu Matei and two British men - policeman Steve
Lawes and Lee Farmer, had paid handsomely to help attain their dream—to
summit Mount Cho Oyu. They were accompanied by Luis Benitez, a highly
experienced professional mountain guide, who had worked in the Himalaya
for years.

But as the climbers watched in horror, the Chinese border police opened
fire on the refugees. Kelsang Namtso was shot dead on the Pass and two
other Tibetans were injured. These events were videotaped by cool-headed
Sergiu Matei who picked up his camera, when the shooting began.

The story broke around the world when American mountain guide, Luis
Benitez, emailed his account of the shooting to a popular climbing
website, revealing for the first time the sanctioned murder of Tibetan
refugees by Chinese border police. It changed all of their lives forever.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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