Refugees fired on

Refugees fired on
October 21st, 2006  

Topic: Refugees fired on

Refugees fired on
13 October, 2006
Beijing admits to killing fleeing Tibetans

The government confirmed that the guards stationed on the Nepal border opened fire at Nangpa La pass and killed at least one person, a 17-year-old Tibetan nun. The shooting ostensibly took place “out of defence”.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The Chinese authorities yesterday admitted that they opened fire on Tibetan refugees trying to cross the border with Nepal and that they killed “at least one”. This was confirmed by the official news agency Xinhua.

The border guards only opened fire “out of defence after being attacked by the refugees who refused to heed an order to stop”. The Chinese officials shot another two people: one was severely injured and reportedly died from lack of oxygen. The Chinese authorities are “taking proper care of the other refugees”.

A group of about 70 refugees stumbled upon the border guards near Nangpa La pass, close to Mount Everest. This is where the shooting took place: according to the Kathmandu-based Tibetan Refugee Centre, only 40 refugees managed to reach Nepal.

The names of the victims and wounded have not been made public. According to a girl who witnessed the shooting, one victim is a 17-year-old Tibetan nun, Kelsang Namtso. Lama Tsering, a Buddhist monk from Kushinagar monastery in northern India, confirmed her identity to AsiaNews on 7 October. The Lama said the other victim was a boy.

It is unclear why the guards reacted with such violence. Xinhua said initial investigation about the refugee exodus “showed this was a case of human smuggling that must be wiped out”.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao did not confirm or deny the shooting when asked about it during a regular press briefing.

Obliged to issue a statement, Liu said yesterday: "If the report is accurate, the Chinese authorities will investigate the matter. As to whether it is a policy for border police to open fire on people, I think the border police and army's responsibility is to safeguard the peace and security of the Chinese border."

The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan leader in exile in India since 1959 (the year of the Chinese invasion), has often declared his availability to open "reasonable talks" with Beijing, especially to protect the lives of those who remain in the province.

The Chinese government has always rejected his overtures and continues to treat very harshly all those who seek to flee the country’s Communist repression. However, the Centre said “such violent cases of repression of refugees had not been reported for years”.

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