Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Chinese Troops Arrest 10 Tibetan Children

As reported by the Indo-Asian News Service; Oct. 10, 2006

By Sudeshna Sarkar

Kathmandu -- At least 10 Tibetan children have been arrested by Chinese troops near the Tibet-Nepal border following a shooting that killed a Tibetan nun, a report said.

Steve Lawes, a British police officer who was attempting to summit Mount Cho Oyu near Nepal's border with Tibet, was the first eyewitness to confirm that Chinese border patrols opened fire on a group of Tibetans trying to cross into Nepal and took under their control several others.

According to Lawes and other climbers, who reached Nepal after the expedition last month and began telling the world about the shocking assault they witnessed on Sep 30, at least 10 children were caught from a group of about 70 people, their ages ranging between six and 10.

"The children were in single file, about six feet away from me,' Lawes said. 'They didn't see us -- they weren't looking around the way kids normally would, they were too frightened. By that time, advance base camp was crawling with soldiers. They had pretty much taken over, and the atmosphere was very intimidating. We were doing our best not to do anything that might spark off more violence."

The British police officer gave more details about the shooting near the glacial Nangpa Pass, at a height of about 19,000 feet.

"Those of us at the advance base camp heard two shots, which may have been warning shots. The group started to cross the glacier and there were more shots. This time it definitely wasn't warning shots: the soldiers were putting their rifles to their shoulders, taking aim, and firing towards the group.

"One person fell, got up, but then fell again. We had a telescope with us but the soldiers took this. Later they used it to look at the body.

"After the shooting stopped, two soldiers went to check the body. Then it lay on the pass for more than a day after which it was taken away by security personnel."

According to another report by Philippine climber Ted Esguerra, he saw seven people being killed, including at least one child.

Esguerra gave his version of the event to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Even as 43 people from the group successfully crossed into Nepal, the fate of the rest was unknown with both China and Nepal maintaining a stony silence.

The International Campaign for Tibet, an international organization espousing the cause of a free Tibet and respect for the Tibetans' human rights, has clarified that 10 children were taken into custody by the Chinese authorities.

On Wednesday, Tibetan Youth UK said they would organise a vigil before the Chinese embassy in London. They are also petitioning Matti Vanhanen, President of the European Union (EU), calling on the EU to press for the immediate release of Tibetans detained during the incident.

Tibet activists are also petitioning British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett to issue a formal protest in this regard.