Tibet: Murder In The Snow - Tibetan Refugees

Dolma Palki was 16 years old when she left Tibet. From an early age, she had wanted to see the Dalai Lama and pursue education in India. From a farming family, Dolma has one older and one younger brother and her father is deceased. She went to a Tibetan village school, until it was closed down in favour of a Chinese school in the nearest township, which was too far away to attend.

When the chance came to leave, she told her mother and her mother replied; ‘Are you crazy?’. They sought counsel from the local Abbott (Geshe), who reassured them it was alright to leave. After an emotional, clandestine farewell, Dolma and friends travelled to Lhasa. Their guide assured they would be traveling with a small group and the journey would last for four days. The guide lied.

She was packed into a truck with over seventy other refugees. The truck drove only at night and stopped more than 100 km short of the border. For the next ten days the refugees walked through wild country. They had little food or water. At the base of the Nangpa Pass, they thought they heard fire crackers and then realized the Chinese Border Police were shooting at them.

Dolma was ahead of Kelsang, when Kelsang was shot. With bullets whizzing around them, others dragged her uphill to the Nepalese border. When her education is finished, Dolma wants to become a nun in memory of her best friend and inspiration Kelsang Namtso.

Jamyang is now a student with Dolma Palki at the TCV Suja School, Bir, Himachal Pradesh, Northern India. He is among thousands of Tibetan refugee children being educated in the 87 Tibetan Children’s Village schools all over India.

Jamyang comes from a poor semi-nomadic family in eastern Tibet. As a youngster, Jamyang attended a Chinese run boarding school for nomad children. He became proficient in Chinese, but learned to hate the teachers, whom he described in interview as racist, cruel and lazy. He realized at the age of 10, that he had to leave Tibet. Jamyang defiantly engineered his expulsion from the school. He then went to the nomad country to collect medicinal insects and herd yaks. After 4 years, he had enough money to escape. He gave his mother 5000 yuan for his younger sister’s education and went to Lhasa where his uncle arranged guides. He was 14.

Jamyang was captured attempting to escape Tibet on Sept 30th 2006 by Chinese Border Police. He was beaten, interrogated and tortured with whips and electric cattle prods for three days. After three months in a Shigatse jail, Jamyang’s uncle paid the fine and he then made a second and successful attempt to escape by a different route.

WATCH: Jamyang directs a re-enactment of his own torture with Student from the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA)

Jamyang wants to qualify as a teacher and work for the Tibetan community in exile.

A farmer from eastern Tibet with a wife and two young children, Lobsang Choenden wanted to see the Dalai Lama. He had made previous attempts to leave Tibet but had been stopped by police and imprisoned. Lobsang was undeterred. He joined the truck outside Lhasa. He was not in the first group to attempt to cross the snowy white open expanse of the Nangpa Pass.

Facing close range gunfire, Lobsang zig-zagged through stony hillocks, made it into the mountain climbers’ camp and hid in a toilet tent. He was rescued by Romanian mountain climber and television cameraman, Sergui Matei whose footage of the murder of Kelsang Namtso broke the story all over the world and earned Sergiu an Emmy nomination. That footage is at the heart of this film.

Lobsang laid low in the climbers’ camp and eventually escaped past the Chinese guards by covering himself in white plastic and crawling through the snow. Lobsang is now settled in Dharamsala and has brought is wife and young family out of Tibet. They wish to emigrate from India to a country where there is a Tibetan community.

Kelsang was a 17 year old Buddhist nun from rural eastern Tibet. From farming family, she was an only daughter with seven brothers. Her parents did not want her to become a nun. She was very determined and defied them, taking orders at 15 years old.

Her best friend was Dolma Palki described her as a slim, light hearted soul. They planned to escape Tibet to see the Dalai Lama and to study. Kelsang was the organizer and her determination inspired her friend to come too.

In 2006, some nuns returned from Dolma Ling nunnery in the Dharamsala district, India. The stories of their journey and studies at the nunnery, reassured Kelsang's parents. They all knew it was a dangerous journey, but no one imagined it would be fatal. Kelsang was shot in the back less than 400 metres from the Nepalese border and freedom.

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