Video Disputes China’s Claim Shooting Was in Self-Defense [NY Times]
17, Oct 2006 07:45
China acknowledged on Thursday that soldiers killed one refugee and wounded another on Sept. 30. The official New China News Agency said the soldiers acted only after about 70 refugees seeking to enter Nepal illegally from China attacked border troops.
The long-range video shows a slow, single-file line of Tibetan refugees climbing over a snow-covered mountain pass followed by Chinese troops. A rifle shot is heard and the first climber in the pack falls to the ground, followed by the climber at the tail end of the group.
A separate shot shows a uniformed Chinese soldier firing a rifle. It then shows several soldiers examining the shooting victims and escorting some detainees back to a camp.
The video was first shown on Pro TV, a private Romanian network, and was posted on the Internet. It was taken by Sergui Matei, a Romanian cameraman on a climbing expedition on Cho Oyu, a peak near China’s border with Nepal.
Tibetans often cross into Nepal, at least partly because their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, visits there often. He lives in exile in India and is not permitted to visit China.
The Sept. 30 incident was first reported by mountaineers in Nepal and was circulated by human rights groups, including the International Campaign for Tibet and Human Rights in China.
Witnesses quoted by human rights groups said that those who had been fired upon included monks, women and children and that the person who had been killed was a 25-year-old Tibetan Buddhist nun.
After the accusations, China’s Foreign Ministry vowed to investigate. The New China News Agency subsequently issued a report that said the soldiers had fired in self-defense after soldiers had tried to persuade the group to return home. “The stowaways refused and attacked the soldiers,” the agency said.
The video does not offer a comprehensive account. It was shot from a long distance — the narrator says the cameraman was more than half a mile away — and only a few faces are clearly identifiable.
But it does suggest that the shootings were not in direct response to an attack on soldiers. The refugees were spaced far apart on an arduous climb over a 19,000-foot-high pass, called Nanpa La, when the two victims fell.
The American ambassador in Beijing, Clark T. Randt Jr., went to the Foreign Ministry on Thursday to protest China’s treatment of the refugees, an embassy representative said.