Wed, Oct 11, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Chinese troops detain Tibetan children

AP , BEIJING

Chinese forces detained a group of Tibetan children after border guards fatally shot at least one refugee trying to flee to Nepal across a Himalayan mountain pass, activist groups said yesterday.

Foreign mountain climbers saw soldiers march 10 to 12 frightened children aged about 6 to 10 through their camp near Mount Everest after the Sept. 30 shooting, said the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT). It didn't say where the children were taken.

The shooting took place in the 5,800m-high Nangpa La Pass, a commonly used escape route for Tibetans fleeing their country.

A 25-year-old Tibetan Buddhist nun among about 70 refugees trying to escape was killed and Tibetan sources said a boy also might have died, the ICT said.

Employees who answered the phone yesterday at police stations and government offices in Tingri, the town nearest the shooting site, and Lhasa said they hadn't heard about the incident.

One eyewitness, Briton Steve Lawes, said he and other climbers were about 250m from the Chinese when they fired at the Tibetans, who were crossing a glacier, according to the ICT.

"The soldiers were putting their rifles to their shoulders, taking aim, and firing toward the group. One person fell, got up, but then fell again," Lawes, a policeman, was quoted as saying by telephone from Nepal after leaving China. "We had a telescope with us but the soldiers took this. Later they used it to look at the dead body."

About 20 minutes after the shooting, Chinese troops went to check the body, then left it lying in the pass for 36 hours before removing it, the ICT said, citing Lawes. About 30 minutes after the shooting, the children were marched through the climbers' camp, guarded by three Chinese with assault rifles, the ICT said, citing Lawes.

"The children were in single file, about six feet away from me ... They weren't looking around the way kids normally would. They were too frightened," Lawes was quoted as saying.

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