Tue, Oct 17, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Video backs foreigners on shooting

MURDER MYSTERY The footage appears to counter the official Beijing line that Tibetans heading for Nepal attacked border guards, who shot in self-defense


Video footage shot by a Romanian TV station appears to show Chinese soldiers firing at a group of Tibetans as they attempt to cross a mountain pass into Nepal, days after China defended the soldiers' action.

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 video does not offer a comprehensive account of what happened. It was shot from a long distance -- the narrator says the cameraman was more than 0.84km 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 5,791m high pass, called Nanpa La, when the two victims fell.

The long-range video shows a slow, single-file line of Tibetans 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 voice can be heard saying in English, "They are shooting them like dogs."

The video was first shown on Pro TV, a private Romanian network, and was posted on the Internet. It was recorded by Sergui Matei, a Romanian cameraman on a climbing expedition on Cho Oyu, a peak near China's border with Nepal.

A group of climbers from Britain and Australia told reporters last week that on Sept. 30 they watched Chinese border guards take aim at a group of 20 to 30 people as they prepared to cross from Chinese territory into Nepal.

Hundreds of people cross the Himalayas to Nepal every year, most of them en route to the Indian hill station of Dharamsala, the home of the Dalai Lama and Tibet's government-in-exile.

The London-based International Campaign for Tibet, which said a Tibetan nun was killed in the incident, rejected China's defense.

"It is deplorable that the People's Armed Police act as if shooting Tibetans crossing into Nepal is a legitimate expression of their authority," Mary Beth Markey, the group's executive director, said in a statement.

In another sign of unrest in the isolated region, a group of Tibetans forced the delay of a Canadian mining company's operations, angered over test-drilling.

Vancouver-based Continental Minerals Corp said it was drilling near a village about 3km from the main area of operations for its Xietongmen copper-gold project, near Shigatse, on June 19 when residents raised concerns.

But it denied reports from a Tibet independence group that a serious confrontation occurred.

"We delayed work in this particular area until the concerns had been addressed to the satisfaction of all the local community and then the activities resumed," Shari Gardiner, a spokeswoman for Continental, said via e-mail.

"Work in our main area of operations continued as normal throughout this period," she said. "At no time did the villagers ask us to leave Tibet."

"This incident again demonstrates that Canadian and other mining firms have no business in Tibet until the Tibetan people are in a position to decide the use of their own natural resources," said Lhadon Tethong, head of Students for a Free Tibet.

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