RUNNING FROM REPRESSION - Editor's Picks 23 Jan 2013

Collection with 4 media items created by Editor's Picks

24 Jan 2013 06:00

Every year, hundreds of Tibetans make their way to the Tibetan Refugee Reception Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal, seeking to escape religious and cultural repression by the Chinese government.

Crossing the border to reach Nepal can be a very costly endeavor – with guides being paid between 12 000 CNY (€1400) and 50 000 CNY (€8500) per person – if it is to be secure. But with the help of their family members, many Tibetans are at least able to attempt it.

But the challenge is not only found in meeting these expenses – it is also found in reconciling with leaving family members behind and the uncertainty of the future; oftentimes, it is also found in crossing the physical barriers which divide these two nations; yet, for others, the journey simply consists of a single bus or plane ride.

Whatever the reality of the journey is for these Tibetans who have fled their homes – be it dramatic or uneventful - they are all tales of refuge.

(Where indicated (*), names have been changed to protect the subject’s identity and that of any friends and family still living in Tibet).

Tibet Tibetan Refu... Repression China Refuge Refugee Camp Chinese Gove... Cultural Rep... Border Home Family East Asia Photo Collec... Editor's Picks

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RUNNING FROM REPRESSION
Dharamsala, India
By Katie Lin
20 Aug 2012

Like Lhamo, Nyidon has also been separated from her children. In 2006, when she noticed that schools in Kham province were increasing the use of Chinese for classroom instruction, the 37-year-old mother-of-three decided to send her two eldest children to India to continue their education in Tibetan. But she wasn’t only concerned about their education – their future in the job market was also compromised. “My younger brother was a political prisoner – he protested against Chinese in 2008,” Nyidon explains. “So they considered my family as a politically-related family. If our children would graduate, [the government] said that they would not provide jobs for them so I found no peace over there.” Six years later, in April 2012, she and her youngest child were finally able to attempt the border crossing to join them in exile. Once in Nepal, however, Nyidon was separated from her daughter, as their guides tried to strategize the best way to safely deliver them both to the Tibetan Refugee Reception Centre in Kathmandu. “I felt so scared – if I was caught by the police then I would be imprisoned, and what would happen to my daughter?” she remembers. “So when I arrived at the Reception Center I cried a lot.” While Nyidon is excited at the prospect of being reunited with her other two children after having spent more than half a decade apart, she is also faced with a lot of uncertainty. Because of her age, she does not qualify for admission to the Tibetan Transit School for further education and, as a farmer, she does not possess – what are considered – transferable skills. Nyidon also doesn’t know when she’ll see her husband again. “I feel so upset. I want to meet him again, but he needs good money to leave, so it is very difficult.”

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RUNNING FROM REPRESSION
Dharamsala, India
By Katie Lin
20 Aug 2012

At just 23-years-old, Pema* has spent a total of 12 months behind bars in one of Tibet’s largest prisons. As new policies began to affect her education, the young nomadic farmer from Kham province was urged by her parents to leave Tibet and continue her education in India. She first attempted to flee in 2007 with a group of 30 others who pretended to be on a pilgrimage at the sacred Mount Kailash in western Tibet – but the group was discovered by police. Pema was jailed at Shigatse Prison (approximately 250km from the border to Nepal) for four months and sent back to Kham province, where officials had already been warned to restrict her movement. In 2010, she paid 15 000 CNY (€1800) for fake travel permits – but was caught at a security checkpoint on her way to the border. This time, her sentence at Shigatse Prison was eight months and included a long and difficult period of solitary confinement. Finally, in winter 2011, Pema made her third and final attempt to flee, going so far as to disguise herself as a Nepalese woman to avoid detection once in Nepal. She is now studying at the Tibetan Transit School.

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RUNNING FROM REPRESSION
Dharamsala, India
By Katie Lin
20 Aug 2012

After staging a small protest with a homemade flag of Tibet and a portrait of the Dalai Lama, Sonam*, 21, knew that the only way to avoid identification and persecution by Chinese authorities was to run away from his nomadic life in Kham province. “I thought that I would never see His Holiness and would not get education opportunity, so I did a protest in the town district area,” Sonam says. “Later, what I know was that, the Chinese police had many CCTV cameras at different places and somehow they knew who I was. But they only [had a photo] and didn’t know about my family and home – they thought that I was from the same town where I protested.” By July 2011, Sonam had managed to make his way to Purang border crossing in western Tibet. Recounting the anxiety that he felt as he and the group of refugees he was travelling with tried to evade detection by border police, Sonam explains that he even carried a knife in the event that the police caught him. “It sounded like we were making a lot of noise since we crossed the border in the middle of the night,” he explains. “We would walk where the light was gone, because if we didn’t, the police would catch us [with their spotlights].” The group spent eight days walking, before safely arriving at the Tibetan Refugee Reception Centre in Kathmandu in August 2011. “In the case that Tibet gets freedom, then I will go back,” says Sonam, who is now at the Tibetan Transit School in Dharamsala, which provides both a basic education and vocational courses to new arrivals from Tibet who are between 18 and 30-years-old. “If not, I am going to stay in India, other wise there is no place to go.”

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RUNNING FROM REPRESSION
Dharamsala, India
By Katie Lin
20 Aug 2012

With his monastery suffering a deficit of monastic scholars, 30-year-old Tenzin* knew that the only way to pursue his religious education further was to leave Tibet. So, for a year, he planned his exit and took official leave from the monastery when the time came in December 2011, in order not to raise any red flags among regulating bodies. But when he was asked to take his two nieces, aged 7 and 9, with him on the 12-day walk from their village in Tibet to Kathmandu, the journey became significantly more challenging. It was further complicated when the girls’ identity cards were lost along the way, an unfortunate incident which resulted in an eight month delay in Kathmandu while they waited for replacement documents. Now in India, the girls will be enrolled in Tibetan schools in the north and their uncle will live in a monastery nearby to be close to them.