7 more in collection Tibetan Refugees , 3 more in collection RUNNING FROM REPRESSION - Editor's Picks 23 Jan 2013

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Created 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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