Children flee Tibet

The flow of Tibetan refugees fleeing across the mountains has substantially increased since last year as many escape repressive new policies introduced by the Chinese Government in the last year.

In 1994 orders were issued by the Chinese authorities in the “Tibet Autonomous Region” restricting government employees from allowing children to go to exile schools in India. However the flow of children outside the government structure continues unabated. Children of 15 years and under attempt such flights with the hope of getting proper education and upbringing. Five known cases of deaths of children and one of an adult nun have been reported for the period from December 1996 to January 1997.

On 19 January 1997, Deyang, a 13-year-old girl from Lhasa, died as a result of exposure to extreme cold which subsequently developed into a lung infection. She was part of a group of 14 Tibetan refugees and it was her third attempt to flee to India. Around the same time a boy of the same age died in Kathmandu as a result of injuries received during the flight across the mountains.

Of a group of 27 people taking a different route, three more deaths occurred. A young boy of 14 years named Kunga died at midnight on 20 January 1997. Kunga was from Lhasa and an aspiring opera dancer. Just one hour later an eight year-old girl named Kardon from Nyethang also died. Early the next morning a nun called Tashi Choeden similarly passed away. Many others suffered severe frostbite.

Besides illness and hypothermia, the children who attempt the hazardous flight from Tibet risk being beaten, robbed or deported to Tibet by the Nepalese authorities. There are detailed accounts of children being detained and beaten by the Chinese police if caught attempting to escape.

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