Tibetans Reach India Safely After Shootings: Group
TAIPEI (Reuters) - More than 40 Tibetans en route to see the Dalai Lama in India have reached New Delhi safely after being shot at by Chinese border guards in an incident caught on video, a group of supporters said on Monday.
The group from China's Tibet Autonomous Region reached the Indian capital on Friday following a trek through the mountains that began with 77 people, said Khedroob Thondup, a member of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile.
Tibet has been ruled by China since Communist troops occupied the vast region in 1950, and the government deals harshly with Tibetans who press for greater political and religious freedoms.
Two people in the group, aged 13 and 17, were shot by Chinese border guards on September 30 as they headed toward China's border with Nepal without legal exit papers, Thondub said.
European mountaineers in the area, 5,700 meters (18,700 feet) above sea level, caught the shootings on camera and released their video on the Internet, he told a media briefing in Taipei.
Video of what appeared to be the shooting also aired on Romanian Pro TV.
China has said the border guards warned the group about the border crossing and then fired in self-defense when members of the group attacked them. The video shows no such confrontation.
Those who had made it to New Delhi would travel on to the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile, said Thondup, visiting Taipei to raise awareness of the shootings.
The group would meet the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader who fled into exile in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, and have a chance to study in Dharamsala, he added.
They could stay as long as they wish and did not need to return to Tibet, he said.
More than 20 others involved, including seven children, were detained on September 30 and face at least a year in jail, said Meili Chow, research director of the Taipei-based Tibet advocacy group Taiwan Associates.
``We Tibetans, by becoming a part of China, have suffered like this for 40 years,'' Thondup said.
Groups try about once a month to escape through snowy Himalayan passes between border checkpoints into Nepal, Thondup said. Border guards sometimes catch escapees but seldom shoot at them, he added.