In September 2006, Chinese soldiers shot at a group of refugees as they fled Tibet. Mountain climbers filmed the shooting, helped rescue survivors and bravely broadcast their vision to the world. Both sides risked their lives.
In an incident that shocked the world, a teenage Tibetan nun, Kelsang Namtso, was killed when Chinese border police opened fire on a group of pilgrims as they fled Tibet over the infamous Nangpa Pass. The shooting was witnessed by many international mountain climbers, some of whom videotaped or photographed the events and also helped rescue survivors and sent the story out to the world.
Using the original climber footage, reenactments and interviews with witnesses and survivors, Tibet: Murder in the Snow tells of young Tibetans who risk their lives each year to illegally cross the rugged Himalaya Mountains in an attempt to see their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, or attend school in India.
It is a dangerous journey. In September 2006, more than 70 young people travelled for three nights in the back of a truck as it drove south towards the Himalayas. Then the refugees walked for 10 more nights, with inadequate clothing and limited food and water, to the base of the infamous 6000-metre Nangpa Pass, an ancient trade route to Nepal.
Among those who paid their hard-earned savings to illegal mountain-guides, were teenage farm girls Dolma Palki, 16, and her best friend Kelsang Namtso, a 17 year-old nun. Both wanted to meet to meet the Dalai Lama and to study without political interference. Also attempting to cross the mountains were 14-year-old boy Jamyang Samten and Lobsang Choeden, 29, a farmer.
As the pilgrims picked their way up the snow-covered pass, international mountain climbers watched them from a nearby camp. British real estate agent Lee Farmer, Romanian TV cameraman Sergiu Matei and British policeman Steve Lawes had also paid handsomely to help attain their dream—to summit Mount Cho Oyu. Luis Benitez, a highly experienced professional mountain guide, who had worked in the Himalaya for years, was leading a New Zealand expedition at the same time.
But as the climbers watched in horror, the Chinese border police opened fire on the refugees. Kelsang Namtso was shot dead on the Pass and two other Tibetans were injured. These events were videotaped by cool-headed Sergiu Matei who picked up his camera, when the shooting began.
The story broke around the world when American mountain guide, Luis Benitez emailed his account of the shooting to a popular climbing website, revealing for the first time the sanctioned murder of Tibetan refugees by Chinese border police.
Witnessing a murder had a profound effect on all of their lives.