Tibetans seeking to flee Chinese rule are finding their traditional passage of escape — via the Himalayan nation of Nepal — far more fraught and difficult than before.
As the bus crept into this quiet town in the foothills of the Himalayas, Tsultrin Lhamo finally felt free. For the 20-year-old Tibetan fleeing a homeland under Chinese rule, her arrival in the Dalai Lama’s adopted hometown in India marked the end of a treacherous overland journey and, she hoped, the start of a new life.
China’s growing crackdown on religious freedoms, from the imprisonment of Tibetans possessing portraits of their spiritual leader to the ironfisted control of monasteries by Chinese armed forces, had made life too difficult to stay behind, she says. Like those before her, she paid a Nepalese guide to lead her through the mountainous terrain that connects western China to its neighbor, Nepal. With help from UNHCR, the U.N.’s refugee agency, she secured safe passage from Kathmandu to India. It was a grueling journey that spanned four months and three countries. She traveled on…
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