In September 2006, two unlikely groups of people crossed paths in the snow-capped Himalayas,
one seeking freedom, the other adventure. A brutal murder threw them together, changing their lives forever.
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 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 witness 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, 70 young people traveled for three nights in the
back of a truck as it drove up towards the mountains. Then the refugees walked for 10 more
nights, with inadequate clothing and limited food and water, to 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 crossing 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. Australian “Disco Phil”, Romanian TV cameraman Sergiu
Matei and British policeman Steve Lawes also had paid handsomely to help attain their dream—
to summit Mount Cho Oyu,. They were accompanied by Luis Benitez, a highly experienced
professional mountain guide, who had worked in the Himalaya for years.
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
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. It changed all of their lives forever.