Why did the Dalai Lama leave Nepal?

Escape across the Himalayas

"My relatives told me that the Dalai Lama is a very important person and that the place in India where he lives should be very beautiful. That is why I left Tibet."

He calls himself Tenzin, is 16 years old and had exciting days behind him before he reached the refugee reception center in Nepal's capital Kathmandu.

"My friend and I just started walking without telling our families. From our village we first walked for a day. Then we went on by car to Dram on the Nepalese border. Because we didn't have a passport, we had to we avoid the road there. We walked through the jungle and over mountains to Nepal. An old Nepalese accompanied us. To cross a bridge, we had to pay 500 yuan, the equivalent of 50 euros. On the other side of the river we met a Tibetan monk , with whose help we went on to Kathmandu. Unfortunately, I can't tell my escape story very well. "

Dram border station on the Tibetan-Nepalese border. The hotels set on the steep slope are surrounded by jungle. Below the Bhote Kosi River roars south. Nepalis carry the luggage of tourists arriving or departing from Tibet over the so-called Friendship Bridge. There is a strict ban on photography there. Green uniforms stare motionlessly at the passing crowd of tourists from the west. At night, the routes through the nearby jungle are used by the refugees.

"The Chinese have strict safety precautions on the main roads, but they don't dare to venture into the jungle. I believe, however, that the Nepalese escorts of the refugees also have to give the Chinese some of their earnings, such as a tax or some kind of bonus."

It's like a game of cat and mouse, says Tseten Wangchuk, who looks after the refugees who have made it to Kathmandu. A fine for illegally crossing the border must first be paid to the authorities in Nepal. The refugees are only allowed to stay in the country for two weeks, then they have to travel on to India to the Tibetan exile community. The Chinese are under great pressure on Nepal. Sometimes the refugees are brought back to the border by representatives from the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu and the Nepalese police. In Tibet, she often faces imprisonment. Once she's dismounted, some try to come back to Nepal, says Tseten Wangchuk.

"Anyone who stays in Tibet at all does not have the money, because it is expensive to flee across the border. An escort over the Himalayan trails costs the equivalent of 800 to a thousand euros. That is a lot for Tibetans Reception center as a teacher. We interview the children and young people who come. They keep telling us the same thing: Not enough jobs in Tibet, no educational opportunities, no freedom. That is why they are leaving their country. "

Tibet? These are mainly sand and stones. Now and then nomad tents, yaks or sheep in almost grassless plains. Snow-capped mountains on the horizon. Even with all-wheel-drive vehicles, progress is slow on the bumpy slopes. For 50 years, Tibet, the west of China, is to be developed economically. The area has a lot to offer: crude oil, natural gas, wind and water power, copper, uranium, gold. But infrastructure projects such as roads and railways or airports at heights between four and five thousand meters are not easy to implement. Extreme heat and cold, sandstorms and snowstorms not only make work more difficult, they can also quickly destroy it.

Road workers, masked to protect against heat and dust, haul stones. There are also many young women among them. They don't get more than the equivalent of two euros a day for their hard work. Not only the engineers, but also the army of unskilled workers are increasingly coming from China. While national strategic projects such as the extraction of natural resources are managed directly from the headquarters in Beijing, education and development in Tibet are more of a local matter. Not all Tibetans are poor and uneducated. Many are learning Chinese and cooperating with the occupiers in the hope of a better life.

"The Chinese are already taking care of the rich Tibetans in the cities, but in remote areas there are neither schools nor hospitals. Monks live in the monasteries, but they are no longer allowed to teach poor children. They themselves suffer from their lack of rights and." The lack of religious freedom. Many monks therefore flee to India to learn everything about Buddhism or English in a good monastery. And everything about their own country, Tibet. "

Tibetan history has been rewritten and ideologically embellished in the spirit of China for 50 years. Due to the differences between the two languages, Tibetan place names and personal names are pronounced in Chinese and distorted beyond recognition. Tibetan has been the language of instruction in primary schools since the mid-1980s, but Chinese is the only language of instruction in secondary schools. It is very different in exile in India. Here the young refugees discover a new world that shines as far as Tibet. Nyima Samkhar is a refugee from Tibet herself. However, he has lived in exile for almost 50 years and now looks after the newcomers to Kathmandu.

"The Tibetans, who can say that my child is studying in India under the auspices of the Dalai Lama, enjoy fame and prestige in Tibet. That is why more and more people are preparing their children to flee, also because the educational situation in Tibet is so poor. Only in the Exile they get a real education. There they feel accepted and comfortable, because they are not happy in Tibet. Nobody knows what will happen in a few months or years. Chinese politics is like a cloud, nobody knows which way it is going . It can dissolve, but it can also darken. It unsettles people if they don't know what to expect in the future. "

Will Tenzin, the 16-year-old refugee at the reception center in Kathmandu, return to his parents at some point? No, he says. Soon he will travel to India with his friend. After training in exile, however, many feel compelled to go back to Tibet, because the trees in India do not grow into the sky either, at least not for young Tibetans.