Monday, July 18, 2011

Murder in the High Himalaya: Loyalty, Tragedy and Escape from Tibet by Jonathan Green

On September 30, 2006 gunfire echoed through the thin air near Advance Base Camp on Cho Oyu Mountain. Frequented by thousands of climbers each year, Cho Oyu lies nineteen miles east of Mt. Everest on the border between Tibet and Nepal. To the elite mountaineering community, it offers a straightforward summit, a warm-up climb to her formidable sister. To Tibetans, Cho Oyu promises a gateway to freedom through a secret glacial path: the Nangpa La.
Murder in the High Himalaya is the unforgettable account of the brutal killing of Kelsang Namtso—a seventeen-year-old Tibetan nun fleeing to India, by Chinese border guards. Witnessed by dozens of Western climbers, Kelsang’s death sparked an international debate over China’s savage oppression of Tibet. Adventure reporter Jonathan Green has gained rare entrance into this shadow-land at the rooftop of the world. In his affecting portrait of modern Tibet, Green raises enduring questions about morality and the lengths we go to achieve freedom.

For anyone who calls himself or herself a humanitarian, this book should be on your list to read. It is the harrowing story of a young Tibetan nun trying to make it across the border into India along with her best friend and a large group of Tibetans, to gain freedom, religious and otherwise, from a stifling Chinese rule.

This is a non-fiction book but it reads so smoothly, without the endless citing of statistics or names that can make some books of that genre seem stilted. The chapters alternate between the Tibetans attempting the dangerous journey, and a group of climbers who come face to face with the secret atrocities being committed against human rights, showing the many points of view with a journalist’s careful and impartial eye. The story, however, is almost incredible to read. The author has managed to cross through the red tape that China imposes, to expose a system that abuses a large part of its citizens and that has managed to hide, through censorship and violence, the real truth of Tibetans’ plight under their rule.

This book is not easy to read because of the violence and the cruelty inherent in its theme, but it should be read and shared with as many people as possible. We need to become aware of what is going on around us, and this includes knowing what one of the most powerful countries in the world, China, is doing to its citizens. You will not be disappointed in the book, but you might be in our species.

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