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

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The once indomitable peaks of the Himalaya, which have long served to isolate Tibet from its neighbors, have meanwhile become the ultimate test for serious Western mountain climbers. Each year, increasing numbers seek glory and an escape from the drudgery of their lives-an answer to life's eternal riddle in the world's highest mountain range. Roughly 2,500 Tibetans, [however], flee their country annually in a brutal journey over the Himalaya...

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

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Overview

The once indomitable peaks of the Himalaya, which have long served to isolate Tibet from its neighbors, have meanwhile become the ultimate test for serious Western mountain climbers. Each year, increasing numbers seek glory and an escape from the drudgery of their lives-an answer to life's eternal riddle in the world's highest mountain range. Roughly 2,500 Tibetans, [however], flee their country annually in a brutal journey over the Himalaya...

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 2006, an impulsive, naïve young Tibetan nun and her best friend, both yearning for religious freedom from Chinese rule, joined a group of fellow Tibetans desperate to escape to India, where the Dalai Lama has lived since the 1950 annexation of Tibet by China. Kelsang Namtso and Dolma Palkyi embarked on the brutal journey over the Himalayas. Smuggled by illegal guides past Chinese border police, the group braved freezing temperatures and snow, the high altitude, and perilous crevasses. Green alternates the refugees' trek with that of Luis Benitez, an American celebrity mountain guide leading a rich group of international clients to the Himalayan peak Cho Oyu. The two groups met on the peak as Chinese guards, alerted to the refugees' presence, chased after the escapees with machine guns ablaze, and Kelsang was killed in full view of the Westerners. One of Benitez's clients filmed the incident, which gained worldwide notoriety. Awkwardly written and poorly edited, freelance journalist Green's earnest chronicle trumpets his disdain for the exploitation of the Himalayas by rich, macho mountaineering novices, his hatred of Chinese Communists for human rights violations, and his reverence for Tibetan culture. (June)
From the Publisher

Shelf Awareness
“A shattering tale that will appeal to readers of all things about Tibet, mountaineering, human rights and the preservation of cultural integrity.”
 
Kirkus
“Green’s steely, factually dense analysis of this unlawful conspiracy sheds light on a perennial human-rights crisis…. In clear, concise prose, the author deliberates over China’s stranglehold on Tibet, its systematic dismantling of the indigenous culture and the terror tactics employed on families.”
 
The Bookseller
“A gripping tale of routine murder that would have gone unreported but for the fact that a group of Western clumbers were silent witnesses to the killing of a young Tibetan woman attempting to cross the border into India.”
 
Mikel Dunham, author of Buddha’s Warriors
“Once in a while, a book comes along that transcends its region-specific subject matter and addresses universal questions with calm moral clarity. Murder in the High Himalaya is such a book. It is a mesmerizing alpine adventure of horrifying consequences, a sober look at China’s crimes against humanity, and a reality check on the so-called heroics of Westerners who belong to the elite mountaineering community.”
 
Macleans
“Who spoke out and who did not, and why, is at the heart of one of the most unsettling books of recent years.” 
 
Economist
“By personalising Namtso’s life and death, Mr Green has conjured in the flesh an otherwise anonymous figure from Tibet’s shadows” 
 
Daily Beast
“Brilliantly told…. Captivating.”
 
The Economist, June 11, 2010

"By personalising Namtso’s life and death, Mr Green has conjured in the flesh an otherwise anonymous figure from Tibet’s shadows." 

 
The Daily Beast, June 18, 2010
“Brilliantly told…. Captivating.”
 
The Spectator (UK), June 17, 2010
“A word is missing from the subtitle of Jonathan Green’s shocking exposé: cowardice. It shines out of his story of the murder of the 17-year-old Tibetan nun, Kelsang Namtso…. The core of this book is Kelsang’s murder and its implications, which Green, an experienced journalist, recounts vividly and with scrupulous attention to evidence… In this book he shows himself to be a first-class reporter.”
 
Los Angeles Times, July 18, 2010
“Green’s descriptions are breathtaking.”
 

Richard Gere
Murder in the High Himalaya is the enthralling story of Kelsang Namtso and Dolma Palkyi and the unbearable lengths these young girls went to in search of education and freedom. It is a heartbreaking and damning statement of failed policies by the Chinese government against Tibetans who despite these brutal obstacles, still refuse to give up hope. For the first time we were eyewitnesses to the murder of innocent Tibetans during their attempt at freedom. This book is a meaningful testament to the human spirit in its purest form.”
 
Peter King, Sports Illustrated.com
“Great thing about [Murder in the High Himalaya] is I knew nothing about Tibetan culture and the Dalai Lama and the vital significance to every citizen there, in defiance of Chinese law. Fascinating.”
 
The Asian Review of Books
“As a resident of the Himalayas, and a practicing Buddhist myself, I was impressed with the author's understanding of the complex culture and the subtleties of people living in the Himalayan region.”
 
Mail on Sunday
“…an extraordinary book…. [Green’s] irrefutable account of a superpower’s shame.” 

Kirkus Reviews
The cold-blooded slaying of a runaway Tibetan teenager ignites worldwide concern about the violent oppression at "the roof of the world."For three years, American journalist Green travelled to remote sections of Tibet to investigate the murder of a young nun who died at the hands of Chinese border officials. In clear, concise prose, the author deliberates over China's stranglehold on Tibet, its systematic dismantling of the indigenous culture and the terror tactics employed on families like Dolma's, who were frightfully roused in the night by the Chinese officials known for randomly inspecting the homes of native Tibetans for proof of "activities deemed ?unpatriotic' to China and Mao Zedung's Communist legacy." Dolma fled Tibet alongside her fiery, impulsive best friend Dolkar. Both girls grew up close in Juchen Village, a mountainside hamlet, and became increasingly aware of the police-state atmosphere of their homeland, which only served to feed their dreams of crossing the Himalayan range into India. Dolkar's burgeoning spirituality was the impetus for the girls' escape in 2006 after she took vows to become a Tibetan nun and was rechristened Kelsang Namtso. As a spiritual exile from communism, Kelsang realized she was now a target of the aggressive Chinese government and must flee for her life. Green injects Kelsang and Dolma's great escape with anxious tension as their group of 75 refugees exhaustively traversed the Nangpa La, a treacherous, highly patrolled mountain passage, aided by an illegal guide. "Minutes from the border," Kelsang was mercilessly shot by patrol guards, and the scene was observed by senior Everest mountaineer Luis Benitez, who was concurrently guiding a group nearby. China's relentless campaign of obfuscation and blamelessness ensued, and Tibetans continued to flee, unabated by the violence. Green's steely, factually dense analysis of this unlawful conspiracy sheds light on a perennial human-rights crisis. Agent: Jody Hotchkiss/Hotchkiss and Associates
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586487140
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 6/1/2010
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author


Award-winning journalist Jonathan Green has written for the New York Times, Men's Journal, Esquire, GQ, The Financial Times Magazine, Men's Health, and The Mail on Sunday, among others. Never shy of demanding assignments, he has reported in war-torn Sudan, the jungles of Borneo, and the ice fields of Alaska. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife.
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Table of Contents

Author's Note

Introduction

1 Songs to the Precious One 1

2 Sacred Vows 11

3 Forged by Mountains 19

4 Escape 27

5 Forbidden Kingdom 43

6 Lhasa 55

7 Turquoise Goddess 65

8 Snakeheads 87

9 City on the Mountain 99

10 The Insider Pass 111

11 Murder of Ravens 129

12 Bardo: The In-Between State 139

13 A Dark Secret 147

14 Captured by the Wujing 161

15 The Responsibility of Enlightenment 167

16 A Lie Uncovered 183

17 Kundun 191

18 Determination 201

19 The Razor's Edge 211

20 The Restless Himalaya 223

21 The Price of Freedom 231

Epilogue 237

Acknowledgments 245

Notes 249

Bibliography 253

Index 257

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 14 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 18, 2011

    Unbelievable

    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 Chinese 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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2011

    Self interest

    As I read this book I kept thinking that history keeps repeating itself.
    We don't seem to learn. Self interest seems to be every where in this
    world. This book will invigorate the hardships of Tibet. People need to be reminded because they forget easily.

    The mountaineering section of the book was interesting.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Telling the Truth

    Murder in the High Himalaya is an exquisitely crafted tale that depicts nearly indescribable horrors. It is actually three vivid stories, woven seamlessly together: the heroic attempts of impoverished Tibetans to survive economically, culturally and spiritually; the ethical dilemma of wealthy Westerners faced with choosing between dangerous self-indulgence and moral imperative; and the abuse and torture inflicted by the Chinese as they pursue genocide in their relentless drive for world dominance.

    These three irreconcilable cultures converge at a moment in time - September 30th 2006 - at a single place on Earth: the Nangpa La Pass through the Himalayan Mountain Range between Tibet and Nepal. In the brilliant morning sunlight on snowy mountains, Western climbers witness Chinese border soldiers murdering Tibetans, including a 17-year-old nun, as the Tibetans attempt to go to India to meet their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. The Tibetans want to leave oppressive captivity in their own country - some briefly, some permanently - and are restrained, retained and tortured by the Chinese occupying forces. The Western climbers want to battle the thin air and treacherous ice of the world's highest mountains, and pay extraordinary amounts of money to the Chinese for the right to safely enter Tibet. The Chinese stand at the fulcrum, AK-47s fully loaded in the hands of young soldiers.

    It is one thing to tell a story; it is another to tell a story truthfully; it is yet again a much more nuanced and delicate task to be both elegant and objective, and allow the story to unfold itself to the reader. The author has achieved the last of these three, and the death of 17-year-old Tibetan Buddhist nun Kelsang Namtso is all the more heart wrenching because Mr. Green remains objective and lets the facts to be the judge. Additionally, he goes beyond superficial cultural stereotypes as he describes the political history of Tibet, the complexities of current world politics and the motivations and choices of individuals.

    There is a fourth thread in this braided tale: the perseverance and courage of the author, award-winning investigative journalist Jonathan Green. He obviously thoroughly researched the history and current events of Tibet and is well schooled in world politics. It is also clear, by implication only, that Mr. Green risked his own welfare, traveling to India, Nepal and the Roof of the World to gather first-hand information for the story. It is clear only by implication because it is the writer's job to step aside and allow the story to emerge, and that is exactly what Mr. Green achieved.

    I hope Jonathan's next book is the back-story; the risks and dilemmas he faced in order to tell the truth with extraordinary clarity, depth and compassion. We, the readers, have a responsibility to honor and thank investigative journalists for bringing the world to us in our safe homes and comfortable chairs. Too often, we forget that investigative journalists are irreparably harmed or killed in their commitment to tell the truth.

    So I say here: Thank you, Jonathan Green, for all you did to write this book, and then for writing it. It is essential that human rights violations be documented and the details available for all in the world to know.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 18, 2011

    Highly recommended

    This book draws you into the lives of a group of Tibetans trying to get out of Tibet to visit the Dalai Lama as their lives cross the paths of western climbers about to ascend the mountain peak for a few horrific moments. It is a story about courage and fear that is honest, heartbreaking and true. It is not a light read or an easy read, but it is definitely worth it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 4, 2011

    Excellent read on a tough subject!!!

    I found out the night before the book reading about this book and I am glad I replied to the e-mail that I would be attending.

    Prior to this I was well aware of the story of Kelsang & Dolma via the videos I had seen of their desperate escape from Tibet to seek freedom to enjoy their religion and seek a proper Tibetan education as this was not possible in China under CCP laws.

    Knowing what I know of the CCP and how they try and hide anything that might harm the image they are cultivating I can guarantee you this was not an easy book to write, but Jonathan does prevail and has written a fabulous story despite the odds that tells the true story of Kelsang & Dolma, from the very start from their home in Tibet to the tragedy of the Nangpa La to Nepal and on to the final destination of Dharamsala, India. The story shows the true love and compassion that Dolma & Kelsang shared for one another because of their life time of friendship and how even in death that bond could and would not be broken by anything that might try and prevent this story from being told.

    Jonathan has done a wonderful job making a difficult subject easy to read with enough facts to get the story told but without getting the reader lost in too little or too many facts like some books tend to do. Pauses in the chapters make it easy to set down when you have to and easy to pick back up and start back on the journey with Kelsang & Dolma.

    So I would urge you to join the journey and feel the joys and the fears and the pain of a journey from Tibet to India along the worlds highest mountain peaks!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 1, 2010

    An engrossing and moving read.

    Imagine the desperation and courage it takes to cross the highest mountains in the world on foot, risking frostbite and braving snowstorms.

    Now imagine watching unarmed refugees being shot at by soldiers, and hesitating to speak out because it might ruin your chances to climb the same mountains.

    This book tells both of these incredible stories in a measured and engrossing way.

    Chinese soldiers shoot and kill Tibetans crossing the Nangpa Pass every year but Tibetans didn't have any 'hard' proof. until this incident was caught on tape. The murder of young Kelsang Namtso at the Nangpa Pass mobilized a new generation of Tibetan activists around the world and changed the Tibet movement forever.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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