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This painted scene adorned the cover of Time magazine"s 20 April, 1959 edition, which sold for 25 cents and recounted the escape of Tibet"s most eminent exile.
In October 1950, the Chinese " liberated" and occupied Tibet. China"s human rights record in the country ever since has been among the worst of the century.
Since the Dalai Lama's flight into India over 40 years ago, hundreds of thousands of Tibetans have slipped past trigger-happy border guards and braved the highest mountain passes in the world to flee a country they say is controlled through fear. Thousands perished in the attempt, but those who survived are scattered across the globe, from New Delhi to Zurich - and even to Salt Lake City. In fact, Utah is home to a veritable community of refugee Tibetans that is almost 200 strong. Thanks in part to the Utah Tibetan Resettlement Project, a program set up by some of the first exiles to reach the area in the late 1980s, scores of political outcasts have made their way to the Beehive State.
But the exiles aren't the only Tibetans in Utah. A small group of students are here as part of exchange programs between China and state colleges. And though they are benefiting from an American education thanks to their new masters in Beijing even these Tibetans harbor a deep-felt resentment for the Chinese government's presence in their homeland.
"Nobody wants the Chinese in Tibet," said one Utah Valley State College student from Lhasa who wishes to remain anonymous. "They destroy our culture and don't let us venerate His Holinesss the Dalai Lama."
But while these students are here by choice, others are here because they can't go home.
Tenzin Norbu only knows the season he was born in but guesses that he is about 54 years old. He is from Kham, the southeastern part of Tibet known for its warrior-like people called Khampas. He has thick black hair and a rugged face to match the harsh stories he tells of life in Tibet.
As a young boy, he watched on as his uncle was shot by Chinese troops. The rest of his family was compelled to scatter for their own safety and Tenzin decided to join the resistance guerillas to fight a losing battle against superior technology and far superior numbers. When most of the fighters had been killed or had retreated to the safety of India or Nepal, Tenzin kept on fighting.
It wasn't until he killed a high-ranking Chinese officer that Tenzin was caught.
Thrown into prison and forced to wear all black, the exile remembers hours-long, daily political education and signs on the walls that read, "Don't Follow the Dalai Lama." There were 16 major rules in the prison, but Tenzin was most angered by rule number one: no prayers.
"My first punishment [for breaking the rules] was getting my face stuck in a container of gunpowder, then having it lit," Norbu said. "It burned my face and hair."
Once, upon refusal to clean up prisoners' excrement with his bare hands, Tenzin Norbu was force-fed the feces on the end of a shovel by prison guards.
"There was a lot done in the prison that you can't imagine," Norbu said.
According to Tenzin, the Chinese would experiment with various torture devices on the Tibetan prisoners. Once, he was forced to wear self-tightening handcuffs until his whole body went numb. "I saw lights, like stars were flashing," Norbu said.
After passing out, Tenzin came to - to the amazement of his fellow prisoners. Tenzin remembers them saying, "You have awoken from your death!"
By this time, the Khampa had spent more than eight years in prison. Then one night the guards told him that he had less than two years left - then he would be executed.
That was the night Tenzin Norbu resolved to escape. After feigning sickness, he and a fellow inmate were taken to the prison hospital where he underwent actual surgery despite his healthy condition. That night, they were able to escape past drunk sentries.
In 1984, an exhausted Tenzin stumbled into a Tibetan refugee camp in Nepal, having walked all the way from Lhasa (over six hundred miles) nursing a stomach torn up during an unnecessary operation.
After trying his lot in Nepal, India, and Boston, Tenzin Norbu settled in Salt Lake City. But life in America wasn't especially easy, either.
"I didn't know English," he said. "My wife was sick. I didn't know what insurance was. I didn't know what I was supposed to do with hospital bills."
But he learned, and though he still works menial jobs as a janitor and a dishwasher, he values the freedom he enjoys here.
"Everyone [in Utah] has his or her freedom," he said. "It's the only thing that keeps me somewhat happy."
For the most part, the Khampa just misses home.
But Tenzin Norbu is only one of several Tibetan refugees in Utah to have spent time in Chinese prisons.
Tashi Paldon is 58 years old but looks like she's 90. Her scraggly gray hair is tied up in a bun and her dress is the traditional Tibetan style.
"Since the Chinese occupation," she said through an interpreter, "Tibetans did not want to stay under Chinese rule."
That was why Paldon's older brother decided to leave Tibet for India to be with the Dalai Lama and why Paldon encouraged him to go. She helped pack his bag. And for that vile act of disloyalty to the state she was locked up for fifteen years.
Her experiences in prison match Tenzin Norbu's. "Prisoners would fight over mice and leftovers," Paldon said. "Sometimes they would eat human feces. It was said that Chinese excrement was worse than Tibetan excrement."
Among other things, Paldon remembers eating human flesh dropped by vultures from Tibetan funerals; manual labor carrying rocks that the men had broken; "international studies" that began by condemning America and India and concluded with a forced, signed personal essay attacking the two countries; no visits, ever; and routine executions.
"There was a meeting," Paldon said. "They called all the prisoners together. We weren't allowed to look around or even look at each other. Whenever these meetings were called, we knew that someone would die. Though we did not witness the execution, someone was always missing when we returned to our cells."
Torture was common and every morning Paldon would wake to the screams of the male prisoners on the other side of the wall.
In spite of these conditions, the outside world has chosen to remain strangely ignorant of it all, though this lack of knowledge is due in part to Chinese methods of concealment, said Paldon.
"Whenever foreigners visited, the guards made us change our clothes and made sure we were clean. They tidied up the prison and changed everything, including the bed mattresses."
Paldon said that people often tried to commit suicide but couldn't. Electric shocks and cattle prods were used as punishment devices. The woman burst into tears when she told the story of her friend, a fellow prisoner, who was executed for tearing down a poster.
But even in the face of her prison experience, Paldon says that her most painful memory did not occur behind bars.
"The hardest day of my life was when my brother was executed by the Chinese," Paldon said. "I was there. I remember the faces of my brother and his friends were unrecognizable because they were beaten so badly. Something was put in their mouths to prevent them from praising His Holiness [the Dalai Lama]."
The twelve boys executed that day were all between the ages of thirteen and nineteen.
"Our families were forced to thank the officials for executing our sons and brothers," she said.
And now Paldon lives in Utah, unable to speak English and afraid to leave the house for fear of embarrassment. She spends most of her time praying. An air of hopelessness pervades her cramped apartment.
Scores of Tibetans, however, have made a smoother transition into American society, especially those born and raised in exile. Tibetan children in Salt Lake City, for example, wear name brand clothes and speak English with a Utah accent. Their friends are all American and they look forward to attending American universities.
When representatives of the Karmapa, the third-highest position in the Tibetan religious hierarchy, visited Salt Lake City in 1999, they noted that the mountains of the Wasatch Front (the Rocky Mountains that line the east side of the Salt Lake valley) reminded them of Tibet. Perhaps it is the snow-capped peaks that draw Tibetans to Utah. Such a conclusion would agree with the penned words of the late Ngodup Paljor, a refugee Tibetan who found refuge in another American wilderness:
Some come to AlaskaUnfortunately, for some only the mountains of Tibet can bring solace.
To dig the frozen tundra
And others to hibernate
Well, comrades, to tell
You my reason,
Where else could a yak live,
Besides in wilderness and