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Nepalese police break up Dalai Lama birthday celebrations, detain 28

July 11, 2016

International Campaign for Tibet, July 7, 2016 - Nepalese police arrived in force at the Dalai Lama’s birthday celebration held at a school in Boudhanath, Kathmandu yesterday (July 6), even though official permission had been granted by the authorities for the event. Police told Tibetans to leave or risk detention, and detained 28 people including the Tibetan settlement officer Kalsang Dondrub in the nearby police station. A photograph posted online shows a Tibetan being led away by Nepalese police in riot gear from the event. Radio Free Asia reported that police also pulled down large portraits of the Dalai Lama that had been placed in positions of honor on a stage in the school’s courtyard, scattering banners, flowers, and other offerings that had been arranged at the site.

A Tibetan present at the event said: “It was very emotional, some people were crying. This showed a very ugly face of the Nepalese authorities; diplomats who had attended from the international community observed at close quarters how peacefully the Tibetans were celebrating this important religious and cultural occasion, and the outcome.” One of the Tibetan community leaders, Lhalung, was cited by RFA as saying: “The Tibetan representative and other welfare officers sought permission from Nepalese authorities to hold the event, and permission was granted yesterday. But today, they changed their minds and stopped us. This could be a result of pressure from China.”

Following intervention from Nepalese human rights advocates, the 28 people detained were released at around 5 pm. The Nepalese organisation Inhured, the International Institute for Human Rights, Environment and Development, issued a press release condemning the “unconstitutional and anti-human rights” actions of the police.).

A young Tibetan living in the Boudha area was cited by Tibetan media as saying: “Anyone who is wearing Tibetan dress or monastic robes is being detained in the vicinity. We were merely celebrating the birthday of our beloved leader, it is not political. Besides, the same police were smiling and accepting our help and donations during the earth quake last year when Tibetans and Nepalese people were working together for relief efforts in the aftermath. What was supposed to be a joyous occasion has turned into a sad one.”

In the context of a close relationship with the Chinese authorities, Nepalese police have varied in their tolerance of celebrations of the Dalai Lama’s birthday, an important and symbolic occasion for Tibetans. While last year a quiet celebration was allowed to take place, in 2011, several hundred Nepalese police in riot gear were deployed in various areas of Kathmandu on July 6 to prevent Tibetans from celebrating the Dalai Lama’s birthday, and they also confiscated pictures of the Dalai Lama and a Happy Birthday’ banner hanging inside a walled courtyard at Samten Ling monastery in the Boudha area of Kathmandu. The year before, in 2010, police set up checkpoints at different locations stopping Tibetans heading for the birthday celebrations.

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