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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

A thwarted election

October 5, 2010

The Economist (UK)
October 4, 2010

DISTURBING pictures of Nepali police in riot gear
carting off ballot boxes illustrate both China’s
clout in Nepal and its fears about the activities
of Tibetan exiles. This was a primary election
held among some 80,000 exiles to pick candidates
for polls for a new parliament-in-exile and prime
minister next year. The Nepali government has
made sure that votes in the primary in Nepal at least will not count.

Most of the 120,000 or so exiled Tibetans are in
India -- either in the north, where the
government-in-exile, and Tibet’s spiritual
leader, have their seat in the Himalayan
foothills at Dharamsala, or in the southern state
of Karnataka. Every year more join them, mostly
by fleeing the Tibet Autonomous Region of China through Nepal.

Some 20,000 live in Nepal, about half of them
eligible to vote. In recent years, Nepal, at
China’s behest, has curbed their political
activities, such as protests. In 2005,
floundering and looking to China to prop up his
regime, the former king, Gyanendra, closed the
Dalai Lama's representative office in Kathmandu.
China has obvious objections to an election for a
government-in-exile it does not recognise, and
which supports the Dalai Lama, whom it regards as
the source of many of its troubles in Tibet.

There are two other reasons why China objects to
the voting. It does not want the world -- or
China -- to be reminded that the Dalai Lama has
insisted his exiled compatriots embrace
democracy. Rather, it prefers to depict him as
the representative of a cruel feudal elite which
forced the miserable masses into monasteries or serfdom.

Also, the Dalai Lama’s advanced age -- he is now
75 -- give elections increased importance, as the
government elected may have to cope with the
difficult transition to a new incarnation.

Nepal, sandwiched between two huge and
overbearing neighbours, India and China, has no
desire to antagonise either. India is by far the
bigger influence in Nepal. To keep it in check,
Nepal seeks good relations with China. One sure
way of ruining those would be to show any
sympathy to the Dalai Lama and his followers.
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