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Nepalese police seize ballot boxes from Tibetan exile election

October 5, 2010

ICT report
International Campaign for Tibet
October 3, 2010

Armed Nepalese police in riot gear seized ballot
boxes that were being used by Tibetans to vote
for a new Prime Minister and Parliament in exile
in a dramatic new development in Kathmandu today.

Permission had effectively been given by the
Nepalese authorities for the election in exile,
involving nearly 9,000 Tibetans, but police
stormed three centers where the Tibetan exile
community were placing their vote and took the
ballot boxes. According to Tibetan sources in
touch with prominent Nepalese rights advocates,
the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu had instructed
the Nepalese Home Ministry to stop the election.

This is the latest incident of assertive actions
by the Chinese authorities in Nepal's sovereign
territory, which has led to a tougher approach by
the Nepalese authorities to the Tibetan
community. More entrenched and vigorous
strategies by the Beijing government to influence
the Nepalese government, border forces, judicial
system and civil society at a time of political
transition in Nepal mean that Tibetans in Nepal
are increasingly vulnerable, demoralized and at risk.

A Tibetan eyewitness to the seizure of the ballot
boxes today said: "This was a terrible day for
Tibetans in Nepal. People felt desperate. Many of
the Tibetan elders in the community were crying,
they were not able to do anything as there were
so many police and they were so aggressive."
(Footage of the incident by Radio Free Asia:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2_N_iSu3DY).

There is serious concern at the implications for
Tibetans in Nepal, as personal and identifying
details were included on the ballot forms. The
Chinese and Nepalese governments have recently
made a new agreement to share information
relating to "anti-China" activities in Nepal. The
Nepalese press reported that "Nepal and China
have set up a high-level mechanism to share
intelligence and information on security matters
to contain anti-China activities in Nepal."
(eKantipur.com, August 7). There is also concern
about the impact on the election itself as the
Tibetan population in Nepal represent a
substantial section of the exile Tibetan electorate.

Mary Beth Markey, President of the International
Campaign for Tibet, said: "This is an unwarranted
intrusion by the Nepalese police against
Tibetans' exercise of their democratic right to a
free and fair election.  In respect of the
democratic process, the ballot boxes must be
returned to the Tibetan community in Nepal as a matter of urgency."

The exile Tibetan community in countries across
the world voted today in the first stage of a
process established by the Tibetan government in
exile to elect a new Kalon Tripa, or Tibetan
Prime Minister, and also for members who will
form the 15th Tibetan Parliament in exile. The
present Kalon Tripa, based in Dharamsala, India,
is Professor Samdhong Rinpoche.

5316 Tibetans were registered to vote in the
Boudhanath stupa are of Kathmandu, 980 in
Jawalakhel, 2336 in Swayambhunath at the nunnery.
The same Tibetan source said: "In Jawalakel they
had finished voting and the boxes had already
been removed by 3:30. In Boudha they took 15
ballot boxes and in Swayambhu they seized five boxes."

Parliamentarians from 14 different countries
commemorated the 50th anniversary of Tibetan
democracy in exile on September 2 in Bylakuppe,
the largest Tibetan settlement in India. At the
meeting, the exile Tibetan government and people
honored the Dalai Lama for leading the Tibetan
freedom struggle and for establishing democracy in the exile community.

The elections today for both the Kalon Tripa and
members who will form the 15th Tibetan Parliament
in exile were the first step towards the 2011
general elections, which will decide the third
directly elected Tibetan Prime Minister and the
successor to the incumbent Kalon Tripa, marking
the first democratic transfer of executive power.
The final round of elections will be held next year on March 20.

For information on the intensifying dangers for
Tibetans in Nepal, see ICT reports
http://www.savetibet.org/documents/reports/dangerous-crossing-2009-update
and
http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-news-reports/fragile-welcome-china%E2%80%99s-influence-nepal-and-its-impact-tibetans.

Press contact:
Kate Saunders
Communications Director, International Campaign for Tibet
Email: press@savetibet.org
Tel: + 44 (0) 7947 138612
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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