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China, India, Nepal: Free Tibetan Protesters

March 14, 2008

Human Rights Watch
Protesters Are Entitled to Freedom of Movement, Assembly, and Association

(Washington, DC, March 14, 2008) – The Chinese, Indian, and Nepali
governments should release detained Tibetans and permit them to
demonstrate peacefully, Human Rights Watch said today.

Protesters in Lhasa, Tibet, Dharamsala, India and Kathmandu, Nepal who
were attempting to observe "Tibetan National Uprising Day," the
anniversary of the Tibetan rebellion against Beijing's rule in Tibet
in 1959, were dispersed and arrested. The protests in Lhasa were the
largest political demonstrations there since 1989.

"Instead of arresting peaceful protesters, why don't these governments
meet with them and attempt to address their grievances?" said Sophie
Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

"Peaceful demonstrations are protected under international and
domestic laws and they should be permitted, not violently dispersed."

On March 10, 2008, hundreds of monks from Drepung monastery, five
miles west of the Tibetan capital Lhasa, began peaceful protests
calling for an end to religious restrictions and release of imprisoned
monks. While marching toward the city center, the Drepung protesters
were stopped by large numbers of Chinese police, and media reports
estimated that around 50 monks were detained. The monks held a
sit-down protest for some 12 hours before returning to their
monastery, access to which now appears to have been cut off. On March
11 at around 2:30 a.m., the sound of gunfire was heard emanating from
the area of the monastery. Also on March 10, up to 14 monks from Sera
monastery and three laymen and women were detained during a protest in
the city center where they called for independence and waved the
forbidden Tibetan flag.

On March 11, 500-600 protesting monks from the nearby Sera monastery,
two miles north of Lhasa, called for the release of the monks arrested
a day earlier. The Sera monks, who attempted to march into Lhasa city,
were met by approximately 2,000 armed police. According to Radio Free
Asia, security forces used tear gas to disperse the crowd. At that
point, the monks staged a peaceful seven-hour sit-in.

Three were detained and eventually released, but there are unconfirmed
reports that a hunger strike has begun inside the monastery.

Protests have also taken place in other parts of the country. On March
11, Chinese security forces reportedly surrounded Ditsa monastery in
Bayan County (Chinese: Hualong) in Qinghai province after the monks
there held a pro-independence protest. The People's Armed Police
surrounded the Ganden monastery near Lhasa after a protest there on
March 12. Phone lines to the monastery have been cut. There are media
reports that around 12 monks have been arrested following an incident
in Rebkong, Qinghai.

Over the past half-century, the Chinese government has arrested,
detained, and tortured countless Tibetans – including monks, nuns and
children – protesting Chinese rule intended  to quash alleged
"separatism." The Chinese government accuses the Dalai Lama, in exile
in India since 1959, of being the linchpin of alleged plots to
separate Tibet from China, and it views Tibetan Buddhism as complicit
in those efforts.

"We are witnessing the most visible wave of peaceful dissent against
Chinese rule in the Tibetan capital for the past two decades," said
Richardson. "What is unusual is the harsh crackdown on similar
protests in democratic India and Nepal, which raises concerns about
whether China is pressuring those countries to silence Tibetans."

On March 10, Indian police detained 100 exiled Tibetans who attempted
to march to Tibet from Dharamsala, the site of the Tibetan
government-in-exile, in Kangra District in India. On the same
afternoon, Indian police issued a restraining order barring the
protesters from leaving the district. Three days later, Indian police
forced the marchers to stop, loaded them onto police buses and are
holding them at the Jawalaji police station. Tenzin Tsundue, one of
the leaders of the march, is being held separately from the other
detainees.

"The Indian police should immediately release the marchers detained,
lift the restraining order and the allow the march to continue
peacefully," Richardson said. "Any reaction by the Indian government
must be proportionate to the threat posed to law and order."

Tibetan refugees living in India have traditionally been provided a
safe haven by the government, but are required to inform the
authorities when they leave the area of declared residence.

On March 10, Nepal's metropolitan and armed police force violently
suppressed demonstrators in Kathmandu with more than 150 Tibetans
arbitrarily detained for several hours in Gau Shala, Kamal Pokhari and
Boudha police stations. Human Rights Watch is gravely concerned by
reports of beatings of the 14 individuals detained at Boudha police
station. One of the detainees told Human Rights Watch that:

"We were kicked, punched, slapped and had our hair pulled for around
15-20 minutes. This included two women and two nuns. Our names were
registered and we were verbally abused and threatened that we would be
handed over to China."

Many Tibetans who arrived in Nepal before December 31, 1989 are
officially regarded as refugees. But the Nepali government has refused
to register as refugees Tibetan asylum seekers arriving after that
time. As a result, new arrivals are at risk of summary repatriation
and encounter great difficulty integrating into Nepali society and
accessing education, health care, and employment. It is also
impossible for them to leave the country unless granted an exit
permit. In January 2005, under pressure from the Chinese government,
the Nepali government closed the Office of the Representative of His
Holiness the Dalai Lama, and in 2007 took the unprecedented step of
deregistering the Bhota Welfare Office, a local organization assisting
Tibetans living in Nepal.

Human Rights Watch urged China, India, and Nepal to uphold their
obligations to respect the freedoms of expression and assembly, and
due process, guaranteed under domestic law and by the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). India and Nepal are
parties to the ICCPR; China has signed but not ratified the ICCPR.
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