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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Nepal does China's bidding

November 17, 2014

Wall Street Journal, November 12, 2014 - In recent years the Chinese government has given $32.7 million annually to Nepal. The China Exim Bank has also doled out $66 million for various projects, including $32.7 million for an Armed Police Force academy.

The catch? Beijing wants Nepal to curb “anti-China activities.” The latest such lecture came from Governor of the Tibet Autonomous Region Lobsang Gyaltsen, who came to Kathmandu on Oct. 27 bearing an additional $3.3 million in annual aid.

“Anti-China activities” is code for Tibetans leaving China. Since the 1990s Nepal has been a conduit for Tibetan refugees and students traveling to India, home of the Tibetan government-in-exile. They flee a regime bent on reshaping their cultural identity through limits on religious practice, forced relocation and harsh punishment on dissenters.

China says this emigration is illegal. Its argument is that Tibetans do not face oppression at home, so they cannot be considered refugees. Beijing wants Nepal to crack down on the organizations that help Tibetans get to freedom.

The Chinese used to employ more backhanded means to control the flow of Tibetans, such as bribing Nepalese police. In 2011 Beijing made false human-trafficking allegations to stop 20 young Tibetans from leaving Nepal to go to India for education. A Kathmandu judge allowed the students to continue their journey.

Beijing’s new tactic of buying off Nepal at the top levels of government has made more headway. After Mr. Gyaltsen’s Oct. 27 announcement of increased aid, Nepalese officials promised that Nepal wouldn’t become a base for anyone working to harm China. According to a Nov. 3 op-ed in the Indian Express, China “asked Nepal to consider seriously curbs on Western NGOs and strict monitoring of uses of money for religious conversions.” Nepal’s new promise could be read as an acquiescence to that demand.

China has also inserted itself in the drafting of the new Nepalese constitution. While parties bicker over the borders of political states, Chinese officials have privately communicated their preference that province divisions not be based on ethnicity, and that there be fewer individual provinces bordering Tibet. More centralized control would make it easier for Beijing to prevent local officials from looking the other way as Tibetans cross the border.

China’s meddling in Nepal compounds the atrocious human-rights abuses in Tibet. Emigration is a fail-safe right that protects the most vulnerable when other rights have been taken away. That’s why the West pressured the Soviet Union to allow Jews and other marginalized people to emigrate. And that’s why democracies should help Nepal stand up to Chinese meddling in its internal affairs.

 

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