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Everest climber with 'Free Tibet' banner in rucksack deported by Nepal

April 30, 2008

From Jeremy Page in Delhi
The Times
April 29, 2008

Nepal has deported an American mountaineer after military officials
found a “Free Tibet” banner in his rucksack while he was attempting to
climb Mount Everest.

William Brant Holland was also banned from climbing in Nepal for two
years for violating a ban on political protests while China takes the
Olympic torch up Everest in the next ten days.

Mr Holland left Kathmandu for the United States on Monday, after being
questioned by Nepalese tourism officials, the two agencies that arranged
his trip told Times Online.

“He went back to America,” said Mohan Singh, a spokesman for Asian
Trekking, Mr Holland’s principal agency. “He’s given a good statement,
but it’s nothing to do with our company. If you come as a climber, how
can we stop you from doing this kind of thing.”

Mr Holland, from Virginia, is the first mountaineer to be deported since
China and Nepal imposed restrictions on climbers to avoid disrupting the
torch’s ascent of Everest, the world’s highest peak at 8,848 metres.

The expedition is the highlight of a global torch relay, spanning 19
countries, that was supposed to spread a message of goodwill and harmony
in the run-up to the Beijing Games in August.

But the relay has been plagued by protests over Chinese policies in
Tibet as the flame has toured 19 countries, culminating in Vietnam
today, before returning to China.

China announced in March that it was blocking expeditions to Everest
from the Chinese side as well as to Cho Oyu - another peak over 8,000
metres - until after May 10.

Under pressure from China, Nepal then announced that it would stop
climbers on the Nepalese side from staying higher than Camp Two, at
around 6,500 metres, until after May 10.

Nepalese authorities have also posted military “liaison officers” at the
Everest base camp to prevent any climbers from staging anti-Chinese
protests, according to mountaineering guides.

The officers have confiscated all laptops and satellite and mobile
phones from climbers at the base camp, preventing many from contacting
relatives and sponsors.

They found Mr Holland’s banner while searching all climbers' bags and
provisions at base camp last week, according to several sources in
contact with colleagues on the mountain.

Nepal’s Tourism Ministry has now asked Asian Trekking and Himalayan
Guides, which says it provided Mr Holland’s permit, to provide a report
on the incident in the next two weeks.

“They’ve warned us that we could lose our licences otherwise,” said Umit
Bhandari, manager of Himalayan Guides.

A BBC correspondent was also expelled from base camp on Monday.

Many mountaineering guides have criticised Nepalese authorities for
endangering the lucrative climbing industry - and climbers' lives - by
bowing to pressure from China.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that the "liaison officers" have now banned
climbers from using radios to communicate with each other on the mountain.

Nepalese authorities have also been criticised for using excessive force
in breaking up protests by Tibetan exiles outside the United Nations
office and the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu.

But Nepalese officials say they are simply being pragmatic in trying to
maintain good relations with their giant neighbour, which provides
millions of dollars of aid and investment every year.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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