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An uncertain welcome: how China's influence impacts Tibetans in Nepal

August 5, 2009

International Campaign for Tibet
July 28, 2009

The wave of protests against Chinese rule that
began in Tibet in March 2008 and the resulting
crackdown transformed the political landscape --
and made a dramatic impact on the situation for
Tibetans across the border in Nepal.

The wave of protests against Chinese rule that
began in Tibet in March 2008 and the resulting
crackdown transformed the political landscape --
and made a dramatic impact on the situation for
Tibetans across the border in Nepal. In an
attempt to prevent pro-Tibet protests in Nepal,
the Chinese authorities stepped up their efforts
to influence the Nepalese government, judicial
system and civil society. While the 'gentlemen's
agreement' to guarantee safe transit of Tibetans
escaping from Tibet through Nepal is still
largely implemented, the Nepalese government has
adopted a harder line against expressions of the
Tibetan identity by the long-staying Tibetan
refugee community in Nepal. Acquiescence to
Chinese demands by the Nepalese government
threatens the integrity of Nepalese democratic
and legal institutions and runs counter to the
strong cultural and religious ties among the
Himalayan peoples that have existed for centuries.

Nepal's bend towards China on Tibetan issues is characterized by the following:

* A change in the use of language by Nepalese
authorities to describe the Tibetan refugee flow
through their country, suggesting a 'law and
order' approach rather than the humanitarian
approach that has characterized Nepal's treatment
of Tibetans over the last decades.

* Continuing harassment and extortion of
long-staying Tibetans in Nepal, contributing to a
widespread sense of fear and insecurity.

* Cancellation of peaceful expressions of the
Tibetan identity, such as the celebration of the Dalai Lama's birthday.

* Pre-emptive arrests of Tibetans, ID checks and house searches.

* Large-scale police deployment in Tibetan communities.

* The harassment of Nepalese journalists for
attempting to report on police actions in Tibetan
communities, and a plethora of hostile articles
in the Nepalese media alleging 'Free Tibet' conspiracies.

* A growing presence of organizations sympathetic
to the Chinese government position, both secular
and religious, some popularly assumed to have links with the Chinese Embassy.

* The resistance of the Nepalese government to
provide durable solutions for certain
long-staying Tibetan refugees in Nepal, either by
regularizing their legal status or allowing their
resettlement to the United States through a
refugees admission program proposed by the U.S. Government in 2005

* A pattern of hostile coverage of the Tibetan
community and their supporters in the Nepalese media.

Kathmandu, July, 2009. Less than a year after
Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda)
stood for prime minister, heralding a new start
for Nepal after a decade of civil war, prospects
for peace and prosperity in Nepal look as distant
as ever. A coalition of rival parties took over
the reins of government in May after the
resignation of Prachanda over the issue of
involving Maoists into the army. The new
administration is struggling to tackle crippling
corruption, food and fuel shortages, a lack of
basic facilities such as water, and increasing
fears over security there is a disturbing rise in
kidnappings for ransom in Kathmandu and beyond and violent protest strikes.

Kathmandu Post comment editor Aditya Adhikari
described the situation as: "A crisis of
governance -- a weak state that has no control
over much of the country." Adhikari writes: "As
during previous occasions of crisis as the peace
process has unfolded, political instability in
Kathmandu has distracted attention away from the
many other crises confronting the country. Issues
of the reconstruction of infrastructure destroyed
during the lost years of the war, of transitional
justice, and of the creation of a new, just state
structure have been pushed to the sidelines."
(Himal South Asian, July 2009,
http://www.himalmag.com/The-new-old_nw3104.html [1]).

Beijing has transferred its good relations to
Nepal's new leadership, and regards the Tibet
issue as the defining element of its bilateral
relations with Nepal. This follows its prior
support for King Gyanendra, notably when he
disbanded the government and usurped power in
2005 and which included the sale of arms to the
king's military to fight the Maoists, and then to
Prachanda's Maoist-led government.

The Chinese authorities have also stepped up
outreach to Nepal's civil society, and increased
trade and cultural exchanges. As a result of this
political influence and Beijing's priorities, the
Tibetan community in Nepal is vulnerable, demoralized and at risk.

Following complaints from senior Chinese
officials to the Nepalese government about the
meeting of a group of Nepalese MPs with the Dalai
Lama, a peaceful celebration of the Dalai Lama's
74th birthday on July 6 was cancelled in
Kathmandu. The event had been given the go-ahead
by the Chief District Officer as long as Tibetans
did not sing the Tibetan National Anthem.

Political science Professor Kapil Shrestra, a
former National Human Rights Commissioner who had
been invited to speak at the cancelled birthday
celebration for the Dalai Lama on July 6, told
ICT that it was a further worrying development:
"Tibetans have helped to transform the Nepali
economy. There would be far less tourism without
Tibetans, and the Tibetan carpet industry has
helped to expand business in Kathmandu. The
Tibetan community has a legitimate place in
today's Nepal and its rights should be respected.
A small, disenfranchised minority like Nepal's
Tibetan community may be an easy target, but a
denial of Tibetan rights will ultimately degrade
the rights and legal recourse of all Nepali citizens."

A 'zero tolerance' approach to Tibetan protests

Following the crackdown in Tibet from March 2008
onwards, Tibetan exiles in Kathmandu engaged in a
series of almost daily protests for around six
months. The Nepalese authorities adopted a 'zero
tolerance' approach to Tibetan protestors, and
Nepalese police on occasion employed excessive
force against the protestors (see Human Rights
Watch report, http://china.hrw.org/press/
[2]news_release/nepal_abuses_
[2]against_tibetans_protesting_china_s_tibet_crackdown
[2]). The Maoist-led government in Nepal allowed
Chinese diplomats extraordinary and extrajudicial
influence in dealing with Tibetan issues in
Nepal. Chinese embassy personnel were witnessed
and photographed working behind police lines
guiding the handling of protests and arrests of
demonstrators, even going so far as to direct the
positioning of Nepalese police officers. (See
Dangerous Crossing, http://www.savetibet.org/ [3]).

In March this year, in the buildup to the 50th
anniversary of the March 10 uprising in Tibet
(and the year anniversary of the current wave of
protests across the plateau), the zero tolerance
approach was continued. In the few days prior to
March 10, several Tibetans suspected of playing a
leading role in last year's demonstrations were
rounded up by the authorities. Nepalese police
went to Tibetan people's homes and in some cases
conducted searches without showing warrants. A
planned seven-day prayer vigil in the main
Tibetan community centers was prevented, and
police in riot gear were evident in Tibetan
communities. During this period, the security
presence around the Tibetan Refugee Reception
Center in Kathmandu was increasingly visible.

On March 10, Nepalese journalists seeking to
cover a vigil at the Boudhanath stupa for the
anniversary had memory cards from their cameras
seized by Nepalese police. A Tibetan journalist
working for a Tibetan language newspaper was also
detained prior to March 10 and released upon
payment of a large bribe. The journalist, whose
name is withheld, was apparently accused of
writing articles that were "anti-China", and his home was searched.

These actions took place in a context of intense
pressure from the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu on
the then Maoist-led government. Receiving the
visit of Hu Zhengyue, a junior Chinese foreign
minister in Kathmandu on February 26, 2009, the
then Prime Minister Prachanda (who resigned in
May) reiterated claims made by the Chinese
Communist Party that Tibetan exiles posed a
threat to 'stability' in Nepal, and specifically
that militant exiles from India were infiltrating
the country to stage anti-Chinese protests.

Outgoing US ambassador to Nepal Nancy Powell made
a rare public comment on the Tibet issue when she
referred to her concern about the human rights of
Tibetans in Nepal last week. During an interview
for Kantipur Online, she said: ". We have not
advocated the independence of Tibet, but we are
very concerned about the human rights of Tibetans
in any country. They have the right to express
themselves freely, they have the right to
peacefully assemble and advocate for themselves.
This is a major concern and it is a major
difference in opinion with some people. But this
does not mean that the United States is
supporting the Free Tibet movement. Certainly we
understand that Nepal is in an awkward position
but we would expect that the human rights of all
individuals in Nepal would be respected."
(http://www.kantipuronline.com/kolnews.php?&nid=205142 [4]).

"Tibetans in Nepal are desperate": harassment of
the long-staying refugee community

"Tibetans in Nepal are desperate," said a senior
Tibetan community leader in the Boudhanath stupa
area in Kathmandu, one of the main centers of
Buddhism and home to several thousand Tibetans,
in an interview with ICT this month. "They dread
being stopped by police or their homes raided
because we do not have even minimal rights, with
no papers. This is damaging our community really
badly, and it was particularly critical under the
Maoist-led government. It is hard to describe the
fear and vulnerability. People feel as though
they are invisible, as though they have no right
to exist. They cannot go home to their country, nor are they safe here."

The same community leader said that his own home
had been raided by Maoists recently, and that
they had demanded 50,000 Nepalese Rupees (US$652)
which he negotiated down to a smaller sum and had
to pay. They threatened him with worse treatment
if he told anyone about it. "This is very
typical," he said. "Tibetans who are stopped by
Nepalese police on the way home without papers
are sometimes beaten up, often huge fines are
demanded. They are always told that it will be
worse for them if they tell the UNHCR or any
other organization or individual. For this reason
most harassment is not reported." Multiple
instances of this kind have been reported to ICT
by trusted Tibetan sources in Kathmandu.

As a result, it is rare to see Tibetans on the
streets of the Boudhanath stupa area, a
traditional Tibetan center of religious worship,
with many thankga [Tibetan religious artwork]
shops and artisans, after around 6:30 each
evening. Tibetans are also at risk of being
stopped and harassed by police if they travel
home from the main tourist area of Thamel to Boudhanath after 6 pm.

A 19-year old Tibetan from the Ngari area of
western Tibet who took part in the protests
against Chinese repression in Kathmandu last year
told ICT: "I always feel that my life is unsafe
and I cannot go anywhere without worrying,
especially because the Nepali political situation
has become tense. In the last five years of my
life in Nepal, I have had this experience living
without legal papers, but I understand it is not
only me, there are thousands of us Tibetan
refugees living in Nepal without proper
documents. I think I am a very hard worker and
determined. But I can see that there is no future
for me in exile in this condition and I cannot go
back to Tibet without taking a great risk. It is
simply because of the Chinese invasion, and I
cannot live where I was born with my parents in
Tibet. When I speak to my parents, they always
say that it will cause problems for them if I go
back to Tibet because they are working for the
Chinese government. This difficult situation
makes me want to fight for Tibet. When I see what
has happened in Tibet since March 14 [2008], my
sadness and despair motivated my involvement in
protests in Kathmandu. I thought it was important
that our desperation could be seen by the rest of the world."

The Tibetan, whose name is withheld due to fears
for his safety in Nepal, said that for these
reasons he participated in several protests in
Kathmandu last year after March 14. He said: "I
was beaten by [Nepalese] police many times. We
faced tear-gas and many beatings. Because I was
once one of the leaders of a protest I was beaten
particularly badly and could not walk for three days."

On March 9 this year, the Nepalese police raided
the young Tibetan man's home, possibly in an
attempt at pre-emptive detention in order to
prevent him joining a protest for the 50th
anniversary of the March 10 Uprising. When they
found he was not there, they detained two of his relatives for several weeks.

A Tibetan man from Amdo in eastern Tibet who
works on a Tibetan newspaper in Kathmandu said
that his family has urged him not to continue his
work for fear of their safety in Tibet. "The
Chinese government punishes the relatives of
those they see as separatists and members of the
'Dalai Clique'," he said. "I am always afraid in
Kathmandu. There are so many Chinese spies here."
(Report by Siofra O'Donovan, Irish Times, March 27, 2009).

Tibetans without residence papers are generally
not allowed to register any businesses such as
shops, restaurants, and guest-houses. Sometimes
Tibetans are not allowed to register businesses
even if they have valid papers and money,
according to several anecdotal reports from
Kathmandu. Sometimes Nepalese people help
Tibetans to register their businesses under their
name, or offer Tibetans employment.

Nepalese civil society activists and human rights
monitors who are supportive of the Tibetans'
plight stress the close historic, cultural and
religious ties between the Nepalese and Tibetans
that date back to the 6th century. The Buddha's
birthplace is in Lumbini, Nepal, 300 kilometers
southwest of Kathmandu. The Himalayan Sherpa,
Tamang, Dolpo, Mustang and other Himalayan people
share the same devotion to the Dalai Lama and practice Tibetan Buddhism.

According to one senior Tibetan community leader
who has lived in Kathmandu for nearly 20 years,
sometimes Tibetans are subject to extra tax
compared to Nepalese people, although this is in
a context in which many shops and businesses in
Nepal are subject to extortion in the unstable
political climate. In a comment indicative of the
feelings of Tibetans in Nepal, the community
leader said: "The additional tax on businesses
owned and run by Tibetans is clearly because of
Chinese political pressure, every Tibetan knows
that the Chinese government wants to create
maximum difficulty for the Tibetan community in Nepal."

According to other Tibetan sources in Nepal,
there are fears that Tibetan children may be
prevented from studying in Nepalese schools in
some of the settlements outside Kathmandu. Some
Tibetan students currently attend Nepalese
schools after class ten because there are not
enough Tibetan schools. A Tibetan who is a member
of the exiled Tibetan Parliament and who has been
living in Nepal since 1959 told ICT that this
year the Nepalese government has introduced new
application forms which require children to have
full Nepalese citizenship before being admitted to the schools.

Prayer ceremony broken up by Nepalese police

Last August, in the politically-charged
atmosphere surrounding the Beijing Olympics and
the ongoing crackdown in Tibet, Nepalese police
had broken up a peaceful prayer gathering of
Tibetans and Nepalese and torn down Buddhist
flags. The Nepal Buddhist Federation,
representing all schools of the Mahayana
Buddhists organizations and institutions in
Nepal, reported in a press release issued later
on the same day (August 10, 2008): "About 4000
Tibetans and Nepali Himalayan Buddhist
sympathizers donning Buddhist and Nepal National
flags joined a mass prayer for peace at 8:30 am
on 7th August at Chuchepati Taragaon, Kathmandu.
The peaceful gathering organized by the Tibetan
Young Buddhist Association suddenly became tense
after police lathi [baton]-charged the big photo
of the Dalai Lama and tore down Buddhist flags."

The Nepal Buddhist Federation added that: "Nepali
Buddhists are closely observing that, of late,
Buddhist monks, nuns and all Himalayan people in
traditional dress are constantly harassed by
state police." The organization said that this
was happening despite the strong cultural and
religious ties between the Himalayan people:
"Ever since the introduction of Buddhism in Tibet
in the 7th century, Himalayan Buddhists of India,
Nepal and Bhutan used to go to Tibet for studies
in the various monasteries and after the closing
of northern border in 1959 Himalayan Buddhists
continue to go to monastic educational
institutions in India and return to their
respective countries after graduation to serve
the community. The unbroken close spiritual bond
between the Dalai Lamas and the Buddhist
followers of Himalayan region is continued today."

A senior Tibetan in Nepal married into a Nepalese
family said: "Together with many Nepalese
friends, I feel that matters within Nepal's
borders are for Nepalis to manage. Our concern
emerges from the overt and negative influence of
the PRC in Nepal. While we recognize the
generosity of various countries in assisting
economic development, including China, we stand
against the political influence of the PRC over
the government's approach towards the Tibetan
community in Nepal, some of whom are Nepali
citizens and others refugees. It is widely known
that Tibetans enrich Nepal's cultural and
religious landscape, strengthen our economy and
trade, and enhance our artistic traditions. We
must not forget the historical, cultural and
religious ties between the Nepalese, Tibetan and
other Himalayan peoples. A substantial minority
of the present Nepali population are Tibetan
Buddhist with great devotion to His Holiness the
Dalai Lama and other Tibetan Buddhist lamas, who
have close family and community ties with Tibet
reaching back many generations."

Risks at the border and the journey into exile

The reasons that Tibetans escape from Tibet are
similar: parents send their children for an
education, monks and nuns seek religious freedom,
and nomads separated from their traditional
livelihoods hope to find a future and an
affirmation of their Tibetan identity in exile.
Virtually all Tibetans say they wish to be near
His Holiness the Dalai Lama. (Dangerous Crossing,
http://www.savetibet.org/files/documents/2007-2008RefugeeReport.pdf [5], p 33).

Somewhere between 2,500 and 3,500 Tibetans are
registered each year by the UNHCR as "persons of
concern" and provided assistance at the Tibetan
Refugee Reception Center in Kathmandu. There have
been unusual spikes, and since March 2008 there
has been a dramatic decline in numbers. Only 652
Tibetans arrived safely at the Kathmandu
reception center last year. So far, just over 300
Tibetans have arrived at the Reception Center
this year, although the number is expected to
increase significantly in winter. Most have not
crossed via the treacherous Nangpa pass over the
past year, due to difficult and dangerous
conditions and also following the shooting of a
Tibetan nun on the pass on September 30, 2006, by Chinese border guards.

The Reception Center is critical for the welfare
of Tibetans arriving in exile. But it is already
subject to considerable scrutiny from the
authorities due to Chinese concern over the
activities of Tibetans in Nepal. Prior to the
50th anniversary of March 10, a large police
deployment was reported at the Reception Center,
with plain-clothes officers entering the premises
and demanding information about the names and
movements of Tibetans staying there.

Chinese border security is intense. Just six
years ago, the main PAP border patrol station was
some 25 kilometers northwest of the Nangpa pass.
But in 2003 the Chinese government completed
construction of a motorable road to a point just
six kilometers north of the Nangpa pass. The
Chinese government also began to draw attention
to its efforts to tighten border security. It
commended border security for intercepting
"people attempting to flee the country" while
maintaining "revolutionary spirit in a place with
insufficient oxygen." (Xinhua, December 29, 2003.
Also see Dangerous Crossing, 2003,
http://savetibet.org/documents/reports/2003-refugee-report-dangerous-crossing-2003-update
[6]).

Soon after the visit of a high-level Chinese
delegation to Kathmandu, the Nepalese Home
Ministry announced the deployment of Armed Police
Force (APF) personnel in the border areas, saying
that this was at the request of the Chinese
government. (Press Trust of India report, July
16, quoting the Nagarika Daily quoting Home
Ministry officials). According to Nepalnews.com,
it is the first time that a fully-fledged border
security force is being installed along the
border, and security bases will be established in
Tatopani of Sindhupalchok, Lomanthang of Mustang,
Kimathanka of Sankhuwasabha, Limi of Humla and
Tinker of Darchula in the first phase. Each base
will have an Armed Police Force (APF) squad under
the command of a Superintendent of Police (SP).
(http://www.nepalnews.com/main/index.php/news-archive/2-political/463-govt-mulls-security-deployment-to-nepal-china-border.html
[7], July 16, 2009).

In Tibet, a prison near Shigatse houses Tibetans
caught en route. Former inmates report that there
have been as many as 500 prisoners there at any
one time, nearly all caught at the Nangpa pass or
near the Chinese-Nepal Friendship Bridge border
crossing at Dram, the main commercial crossing at
the Tibet/Nepal border. Most Tibetans serve from
three to five months, some longer, and face
severe beatings and hard labor, usually road
building in and around Shigatse. They must
usually sign a document that they will never
again attempt to leave the People's Republic of
China to go to India. According to Article 322 of
the Chinese criminal law, such Tibetans are
subject to imprisonment for "secretly crossing the national boundary."

A Chinese-language website, boxun.com [8],
reported on a case of two Tibetan teenagers who
were detained in April when seeking to go home to
Tibet through Nepal. They were detained after
crossing the border into Tibet and held in
Shigatse, where they were "beaten with electric
batons, causing severe damage to their abdomen
and genitals", (phayul.com [9], July 15, quoting
from boxun.com [8]). The same source reported
that Dagah and Tsultrim had initially tried to
enter Tibet in February, but were unable to do so
due to tightened border security in the buildup
to the March 10 anniversary. By the time they
again entered Tibet in April, their travel permit
had expired for 15 days and they were detained
and taken to the Shigatse detention center where
they were subjected to "severe and violent"
interrogation. Dagah's mother, who came looking
for her son, was reported to have fainted upon
seeing the condition of her son, who was later taken to hospital.

Nepalese authorities stepped up border security
dramatically following the protests in Tibet that
began last spring and in the run-up to the
Beijing Olympics last summer. The border was
virtually sealed. Tibetans living near the Tibet
border reported being harassed by Chinese
security and photographed by Nepalese informers
during this period. TAR Chairman Jampa Phuntsog
made a rare trip to the Tibet/Nepal border on
September 1, 2008, to congratulate security
stationed there for their work in "preventing splittism."

Throughout the 1990s, Nepalese authorities
generally permitted Tibetans to enter Nepal and
have assisted or directed them to the refugee
center, typically after they have been detained
by border police and handed over to Nepal
immigration officials. Nonetheless, incidents of
forced repatriation at the border and even from
Kathmandu have occurred periodically and often in
exchange for even minor enticements from the Chinese.

As pressure from the Chinese government
intensifies, Nepal's attitude regarding Tibetans
resident or transiting its territory becomes markedly less welcoming.

China quickly registered its Tibet position with
the new Maoist-led government, and ex Prime
Minister Prachanda, who resigned on May 4,
reiterated his intention to support China on the
Tibet issue and readily affirmed that Nepal would
not be used by Tibetan "separatists" for any anti-Chinese activities.

Prachanda supported the Chinese government's
harsh suppression of Tibetans following the 2008
demonstrations and, in Nepal, ruled out allowing
the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office and the Office
of the Representative of His Holiness the Dalai
Lama to reopen, both of which had operated in
Kathmandu since the 1960s. The two offices had
been ordered closed in 2005 by King Gyanendra in
an apparent quid pro quo for China's support when
Gyanendra dismissed the democratic government in
Nepal, fired the entire parliament and assumed absolute control.

An estimated 156,000 Tibetans live in exile, a
majority of them in India and Nepal. According to
statistics, Nepal has more than 20,000 Tibetan
refugees concentrated mainly in the Kathmandu
valley and Pokhara in Western Nepal.

Collusion and conspiracies: Nepalese media
coverage on Tibet and the fallout from Nepalese MPs' Dharamsala visit

There has been a noticeable pattern of negative
news coverage on Tibet, which coincides with
increasing Chinese outreach to Nepalese media and
prevailing political trends. The June visit of
the six Nepalese MPs from four different parties
to Dharamsala, where they met the Dalai Lama and
Tibetan exile government officials, became a particular focus.

Their three-day visit to Dharamsala on June 21
was aimed at gaining "a deeper understanding of
Tibetan issue and situation, and to pave ways to
bridge closer relations between the two
communities" in the long term, according to
Siddharth Gautam, President of the Lumbini
Foundation for Development & Peace and the
delegation leader of the visiting MPs (Phayul
report,
http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?article=Visiting+MPs+from+Nepal+pledge+support+for+Tibet&id=25001
[10]).

"No other country in the world had developed such
close and neighbourly ties with Tibet as Nepal
did in the past," Biswendra Paswan, one of the
delegates and President of the Dalit Janjati
Party, was quoted as saying in the same article.
The Nepalese delegation, told exile Tibetans that
they would ask the coalition government of Prime
Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal to allow the office
of the Dalai Lama's representative in Nepal,
closed in 2005 due to pressure from Beijing, to re-open.

Paswan also said that the new efforts to support
Tibetans will also include lobbying for inclusion
of such provisions in Nepal's new constitution,
which is currently under drafting process, to
ensure "legal status and social justice for
Tibetans and other refugees" in the Himalayan
state. "We will also ask for such provisions that
can effectively help check Nepali security forces
and government agencies from acting arbitrarily
against Tibetans or others during peaceful demonstrations."

China responded to the visit immediately. Zhang
Jiuhuan, a former ambassador to Nepal, met
Nepal's new Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala to
register the Chinese government's concern, and
the Prime Minister called in senior lawmakers in
the presence of the Chinese Ambassador, Qiu
Guohong. According to the Nepalese news service
Kantipur Online, a Nepalese politician who was at
the meeting, FDNF leader Raj Kumar Limbu said,
representing what the Prime Minister had said
according to Kantipur: "Just like India worries
when we shake hands with the agitating side in
Nagaland [referring to the Maoist guerillas in
north-east India], China feels the same when the
parties meet Lama [sic; a reference to the Dalai
Lama]. Both the neighbors are equal to us. You
have done a crime like shaking hands with the
guilty of Khyati Shrestha murder, correct it."
[Khyati Shrestha is a famous murder case in Nepal
she was a 19-year old woman abducted and
allegedly killed by her teacher,
http://www.kantipuronline.com/kolnews.php?nid=202408 [11]].

Later, one of the Nepalese MPs who had met the
Dalai Lama gave an interview to the Nepalese
press claiming that she had been "coerced" into
doing so. In the interview for the Nepalese
Telegraph, Rukmini Chaudhary, the Constituent
Assembly member from the Loktantrik Rastriya
Manch-Democratic National Front, said: "'I just
want to tell the Nepalese people that I was
deceived very badly. I did not know that I will
be meeting the Dalai Lama. I and my party still
stick to Nepal's One China Policy', Rukmini
clarifies her shaky position now."
(http://www.telegraphnepal.com/news_det.php?news_id=5845 [12], July 19).

An article in the People's Review in Nepal
entitled: 'Anti-China plot unfolds, more than
usual suspects implicated' was typical of some of
the coverage of the visit of the MPs to
Dharamsala. Commentator M.R. Josse wrote: "It is
quite evident that the entire trip was not about
paying a courtesy call on the Dalai Lama, or even
sympathizing with him on human rights grounds. It
was out-and-out politically motivated on both
sides of the equation for a clear political end:
an absurd, suicidal attempt to 'liberate' Tibet
from China, from Nepali territory, for
considerations that have nothing to do with our
national or strategic interest but merely for
advancing the geo-political or geo-strategic
agenda of those who wish to weaken China for
their own vested interests." (July 9).

Another recent focus of the Nepalese media has
been China's suspicions that Nepal is being used
as a base for 'free Tibet activity'. A visit by
US ambassador Nancy Powell, who has left her post
this month to return to the US, to Mustang
provoked particular suspicion and rumors
published in the Nepalese press that she was
supporting "guerrilla resistance against China".

US Ambassador Powell visited remote Mustang in
northern Nepal, which borders Tibet, in order to
visit a cultural preservation project and to
pursue her interest in photography. But the visit
was interpreted by some Nepalese journalists as
an "inspection of the Chinese-Nepalese border" In
preparation for the "next Khampa rebellion". In a
reference to the Khampa guerilla resistance
against China in the 1960s, supported by the CIA,
Bishnu Sharma of the Dristi weekly reported: "A
former army official who is well acquainted with
the Khampa rebellion instigated by the American
detective wing CIA three and half decade ago
said, 'The activities [Nancy Powell's visit, and
the visits of other ambassadors from Kathmandu]
are directed at reviving the Khampa rebellion'."
The CIA-funded Tibetan resistance force operated out of Mustang from 1959-1974.

In an indication of the level of concern about
this visit to a sensitive border area, the
Chinese Ambassador Quo Guohang visited Mustang
himself in June. Kantipur's Nepalese-language
weekly magazine, Nepal, reported: "The Chinese
ambassador did not believe that the American
Ambassador Nancy J Powell reached bordering
district of Mustang to fulfill her photography
passion, carrying her SLR camera. Maybe that is
why within three months of her visit, Chinese
ambassador reached Mustang with his own
associates. He not just kept an eye on whether
there were any 'Free Tibet movement' going on in
Mustang, but also inquired about it with the
Nepali authorities and locals." (July 5-11).

ICT recommendations on a way forward

* China has proposed a "Friendship Treaty" to
Nepal. Nepal, distracted with internal problems,
has yet to respond, but there is talk that if the
treaty does not move, then Beijing will seek a
narrower extradition treaty as a first step.
There is concern that the Chinese draft will seek
to legitimize their position that the Tibetans in
Nepal are economic/illegal migrants, not
refugees, which, if adopted, would undermine any
protections they currently have. The U.S.
government, and its partners, should take a clear
position with the Nepal government against any
extradition treaty that would codify the PRC
position and, at the stroke of a pen, turn
Tibetan refugees in Nepal into criminal illegal
aliens that could lead to their extradition to
China, where they would face a credible fear of persecution.

* The Tibetan Refugee Reception Center in
Kathmandu is an essential lifeline for the
refugees coming across the border and transiting
through Nepal onward to India. It is also
supported by U.S. government funds. The Center
may be the next target of Chinese pressure on
Nepal. The U.S. government and its partners must
work to keep the reception center open. Closure
would frustrate the ability of UNHCR to offer
protection, and expose Tibetans fleeing China
through Nepal to exploitation and refoulement.

* Legal documentation is critical for the Tibetan
community in Nepal. It is in the interests of the
Nepalese government as well as the Tibetan
community for a durable solution to be found for
the long-staying Tibetan refugee population in
Nepal, including the issuance of Refugee
Certificates, opening the path to citizenship,
and cooperation with the US government-proposed
refugee resettlement program for certain Tibetans in Nepal.

Links:
[1] http://www.himalmag.com/The-new-old_nw3104.html
[2]
http://china.hrw.org/press/news_release/nepal_abuses_against_tibetans_protesting_china_s_tibet_crackdown
[3] http://savetibet.org/
[4] http://www.kantipuronline.com/kolnews.php?&nid=205142
[5] http://savetibet.org/files/documents/2007-2008RefugeeReport.pdf
[6]
http://savetibet.org/documents/reports/2003-refugee-report-dangerous-crossing-2003-update
[7]
http://www.nepalnews.com/main/index.php/news-archive/2-political/463-govt-mulls-security-deployment-to-nepal-china-border.html
[8] http://boxun.com/
[9] http://phayul.com/
[10]
http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?article=Visiting
MPs from Nepal pledge support for Tibet&id=25001
[11] http://www.kantipuronline.com/kolnews.php?nid=202408
[12] http://www.telegraphnepal.com/news_det.php?news_id=5845
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