China jails Tibetan fugitives deported by Nepal

July 28th, 2010 - 3:05 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, July 28 (IANS) Seven years after triggering international condemnation by violating a “gentlemen’s agreement” and handing over a group of fleeing Tibetan refugees to China, Nepal has again deported three more fugitives under growing Chinese pressure, a rights organisation said.

Two Tibetan monks from Korchak monastery in Tibet, located close to the border with Nepal, and a woman, who was probably a government official, were sent back in an extraordinary way, involving flying them back in a helicopter under the escort of a Nepali politician, the London-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said Wednesday.

The two monks were identified as Dawa, 20, and Dorjee, 21, while the woman was a 22-year-old identified as Penpa.

Penpa and one of the monks have been jailed and will serve around six months, ICT said. The other monk however has been allowed to return to the monastery.

The three were detained by Nepal police last month in northern Humla district bordering Tibet.

The rights organisation said local sources had told it that the Chinese authorities were looking for the woman, hoping to stop her from reaching Kathmandu and travelling onward to India.

Chinese border police were in touch with their Nepali counterparts and after the three were caught, they were taken by helicopter to the border, accompanied by an unidentified Nepali politician and a policeman.

The whole operation was conducted in the utmost secrecy. The first whiff emerged last week after a Nepali television channel mentioned the expulsion briefly without any details.

While cracking down on Tibetan refugees at China’s goading, Nepal, however, has remained furtive about the steps it has been taking for fear of fresh international outcry and possible trade bans.

In 2003, when Chinese officials seized 18 Tibetan refugees from a Kathmandu jail, there were severe repercussions with the US announcing a trade ban.

The ICT feared there could have been other unobserved deportations in the remote border areas.

A near case of deportation occurred last month when a group of Tibetans, including two sick children, were apprehended in the Nepal border region by Nepal police, then abandoned on the difficult route back towards Tibet.

The group hid for two days from Chinese police searching for them in the mountains of Nepal until they were rescued and brought safely to the Tibetan refugee transit centre in Kathmandu.

According to the US State Department 2009 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, Tibetans repatriated from Nepal reportedly suffered torture, including electric shocks, exposure to cold and severe beatings. They were also forced to perform heavy physical labour.

The ICT is asking for an investigation into the deportations.

ICT president Mary Beth Markey said Nepal is duty-bound under its agreement with the UN refugee agency to ensure the safe transit of Tibetan refugees through its territory.

“We urge the Nepal government and the UN refugee agency to work together to investigate this incident, including China’s extra-territorial role, and to adopt remedies that prevent future occur-rences of refoulement from Nepal,” Markey said in a press statement.

The revelation of the deportations comes as China held talks with Nepal in Kathmandu in a bid to further tighten border monitoring.

China’s Vice-Minister for Public Security Chen Zhiming led a Chinese team to Kathmandu to participate in Tuesday’s talks on bilateral cooperation for implementing laws related to border security.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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