China pressures Nepal to disrupt Tibetan polls

October 4th, 2010 - 3:22 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Oct 4 (IANS) Nepal’s giant northern neighbour China pressured the Himalayan republic into disrupting the 15th general election held by Tibetan refugees to choose a new prime minister and government in exile, a rights group said.

On Sunday, for the first time in Nepal’s history, armed police stormed three centres in Kathmandu Valley where the community was holding the low-profile vote and seized ballot boxes despite tacit permission given earlier by the Nepali authorities, the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said in a statement.

“This was a terrible day for Tibetans in Nepal,” the ICT quoted a Tibetan, who witnessed the disruption, as saying. “People felt desperate. Many of the Tibetan elders in the community were crying, they were not able to do anything as there were so many police and they were so aggressive.”

Nearly 9,000 Tibetans in exile were to have taken part in the election held in Boudha, Swayambhu and Jawalakhel, the three areas of the valley where the diaspora is concentrated.

It was part of the exercise held in India, where exiled Tibetan leader Dalai Lama presides over his government in exile, Bhutan, North America and wherever there is a sizeable number of Tibetan refugees.

Over 79,000 Tibetans had registered with the Tibetan Election Commission to elect a new Kalon Tripa - prime minister - and 44 other officials. Of the voters, around 20,000 are from Nepal.

The home ministry of Nepal issued a statement, justifying the crackdown.

“The so-called election violates Nepal’s foreign policy (of One China that regards Tibet as an inalienable part of the Chinese republic),” the statement said.

The ICT, quoting Tibetan sources in touch with prominent Nepali rights advocates, said the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu had instructed Nepal’s home ministry to stop the election.

“This is the latest incident of assertive actions by the Chinese authorities in Nepal’s sovereign territory, which has led to a tougher approach by the Nepali authorities to the Tibetan community,” the New York-based rights body said.

“More entrenched and vigorous strategies by the Beijing government to influence the Nepali government, border forces, judicial system and civil society at a time of political transition in Nepal mean that Tibetans in Nepal are increasingly vulnerable, demoralised and at risk.”

The seizure of the nearly 20 ballot boxes is of serious concern as the ballot papers contain voters’ personal and identifying details.

Given a recent agreement between the Chinese and Nepali governments to share information relating to “anti-China” activities in Nepal, the diaspora is alarmed that the information could now be passed to Beijing.

Sunday’s elections were the first step towards the 2011 general elections, which will decide the third directly elected Tibetan prime minister, marking the first democratic transfer of executive power. The final round of elections will be held next year March 20.

The present Kalon Tripa, based in Dharamsala, India, is Samdhong Rinpoche.

Beijing, which succeeded in pushing Nepal to close the office of the Dalai Lama’s representative in Nepal in 2004 and has prevented public celebrations to mark the Dalai Lama’s birthday, is seeking to strengthen ties with Nepal’s political parties and government after its bid to support King Gyanendra failed with the abolition of monarchy.

This month, Nepal’s President Ram Baran Yadav, Vice-President Paramnand Jha and leader of the opposition Maoist party Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda are scheduled to visit China.

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