China puts off Nepal visits over Tibet fears

March 10th, 2009 - 2:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, March 10 (IANS) China, which recently sent three delegations in a month to woo Nepal’s Maoist government, has decided to shelve further visits this month fearing protests by Tibetan exiles marking the 50th anniversary of their failed uprising against the Chinese government.
At least three delegations that were planning to visit Nepal have deferred their trips. These include a friendship association team from Beijing and two delegations from Lhasa and Shanghai.

A Nepali trade delegation that was readying to visit China has also postponed its trip in view of protests anticipated throughout March in both Tibet and Nepal.

Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, who will pay a second visit to China this year, has also not been able to finalise the date since Beijing wants to wait and watch the Tibetan reaction.

The outcome of Prachanda’s second visit and the quantum of aid pledged by Beijing would be determined by the Maoist government’s success in controlling anti-China protests by Tibetans in Nepal.

Last year, braving the police, Tibetans had kept up protests in Kathmandu from February to almost September. This year, Beijing fears greater turbulence since it has decided to celebrate March 28, which saw the dissolution of the Tibetan government of the Dalai Lama, as “Serfs’ Emancipation Day”.

Though Nepal’s Maoist government has pledged to follow the One China policy and said it would not allow its soil to be used for anti-China activities, on Feb 25, the first day of the Tibetan new year, a group of Tibetans succeeded in painting “Free Tibet” on the gate of the Chinese embassy here and hoisting the Tibetan flag atop the barbed wire fencing.

It was specially mortifying for the new Chinese ambassador to Nepal, Qiu Guohong, since the incident occurred during the three-day visit of a delegation headed by Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue.

Hu took it up with the Maoist government, which subsequently banned all protests near the Chinese embassy and its visa office.

Beijing had recalled Qiu’s predecessor, ambassador Zheng Xianglin, for Nepal’s failure to control the Tibetan protests last year that embarrassed the Chinese government at a time it was hosting the 2008 Olympic Games.

On Tuesday, there was an unprecedented turnout of security forces at Kathmandu’s leading monasteries where Tibetans are scheduled to hold week-long prayers for people killed in a violent upsurge in Tibet last year.

Reports poured in about indiscriminate detention of monks and nuns from the streets.

“I am a Nepali,” said a tonsured monk wearing the red robe of Tibetan Buddhists. “I was trying to go to the immigration office Monday to obtain a visa for my sister who would be arriving from Canada. But I was detained by police on the suspicion I was a supporter of the Dalai Lama seeking to stage public protests in Nepal.”

An unconfirmed report said that on Monday night, Nepali security forces detained nearly 120 monks heading towards the Nepal-Tibet border in three buses. While police say they were trying to enter Tibet to stage protests, reports say they were monks returning to their monasteries.

The Tibetan Reception Centre, the transit centre for Tibetan fugitives who cross into Nepal to reach Dharamsala, has been under tight vigilance, Tibetans said.

“The centre is being watched by Chinese espionage agencies,” said a Tibetan. “They are also following the buses in which the refugees leave.”

On Monday, a Tibetan cultural centre at Jorpati in Kathmandu was scheduled to hold prayers for the victims of last year’s violence. But the programme was cancelled at the last moment, reportedly under threat of arrest and deportation by Nepali authorities.

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