Nepal deports Tibetan refugee ahead of China envoy visit

March 2nd, 2008 - 1:01 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, March 2 (IANS) In an unprecedented move, Nepal’s multi-party government ordered a raid on a centre for Tibetan refugees and deported one of them to appease China that is sending yet another team to Kathmandu to strengthen its grip on Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala. China’s Assistant Foreign Minister He Yafei arrives here Sunday, heading a nine-member delegation for the seventh round of bilateral consultations with Nepal that will focus on developing warmer diplomatic ties and greater cooperation.

During the meet that opens Monday, the Chinese minister will also deliver a policy statement on Sino-Nepal relations and cooperation.

To ensure a smooth visit for He, Nepal police last week raided the Tibetan Refugee Reception Center in Kathmandu, which is funded by the UN, in an unprecedented violation of the “gentlemen’s agreement” with the world body.

The centre, funded by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and run by Lutheran World Federation, acts as a transit point for Tibetans fleeing from China-controlled Tibet Autonomous Region and trying to reach their exiled leader Dalai Lama’s seat in Dharamsala town in India.

On Feb 23, a posse of 50-60 armed policemen raided the centre late at night to arrest 27-year-old Tsering Dhundup, who had escaped to Nepal from Qinghai province in Tibet and was seeking to flee to India.

Nepal police arrested the fugitive on the allegation by China that he had run away after stabbing a Chinese man in Tibet, and handed him over to the Chinese authorities.

In the past, acting on the behest of China, Nepal closed down the office of the Dalai Lama’s representative in Kathmandu and had deported at least two groups of Tibetan fugitives to China.

However, this is the first time that it raided the centre.

The New York-headquartered pro-Tibet organisation International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) expressed grave concern at the incident.

“We are alarmed by the intimidating nature of the late-night police raid on Tibetan refugees who are vulnerable to scare tactics, having just escaped repression in Tibet,” said Mary Beth Markey, ICT vice president.

“The show of force was likely staged for a Chinese government audience, which apparently determines Nepal’s policies with regard to Tibetans.”

ICT said the situation indicated the increasing vulnerability of Tibetans in Nepal due to Chinese influence on Kathmandu.

In 2005, Nepal also closed down the Tibetan Welfare Office in Kathmandu established in the 1960s.

Last month, Nepal’s Supreme Court ruled against the registration of the Bhota Welfare Society, a Nepalese run NGO intended to provide community and humanitarian services to both long staying and newly arrived Tibetan refugees in Nepal.

The Chinese embassy in Kathmandu had opposed the registration, accusing the NGO of being an operation of the “Dalai clique”.

Around 2,500 to 3,500 Tibetans make the dangerous crossing through the Himalayas into exile in Nepal and from there to India, each year.

A high percentage of the new refugees are children sent by their parents to study in Tibetan exile schools due to inadequate or unaffordable schools in Tibet, and monks and nuns seeking to practice their religion in exile due to persecution in Tibet.

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