Nepal fails to stamp out Tibetan protests

March 6th, 2009 - 3:29 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, March 6 (IANS) Despite a ban by Nepal’s Maoist government, Tibetan refugees have kept up protests against the Chinese annexation of the former Buddhist kingdom and vowed to observe the 50th anniversary of their uprising.

The protests started from Feb 25, marked as the first day of Lhosar, the Tibetan new year.

This year, the exiled leader of the Tibetans, the Dalai Lama, had asked the diaspora not to celebrate Lhosar since it also marks the first anniversary of a Chinese crackdown in Tibet last year.

According to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Dharamsala, India, the uprising in Tibet in 2008 saw at least 120 known Tibetans killed in police firing, at least 6,500 Tibetans arrested, over a thousand cases of involuntary or enforced disappearance, at least ten known cases of death due to torture, and at least 190 varying prison terms.

While the Tibetan community in Nepal did not celebrate Lhosar, though Nepal’s new Maoist government declared it a national holiday, a group of protesters however braved imprisonment and deportation to paint ‘Free Tibet’ on the gate of the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu and hoist the Tibetan flag atop the barbed wire fencing.

Though the matter was hushed up with the Nepali media unaware of the gesture, the stung Chinese Embassy took up the issue angrily with the Maoist government of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda.

Embarrassed that the defiance had taken place at a time Prachanda had been assuring a stream of visiting Chinese delegations that his government would stop anti-China protests by Tibetans, the Prachanda government has since then banned all protests, sit-ins and demonstrations in front of the Chinese Embassy and its visa office.

However, Tibetans said they would begin holding mass prayers from Monday in defiance of China’s displeasure.

The week-long prayers are meant for the thousands of people who died at the hands of the Chinese troops in 1950 when Beijing quelled an uprising against its invasion. The prayers are also meant to mark the first anniversary of the suppression last year when Tibetans redoubled protests over China being allowed to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games despite its controversial human rights record.

In the past, China had pressured Nepal’s earlier governments into stopping peaceful prayers on the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s birthdays.

This time, it remains to be seen if Nepal, under renewed pressure from Beijing, will allow the uprising anniversary prayers.

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