Nepal police hunt for Dalai Lama’s representative

June 19th, 2008 - 10:13 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 19 (IANS) In a manner reminiscent of the royal regime of deposed king Gyanenda, when midnight knocks and arbitrary arrests were the order of the day, Nepal Police Thursday began swooping down on leaders of the Tibetan community in the Himalayan nation, arresting three from their homes and beginning a search for the Dalai Lama’s representative. As policemen in plain clothes began rounding up the community leaders, a fresh protest erupted before the Chinese embassy in the capital, resulting in the arrest of nearly 1,000 Tibetans.

Armed with an arrest warrant signed by Jaya Mukunda Dev Khanal, the chief district officer of Kathmandu, police arrested Kelsang Chung, director of the Tibetan Reception Centre (TRC), Ngawang Sangmo, president of the Regional Tibetan Women’s Association, and its vice-president Tashi Dolma.

They were arrested on the charge that they were impacting public peace and security by taking part in anti-China demonstrations in public places in Nepal and tarnishing the friendly and diplomatic relations between Nepal and China.

The arrest warrant, valid for 90 days, is the most severe measure slapped on Tibetans since the diaspora began protests in March. It comes after the Chinese ambassador to Nepal Zheng Xianglin said the Nepal government must impose severe punishments on protesters to show that it was serious about not allowing Nepal’s soil to be used for anti-China activities.

However, Trinley Gyatso, the Dalai Lama’s representative in Nepal, was not at home when police arrived there and escaped arrest. His whereabouts are currently unknown.

On the heels of the arrests, over 1,000 Tibetans staged a demonstration in front of the Chinese embassy Thursday, demanding an investigation into the deaths allegedly in police firing in Tibet in March and release of people taken prisoners for taking part in the protests.

The demonstration coincides with the arrival of the controversial Olympic torch in Tibet.

The arrests in Nepal, ironically, come on the eve of World Refugee Day, to be observed Friday.

Even as Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), called for the protection of refugees from his office in Geneva, his office in Kathmandu remained silent on the arrest of Chung, who works in coordination with the UNHCR to provide a safe passage for the fleeing Tibetans who arrive in Nepal from Tibet.

Beijing has been trying to get the TRC shut down. On the eve of king Gyanendra’s coup, it had succeeded in getting the Nepal government to close down the office of the Dalai Lama’s representative in Kathmandu. It also pressured Nepal into cancelling the permission given to an NGO to work for the Tibetan community.

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