Nepal unleashes force on Tibetan protesters

March 24th, 2008 - 6:46 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, March 24 (IANS) Even as Nepal’s multi-party, pro-democracy government allowed Bhutanese refugees to exit the country safely and make a fresh start in the US, riot police here Monday brutally beat up unarmed Tibetan refugees, including women, nuns and monks. The police also arrested over 300 people in what human rights activists called a gross display of double standards.

The UN headquarters in Kathmandu Valley and the Maitighar Mandala, a circular park famous for pro-democracy and human rights protests, turned into battlefields as the police armed with batons and even guns swooped down on groups of Tibetans who were sitting peacefully, chanting slogans for independence from China, and brutally tore down the simple placards held by them.

“Shame on you,” spat a 49-year-old woman, who identified herself only as Tsekyi. “What happened to human rights in Nepal?”

The peaceful Tibetan diaspora, who are Buddhists and have been living in Nepal for decades since their parents and grandparents fled Tibet after China invaded the Buddhist kingdom in the 1950s, have been staging peaceful protests in front of the UN office and the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu for a week and a half. week.

The protests, which started after their rally last week in memory of the Dalai Lama’s flight to India 49 years ago, triggered a suppression by the Nepal government.

Nepal supports Beijing’s “One China” policy, which holds Tibet and Taiwan to be an integral part of the communist republic.

Two of the ruling parties in Nepal’s coalition government - the Maoists and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist - have condemned the anti-China protests in Nepal.

The police dragged over 300 people from the two demonstration sites into vans and put them under arrest, unmoved by protests from human rights activists including those of Amnesty International that had organised one of the protests.

Tshering Lalgom, 42, who was born in Nepal, said the protests were to make China stop its actions in Tibet and release all prisoners arrested for espousing the cause of a free Tibet.

“The killings are continuing even today,” she said, choked by sobs. “But no one is taking up the cause of the victims. The world has forgotten that Tibet is ours.”

A large number of prominent Nepal human rights activists, including a former member of the National Human Rights Commission, were also arrested for protesting against the Nepali police suppression of the peaceful sit-ins.

“It is a blatant violation of the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” said Gopal Siwakoti, head of the Institute for Human Rights, Environment and Development.

“It also shows the double standards of a government that allows one group of refugees to exit safely while preventing another from even holding peaceful gatherings.”

Siwakoti said the Nepali crackdown on Tibetans would send a very negative message to the world on the eve of a crucial election next month.

“It will tarnish Nepal’s human rights record and show what a low tolerance level the government has for refugees,” he said.

In a bid to appease Beijing, Nepal has also curbed expeditions to Mt Everest, the highest peak in the world, till the Olympic torch run reaches the 8,848-metre peak’s base so that any potential Tibetan bid to scale the peak and unfurl a “Free Tibet” banner is pipped at the post.

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