Nepal bans US climber for two years over Tibet

July 11th, 2008 - 1:49 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, July 11 (IANS) The Nepal government has slapped a two-year ban on two Western climbers for the first time in the mountaineering history of the Himalayan nation, which boasts of eight of the world’s 14 highest peaks. The ministry of tourism, culture and civil aviation has imposed the ban on American William B. Holland as part of the government’s policy to uphold the “One China” policy of its northern neighbour China.

China regards Tibet as an inalienable part of the communist republic and Nepal’s government has pledged to support the policy. It has also pledged not to allow its soil to be used for any anti-China activity.

Holland became a victim of this policy in May when, under pressure from China, Nepal first put a temporary curb on expeditions to Mt Everest - the world’s highest peak - and stepped up security in the Everest area to prevent mountaineers from taking part in any pro-Tibet demonstrations.

Holland was detained at the Everest base camp after security personnel found a “Free Tibet” T-shirt in his backpack. He was subsequently turned away and deported from Nepal.

Now, in a bid to prevent him from embarking on any more pro-Tibet activity in Nepal and also to deter other mountaineers from taking up the Tibet cause, Nepal has imposed a two-year ban on the American, which prohibits him from climbing any peak in Nepal.

A Nepali trekking agency that handled logistics for the expedition of which Holland was a member, was fined Nepali Rs.10,000 ($155), also a first in the history of Nepal.

Besides Holland, Nepal has also banned Josef Kubica from Slovakia for two years for being caught without a climbing permit. Kubica was found heading towards Mt Everest without having paid the permit fee.

The high fee at times leads to shoe-string budget climbers trying to sneak up to the peaks without obtaining the permit.

In the past, at least two mountaineers reportedly froze to death on Nepal’s Himalayan ranges. They were climbing in stealth in a bid to dodge the authorities and could not be rescued in time.

Following intense criticism, Nepal opened the route to Mt Everest after the Olympic Torch reached the 8,848 metre summit safely. However, China is yet to open the northern route to the peak via Tibet.

China has also closed the border between Tibet and Nepal, causing famine in remote northern Nepal districts that depend on Chinese border towns for food supplies. The vigil is to suppress protests by Tibetan refugees and their demands for freedom and rights ahead of the Olympic Games to be held in Beijing next month.

China has also expressed a desire to see the open border between India and Nepal to be closed or tightly regulated to prevent Tibetans residing in India from crossing over to Nepal and taking part in anti-China protests in Kathmandu that have continued since March, defying a harsh crackdown by Nepali police.

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