Nepal police arrest 10 secret Tibetan marchers

July 10th, 2008 - 3:38 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, July 10 (IANS) Police have arrested 10 Tibetans who were on a secret march to Lhasa from a village in north Nepal regarded as the gateway to Mt Everest. The eight men and two women were part of a second team of Tibetans who began a stealthy journey to Tibet. The march started the same day a band of 42 monks and nuns on a similar mission were arrested near the tightly guarded Nepal-Tibet border and brought back to Kathmandu.

The 10 protesters were held at Namche Bazar in Solukhumbu district in mountainous north Nepal Wednesday night. However, till late Thursday, attempts to fly them back to Kathmandu were thwarted by bad weather, the Tibetan diaspora in the capital told IANS.

The secret march began June 27. The marchers had planned to travel through the high mountain passes and enter Tibet. Once inside, they had planned to hold a rally, urging for the restoration of human rights in Tibet, release of all political prisoners and an independent investigation into the security clampdown in Lhasa in March in which over 200 unarmed protesters were feared to have been killed.

The arrests come with just a month left for the Olympic Games to kick off in Beijing.

Determined not to allow any anti-China demonstrations during the Games, Beijing has closed its boundary with north Nepal, causing famine in remote northern Nepali towns that depend to Chinese border towns for supply of food grain.

Nepal, home to about 20,000 Tibetans, has been in a severe dilemma since March when the exiles began protests before the Chinese embassy and the UN office here.

Although police used excessive force on the protesters, mostly monks, nuns and women, the demonstrations have continued.

Stung by the protests, China stepped up pressure on Nepal to take harsher steps against the refugees. It resulted in a crackdown by Nepal police who raided the homes of the leaders of the diaspora and arrested three senior Tibetans.

However, the crackdown was quelled when the US and the EU, two major donors of Nepal, condemned the arrests. This week, Nepal’s Supreme Court asked the government to release the three prisoners.

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