Twelve Tibetans remain in detention after being rounded up by police in Kathmandu, Nepal on Tuesday, June 21, following a candlelight vigil intended to show solidarity with Tibetan demonstrators in Tibet.
The Tibetan community in Kathmandu had organized a week of prayers for the long life of the Dalai Lama, who turns 76 on July 6, and to express solidarity with Tibetan demonstrators in Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) a Tibetan autonomous area in the traditional Kham region of Tibet (todayís Sichuan province). Demonstrations by monks, nuns and laypeople have continued in Kardze since protests erupted in Tibetís capital city Lhasa and spread across the Tibetan plateau in 2008.
On June 21 hundreds of Tibetans in Kathmandu took part in the ritual circumambulation of the Boudha Stupa, chanting prayers and carrying Tibetan and Nepali national flags and Buddhist flags and banners. The Nepalese police attempted to stop the march, but eventually allowed the Tibetans to complete the walk around the stupa after confiscating the flags and banners. Police detained three Tibetans at the scene and continued to stop and search Tibetans after the crowd dispersed and made nine more arrests.
The 12 Tibetans are being held in poor conditions in a crowded basement cell at Boudha police station. ICT has found that some Tibetans released from detention under similar circumstances suffer chronic illness. It is not known what charges these 12 will face, but local Tibetans are hopeful for their imminent release.
The Nepalese government typically carries out preventive detentions of Tibetans before significant Tibetan national anniversaries or visits of senior Chinese officials, but since 2008, police harassment and restrictions on Tibetan gatherings have increased in Kathmandu. The current situation for Tibetans in Nepal is detailed in ICTís report, “Dangerous Crossing: Conditions Impacting the Flight of Tibetan Refugees,” released on June 20.
A June 24 report in the Himalayan Times about the detentions of the twelve Tibetans quoted Nepalese Deputy Superintendent of Police Shyam Lal Gyawali as saying that ìthe police had to intervene after the Tibetan exiles sporting headbands and t-shirts reading “Free Tibet” tried to stage an anti-China protest. Tibetan observers told ICT that no ëanti-China protestí took place, but only a vigil, peaceful march and prayers.
This latest incident takes place in an environment in which China has increased diplomatic pressure to block protests about repression in Tibet and has stepped-up bilateral initiatives targeting what it deems to be “anti-China” activities. In a new report published by the Jamestown Foundation, analyst Vijay Sakhuja concludes: “The ongoing political paralysis in Nepal caused by the small Himalayan nation’s inability to draft a Constitution coupled with the rise of Maoists as a major political force in Nepalís mainstream politics have created the ideal conditions for Beijing to increase its leverage and influence over Nepal.”
Security and information sharing agreements initiated in 2010 between China and Nepal have serious implications for the safety of both long-staying and transiting Tibetan refugees in Nepal. On July 26, 2010, the first “Nepal-China border Security and Law Enforcement Talks” concluded with Beijing and Kathmandu agreeing to establish high-level intelligence sharing capabilities targeting ìanti-Chinaî activities and border management, in addition to a pledge from Beijing for an annual aid package to enhance Nepalís handling of ìanti-Chinaî activities.
Greater cooperation between Chinese and Nepalese security forces regarding intelligence sharing and border enforcement raises concerns over Nepalís commitment to ensure the safety of Tibetans transiting through Nepal and increases the threat of forced repatriation. The first known case of forced repatriation since 2003 occurred in July 2010 when three Tibetans refugees were apprehended in Nepal and flown to Tibet by helicopter accompanied by a Nepalese politician and policeman.