Friday, June 26, 2009

Nepal police arrest Tibetan protesters near Tibet border

Thirty-five Tibetans, including eight women, were reportedly arrested by Nepal police Friday near the Tibetan border as they tried to cross over and stage a protest march in Tibet as part of a “Free Tibet” campaign.

The group of Tibetan exiles, some of whom are said to have Nepali citizenship or ID cards, left from a Buddhist monastery in the capital early in the morning, according IANS. They left Kathmandu around 4am today as the world observed the "International Day Against Torture".The group hired a bus in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu and were on their way to the Tibetan border town of Khasa (Tib: Dram) when they were stopped by the police at Andheri, a town about 30km from the border in Nepal's northernmost Sindhupalchowk district.

"There is no peace in Tibet," one of the protesters told IANS. "People are being killed and tortured. Though we are Tibetans we can't return to our own land." "We had wanted to stage a peace march in Tibet to draw attention to our plight. But Nepal police arrested us." According to DPA, nine Tibetans were detained after they tried to force their way through the police line in their efforts to reach Nepal's international border with the Chinese-occupied Tibet.Tibetan exiles chanted pro-Dalai Lama and Free Tibet slogans and blocked the main highway demanding the release of their colleagues, police told DPA. Police said the bus had been sent back to Kathmandu where the group will be handed over to the immigration authorities for appropriate action. This is the first open show of defiance by Tibetan exiles in Nepal, a country that readily succumbs to Chinese pressure over Tibet issues, in nearly a year.

Last year, Tibetan exiles demonstrated in Kathmandu almost daily for nearly eight months, targeting the Chinese embassy, Chinese embassy consular office and the United Nations after unrest against Chinese rule in Tibet faced brutal Chinese military crackdown. Tibetan demonstrations were routinely stopped by Nepali police, often using excessive force.

The demonstrators regularly faced arrests, intimidation and in some cases individual threats and arbitrary detention.In the midst of protests, China sent a flurry of high-level visits by Chinese officials, including a delegation led by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, to ask Nepal to effectively curb "Free-Tibet activities” while promising to increase assistance to the crisis-stricken country in return.Nepal has more than 20,000 Tibetans refugees concentrated mainly in the Kathmandu valley and Pokhara in western Nepal.

The figure does not include Tibetans who arrived in the country after 1990 because the Nepalese government stopped registering them as refugees. Estimates also suggest between 2,500 and 3,000 Tibetans escape Tibet and enter Nepal each year after a perilous journey over the Himalayas on their way to Dharamsala, the seat of Tibetan Government-in-Exile in north India.This week, a delegation of Nepali MPs visited Dharamsala for the first time and met with the exiled Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama and senior leaders in the exile Tibetan community.The members pledged to initiate efforts to speak for Tibet and the plight of Tibetan refugees in Nepal after they return to their country at the end of their three-day visit here.


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