KATHMANDU: Nepal police arrested two senior leaders of the Tibetan community from capital city Kathmandu on Monday, ahead of protest rallies scheduled to kick off in New Delhi, signifying it was intensifying its already tight grip on the vulnerable diaspora.
Thinley Lama, the current volunteer coordinator for welfare activities for Tibetan refugees in Nepal, was arrested along with his predecessor, Thinley Gyatso, from the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office by a posse of policemen and whisked away to a police station for interrogation.
This is the second time that Lama has been arrested in three months. He was detained and intimidated in August after he had held a press conference to rebut media allegations about his office being involved in providing documents to people travelling abroad on fake passports.
The office was earlier called the office of exiled Tibetan leader Dalai Lama’s representative in Nepal but changed its identity after Nepal ordered its closure six years ago, saying under its adherence to the One China policy, that regards Tibet as an integral part of the communist republic, there could not be two separate envoys from the same country.
The two leaders were arrested ahead of the first public protests to be organised in New Delhi from Tuesday by the new Tibetan government in exile, now renamed the Central Tibetan Administration. Lobsang Sangay, the Harvard scholar who was elected the new Kalon Tripa or premier of the Tibetan parliament in exile and was handed over political responsibilities by the Dalai Lama in August, will start his maiden movement to draw world attention to the plight of Tibetans in China-controlled Tibet by organising rallies in New Delhi from Oct 18-21.
Sources said the crackdown in Kathmandu came after speculation that members of the community from Nepal would also be taking part in the demonstrations in India. In a remarkable coincidence, the new Chinese ambassador to Nepal, Yang Houlan, took part in a media interaction in the capital on Sunday in which he said the anti-China protests in Nepal were fomented by “international forces” in a bid to obstruct China’s development. The envoy however did not clarify who the forces were.
The arbitrary arrest of the two Tibetan leaders comes less than a month after Nepal’s immigration authorities dawdled over the fate of 23 Tibetan refugees caught fleeing from Tibet amidst allegations that they were being pressured by the Chinese authorities to deport the group to China, where the fugitives faced jail and possible torture. However, after protests by western countries and human rights organisations in Nepal, the refugees were handed over to the UN refugee agency.
The Tibetan protests, in another coincidence, will take place around the time Nepal’s new Maoist Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai will be in the Indian capital on his maiden official visit starting from Thursday. Also, Chinese Vice-Minister Chen Zhimin from the public security ministry is arriving in Kathmandu on Monday to hold security talks with Nepal’s home ministry officials. Next month, Nepal’s army chief Gen Chhatra Man Singh Gurung will visit China to discuss non-lethal military assistance for his troops, the local media said.