HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: Human Rights Watch today said Nepal has imposed increasing restrictions on Tibetan refugees living in Nepal due to strong pressure from China.
In its new report unveiled in the Valley today, the New York-based human rights defenders asked the new government of Nepal to make it clear to China that it will accept Tibetans who flee persecution as refugees and will not restrict basic rights of peaceful expression, assembly, and association.
The 100-page report, “Under China’s Shadow: Mistreatment of Tibetans in Nepal” concluded that Tibetan refugee communities were facing a de facto ban on political protests, sharp restrictions on public activities promoting Tibetan culture and religion and routine abuse by Nepali security forces such as excessive use of force, arbitrary detention, ill-treatment in detention and threats and intimidation.
“The situation for the Tibetan refugee community in Nepal has markedly deteriorated since China’s violent crackdown on protests in Tibet in 2008,” said Brad Adams, HRW Asia Director. “While Nepal continues to offer some protection to Tibetans, it is succumbing to Chinese pressure to limit the flow of Tibetans across the border and imposing restrictions on Tibetans in violation of its legal obligations.”
Nepal is home to a sizeable Tibetan community and has long played a crucial role as a haven and gateway for Tibetans fleeing repression in China. But, the report didn’t mention the exact number. As a result of a massive security presence in Tibetan areas of China and increased cooperation between Nepali and Chinese security forces in recent years, China has been able to stem the flow of Tibetan refugees escaping to Nepal, the report said. In 2013, fewer than 200 Tibetans were recorded as having fled China, as compared to a pre-2008 annual average of more than 2,000. Citing unnamed Nepali officials, the report also claimed that Nepal security officials in cooperation with China’s border security have been repatriating Tibetan refugees to Tibet forcibly.
“International law prohibits Nepal from forcibly repatriating Tibetan refugees because they would be at risk of torture or persecution in China,” it added.
The HRW also noted the so-called “Gentleman’s Agreement” between Nepal and the UNHCR, as per which Nepal guarantees Tibetans who reach its territory safe passage to India, where they can obtain refugee status.