Tibetans have been living as refugees in Nepal for half a century following the Lhasa uprising of 1959-60. At least 20,000 Tibetans were officially registered until 1989, when the government stopped registering them after adopting the "one China policy". However, Nepal entered into a "gentleman's agreement" with the UNHCR and promised to provide safe passage to Tibetans who cross the Himalayan passes to its territory en route to India and beyond.
Two decades since, Nepal has neither been gentle on Tibetans living in Nepal, nor kept its word on safe passage. Instead, unknown numbers of Tibetans, possibly in their thousands have been barred from crossing over or forcibly deported back to China. In May 2003, 18 Tibetans who had crossed over to Nepal were forcibly sent back, leading to a national and international condemnation. Nepal has been criticised by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists, for its poor human rights record not just towards its own citizens but also for the way we have treated Tibetans over the years. This week's visit by US Deputy Under-Secretary Kelly Clements was the latest expression of international concern.
But there is hypocrisy in some of the European and American outrage over Nepal's policy on Tibetans. One hasn't seen the same degree of outrage about refugees from Bhutan in Nepal, nor has there been pressure on Thimphu to take the 100,000 refugees back. And since many of those OECD countries themselves have been known to buckle under Chinese trade or diplomatic pressure from time to time, how do they expect the weak and fractious governments of tiny Nepal to stand up to the fire-breathing dragon next door? Nepal has tried to balance its geopolitical need to keep Beijing happy with its international human rights obligations towards refugees. The zeal with which successive governments have deported fleeing Tibetans goes to show that there is an undeclared unanimity on the issue, across the political spectrum in Nepal. The political elites of this country must take note that our geo-strategic interests cannot over rule fundamentals of universal humanitarian values.
The violent crackdown on monks holding peaceful protests in 2008 were beamed around the world, tarnishing this country's image. Every Lhosar or Dalai Lama birthday police makes pre-emptive arrests and suppresses celebration. Last July three Tibetans were deported back to China, and in March police prevented Tibetans from holding an election to choose their leader in exile. Even the monks travelling to Namo Baudha were detained by the police.
For its unjustified restriction on Tibetans, Nepal stands in violation of Article 18 (1) and 19 (2) of International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which mandates that the states respect rights of an individual or a community within its territory to exercise freedom of opinion and expression in any medium and form within the law of the land. Nepal has also violated "principle of non-refoulement" inscribed in Article 33 of 1951 Refugee Convention which states: 'No Contracting State shall expel or return ("refouler") a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality,membership of a particular social group or political opinion.' Even as a non-party to the convention, Nepal has an obligation to respect principle of "non-refoulement" as a part of customary international law.
Not only has the government shown a complete disregard towards its international obligations, it has also violated Article 33( c) and 34 (2) of the Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007, which mandates adopting a political system that fully abides by, protects and promotes universally accepted norms of human rights.
Nepal must now clearly demonstrate that its domestic and foreign policy is in consonance with international commitments, and get the message across to Beijing that while it is committed to the "one China policy" and gives importance to its bilateral relationship, we cannot allow the basic values on which this country has been founded to be undermined.
A Tibetan refugee shares a personal observation on the situation of Tibetans in Nepal with a special reference to Mustang.
10 JUNE 2011 | 5:38 PM NST
2. Susal Stebbins Collins
Thank you for this important and brave piece of reporting. I am aware of Nepalis who have been harassed by agents of the Chinese government for speaking up/writing about these issues. The pressure from this boulder on the side of the yam of Nepal may be growing, but the life force and integrity of the yam can still prevail!
10 JUNE 2011 | 5:56 PM NST
It is interesting to note that not too long ago the CIA were arming these "refugees" to attack Tibet. What is the evidence that similar adventures are not being planned now?
Is it in our interest to destabilise Tibet?
Why should Nepal take sides in the competition between the US and China? Surely it is better to stop any activities that could be used to destabilise Tibet?
11 JUNE 2011 | 3:11 PM NST
4. Naresh Neupane
............Realizing that the individual, having duties to other individuals and to the community to which he belongs, is under a responsibility to strive for the promotion and observance of the rights recognized in
the present Covenant,..........
Anuurag Ji! Do you believe in words!! ? Or in the meanings implied, or necessitated or just understood?
The countries like nepal have so many obligations to meet. We cannot manage to accept so costly obligation of maintaining international standard of human rights.
It doesn't mean we have to resort to violence, but violence isn't just yes or no or in-between; it's the gross reaction of poverty, illiteracy.....Nepal should respect Tibetan refugee's right to protest, and that it has. I'm sorry to the man with red temple and nose but such face, if you believe I was little mischievous in my school days, had my similar face twice or thrice. Not a single photo or caption can't justify the whole affair, and thus, your assertions. You know, much talked Tiannanmen had 400-800 deaths but Ayodhya Controversy had almost 5000+ casualities (considering subsequent clashes) [according to Wikipedia]. Tell me how many, and much, Tibetan refugee/s was/were seriously wounded, or killed!
And if you believe in words, please look correctly to the statements in the preamble..it has he written, meaning this Covenant doesn't consider the half section of humanity, female, liable to abide, and be protected by, such covenant; otherwise, why so dearth in the pronounal word She?
Please answer this......
11 JUNE 2011 | 9:09 PM NST
5. Tsangmo #4 What a clown you are. Do you honestly think you can justify the treatment of Tibetans by the Nepal government? You should have been in the street that day to know how politely "your police " were kicking Tibetan ass that day.Had you been there as you boast of your school days, you'd have peed your pants dude...Gees..And what kind of crappy argument is that- Nepal has "so many obligations" that it cannot meet "International human rights standard" ? And you honestly think you deserve an answer? Oh yes, you are right about one thing though. The Preamble of the Covenant is problematic in its address....but hey, the piece was drafted back in 1966...when the second wave had just kicked in...give them a break...i'm sure the dude who wrote this piece did not exist then...so why be mad at him?lol...
11 JUNE 2011 | 12:47 AM NST
6. ansu avidit
#4-I am appalled by your utter disregard of Tibetan People's plight.Are you trying to say that the beating you got as a school boy and the beating this man got at the hand o the security to be same?? Shame on you!!
12 JUNE 2011 | 5:51 AM NST
7. lobsang diki lama
who can escaped unlike rest of previous kingdom....it is very ashameful there is 0 sense of humanity left.
12 JUNE 2011 | 12:00 PM NST
8. Naresh Neupane
#4, 5, 6
I was a little oddball to compare my mischiefs with the man shown right here. Honestly, I believe that refugess have a lot of plights to mete out basic needs, including in identity, employment, culture and even language.
Let me defend:
Do you remember that nepal is committed to 'one-China policy' not because Nepal is so ejaculated to be representative and liberal, but because on many fronts like economics, size, geopolitics etc., Nepal scores the bottom rung. It's just the obligation..imposed upon us.
We, though, don't want to become a Pakistan..at least we don't maintain double standard.
Motherland is probably the place where one strives, wrote one writer once; so Tibetans living in nepal, whatever they may profess themselves of their nationalities or culture, are Nepali brothers. I personally hail them in this land.
I just meant that agreements are substandard and sardonic version of humanitarian efferts meant to all people around the world.
I also regret for our govt. dismantling the protests meant to espouse the voices...but is it scrutable and manifest that pics of such protests are heralded with such captions of democacyspeak that i just remember the moments such for our friends from Bhutan? I'm always unsatisfied, but is it satisfying for you all that some large bunch of people, with similar plights, are neglected?
12 JUNE 2011 | 3:25 PM NST
I just do not understand why this is an issue. Nepal cannot deal with Tibetean issue plain and simple. If Nepal's official position is Tibetan are illegals then Nepal has to deport them to China. If Nepal's position is that they are refugees then send them to UN and let the UN deal with it.
For the idiots, who are complaining about Nepalese cops treatment of Tibetan, thats how you deal with rioters. IF you have any doubts check the videos how the western nations dealt with them in olympics. So stop complaining, you ungrateful idiots.
You all have the option to follow the rule of the land or get the hell out.
12 JUNE 2011 | 7:23 PM NST
Currently the Dalai Lama is in Australia. China has warned the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her cabinet not to meet His Holliness and they have obediently complied. Even the Premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett doesn't want to meet him. Australia doesn't want to upset China, as it is a major trading patner.
If China can bully a country like Australia, Nepal doesn't stand a chance.
13 JUNE 2011 | 8:28 AM NST
The Tibetan "refugees" have already abused their hospitality by staging armed attacks in Tibet from Nepal. I don't think think it would be sensible to give them the benefit of the doubt again.
13 JUNE 2011 | 10:21 AM NST
Actually the way Nepal has bludgeoned the protesting Tibetans with brute police force is a shame for a nation that incessantly sells itself as the birthplace of Shakyamuni and the nation that gave Buddhism to the world.
Having said that, these Western nations are absolute hypocrites. They use the Tibetan refugee issue to shoot at China by putting the gun on Nepal's shoulders. They cower before the Chinese but pontificate to poor Nepal about human right of the Tibetans. Even Obama shows the Dalai Lama out from the back door and through the garbage bags, so as not to provoke China. And the gall of these Western impostors to preach to poor, helpless and weak Nepal who has geostrategic considerations of her own wrt China about the need for Nepal to respect the right of Tibetans! Why dont you practice what your preach first America, EU and Australia? Shame on you...
16 JUNE 2011 | 1:09 PM NST
Nepal should offer to mediate between the US and China re Tibet.
Then, everytime either side complains to Nepal about the refugee issue Nepal will be able to chide both sides for not taking up our sincere efforts to mediate the issue.
We can even set aside a special room in Singha Durbar or the President's building to show that we are serious and are ready to offer our good offices at any time the parties wish to come to their senses.
Please watch these video clips (made by The Sambhad Nepal ï¿½ a Nepalese Human Rights organisation) ï¿½ Unheard Voices of Tibetans in Nepal.
Many of our Nepali friends ï¿½ particularly those who are the defenders of human rights, are making very positive contribution by upholding and promoting the voices of refugees particularly the Tibetans, who are also discriminated in Nepal.
Organised by The Sambhad Nepal on 3rd August 2008 (19th Shrawan, 2065) in Pokhara, Mr Sudip Pathak, President of Human Rights Organisation of Nepal (HURON), said,"Refugees in Nepal are not treated equally. The Tibetan refugees are arrested and handed back (to the Chinese authorities) but not the Bhutanese. The Government helped the Bhutanese refugees (of Nepalese origin) to travel to the United States of America but in the case of Tibetans, they haven't done so."
Mr Achut Acharya of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Nepal, Regional Office in Pokhara, said, "We have not been able to treat the refugees (Tibetan and Bhutanese) equally. We don't pay much attention to the Bhutanese refugees because Bhutan doesn't have much influence on Nepalese politics. Tibetan refugees should be able to access the Justice system of Nepal, if needed."