Maoist workers Hiralal Shrestha (pictured) and Gyaljen Sherpa face an uncertain future in the Chinese prison in Lhasa, where they have been incarcerated for the last three years. They were arrested by Chinese police in Khasa bajar for possession of arms and communications equipment. Although Hiralal explained that they were Maoist workers, the police filed a criminal case of arms smuggling against them. Both are now on death row.
The death sentence handed down to the two Maoists has been the subject of international attention. In addition to appeals from international human rights organisations, Nepal has also requested China to reconsider the verdict. Even when the relationship between the Maoists and government was at its worst, former premier Sher Bahadur Deuba had asked the Chinese government to repeal the death sentences. Sources say that this is already under consideration. Meanwhile, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan says the final decision is yet to be made.
Before the peace talks summit began, the Maoist leaders had requested Prime Minister Girija Koirala to again appeal for the release of the duo. There is no confirmation on whether the current Nepal government has already made any efforts towards that end.
While they await a final verdict, Shrestha and Sherpa are optimistic. They keep busy, labouring for two hours a day on the prison farm. They receive free medical treatment, clothing in addition to the prison uniform, access to a telephone, and are permitted to meet visitors. "He looked happy and has no grudge against the Chinese government," said Hiralal's brother Yandralal.
Former UML worker Shrestha was a teacher in his Sindupalchok village and quit his full-time job to join Maoist politics seven years ago. He was a senior member of the Sindu-Dolkha district committee. His comrade Gyaljen owned a small shop. Since they lived close to the China border, they travelled frequently to Tibet.
Nepali porters helped the Chinese police to arrest Shrestha and Sherpa.