May 6, 2008
Since March 10, Tibetan exile protests in Kathmandu have proceeded almost on a daily basis. Tibetans keep returning to the streets even though they know the police’s version of “crowd control” may degenerate, as likely as not, into police brutality. The Tibetans’ newfound determination to continue their movement of civil disobedience, in spite of the Nepali government’s long-standing intolerance of anti-Chinese demonstrations, is creating a standoff that cannot continue indefinitely.
On May 1, US Ambassador to Nepal Nancy Powell met with interim Prime Minister G. P. Koirala. According to a US embassy spokesperson, Powell asked Koirala to exercise restraint against peaceful demonstrations staged by Tibetan exiles in Kathmandu. Koirala responded by reiterating what Nepali leaders have been saying for years: Nepal cannot deviate from its “one-China” policy and cannot allow anti-China activities to take place in the Nepali territory.
There is no reason to believe that the Maoist Party, the new heir to Nepal’s government, will soften the country’s traditionally repressive stance when it comes to Tibetan exiles. Just last week, Chinese envoys were in Kathmandu discussing the extension of the Lhasa railroad -- to continue to the Nepalese border, which will intensify trade and tourism with Nepal -- just one sign of the ever-important bond between Chinese and Nepali economies. Still, there is a growing sense that a drawing of lines has developed in the Tibetan refugee community. Sooner or later, something has to give.
In an unexpected move a few days ago, the Sherpa community of Nepal came out in support of the Tibetan refugee community by issuing the following declaration, penned by Ngima Tendup Sherpa, General Secretary of the Sherpa Association of Nepal and passed along to me through an intermediary who translated it into English and requested that I post it. This is the first time the declaration has been published outside Nepal.
SHERPA DECLARATION OF SUPPORT FOR TIBETAN EXILES IN NEPAL
"We, the Sherpa Himalayan community of Nepal, express our serious concern over the barbaric and repressive behavior of the Nepalese government in dealing with the peaceful demonstrations of Tibetan refugees here in Kathmandu –- behavior exhibited in the name of “controlling” demonstrations since March 10th, 2008. These actions are inhumane, repressive and in violation of Tibetans’ basic human rights.
"We are very much worried about those injured both during those peaceful demonstrations and during incarceration afterwards. These abuses are very serious violations of the Interim Constitution of Nepal, which upholds the dignity of all people’s basic human rights.
We strongly condemn and demand the government to cease such barbaric and repressive actions against the Tibetan refugees.
"We share with Tibetans the same religion, culture, language and tradition and we are pained to see beating of protesting Buddhist monks whom we revere very highly. We also urge the government of Nepal to stop the double standard when it comes to dealing with both Tibetan and Bhutanese.
"We are also concerned with the international community’s negative image of Nepalese people as a whole due to repressive behavior of the government towards Tibetan refugees. We request that our government pays attention to world opinion. We stand in solidarity with the Tibetan refugees in this critical moment of Tibetan history. We appeal to all Nepali political parties, civic society and human rights organizations to help stop the government’s repressive actions."