Tibetans living in Nepal observed Tibet’s Democracy Day under close watch by local police who kept Tibetan gatherings out of the public eye for fear of offending Nepal’s powerful northern neighbor China, an important source of foreign investment in the Himalayan country.
Thursday marked the 61st anniversary of the seating of Tibet’s first India-based parliament-in-exile, a first step in the political development of the Tibetan diaspora community that now includes the election by popular vote of their political leader, or Sikyong.
Nepalese authorities concerned that Tibetan residents might stage protests outside Nepal’s Chinese consulate deployed large numbers of police to guard the building, Sangpo Lama—program coordinator for the Human Rights Organization of Nepal (HURON)—told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“One could also see many police officers both in uniform and in plain clothes stationed around the Boudhanath Stupa and other Tibetan settlements,” Lama said, referring to a large religious structure central to the social and commercial life of the Tibetan community in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu.
Around 20 officers were also deployed, and a police truck stationed, outside the Jawalakhel Tibetan settlement, also in Kathmandu, he said.
“The Jawalakhel Handicraft Center office hosted the [Democracy Day] observance within its own premises, offering prayers and reading a statement from the Kashag,” the cabinet of the Central Tibetan Administration, Tibet’s India-based exile government, Lama said.
“It has been hard for Tibetans to do anything freely [in Nepal],” Lama said. No arrests or disruptions by police of community events on Thursday were reported, though, he added.
In its Sept. 2 statement, Tibet’s India-based Kashag sent greetings and messages of support to Tibetans still living in the formerly independent Tibet, which was invaded and forcibly annexed by China in 1950.
“Tibetans inside Tibet have maintained indomitable courage and determination in the face of China’s continued policy to exterminate the Tibetan identity, and they have been making all-round efforts to protect Tibet’s religion, culture, language and tradition, for which we remain deeply grateful,” the Kashag said.
“It is this strength that unites the Tibetans in exile and keeps alive the freedom struggle. It is the common wish in our heart to reunite in Tibet, and we would like to appeal to our brethren in Tibet not to lose their determination.”
Nepal, which shares a long border with Tibet, is home to at least 20,000 exiles who began arriving in 1959 when a failed uprising against Chinese rule forced Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to take refuge in India’s Himalayan foothills.
Nepal is seen by China as a partner in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to boost global trade through infrastructure investment, and Nepal’s government has cited promises of millions of dollars of Chinese investment in restricting Tibetan activities in the country.
Nepal’s close political ties with China have left Tibetan refugees in the Himalayan country uncertain of their status, vulnerable to abuses of their rights, and restricted in their freedoms of movement and expression, rights groups say.
Reported by Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.