By THE EDITORIAL BOARD (NY Times): A Human Rights Watch report released this month shows how far Nepal has gone in capitulating to Chinese pressure in cracking down on Tibetan residents and refugees. It details a long list of shameful actions against Tibetans in Nepal, including restrictions on their activities and movements, surveillance and intimidation, arbitrary detention and forcible return to China.
In effect, Nepal has turned itself into a partner of China’s anti-Tibetan policies.
Nepal has long been a way station for Tibetans fleeing China. Many continue on to India, where the Dalai Lama lives and where they can obtain refugee status. Still, some 20,000 Tibetans live in Nepal. Most were born there, yet the government of Nepal refuses, according to Human Rights Watch, to issue at least half of them official identification.
Even those Tibetans who arrived before a 1989 rapprochement with China have no right to own property, or to gain official employment or access to higher education.
Tibetans in Nepal know that wherever they gather to socialize or worship, they are likely to be spied on by Nepalese security forces who make no secret of their close links with Chinese authorities. Nongovernmental organizations that seek to monitor the situation or are engaged in humanitarian work with Tibetans in Nepal are also under surveillance and have been accused of disloyalty.
In February, Nepal’s Parliament elected the longtime democracy activist Sushil Koirala prime minister. Nepal’s Constituent Assembly is tasked with drafting a new constitution before February 2015. Nepal now has a fresh opportunity to reform its unjust policies toward Tibetan residents and refugees. But this will not be easy.
Aware of Nepal’s urgent economic needs, China has invited Mr. Koirala to attend the China-South Asia Exposition in Kunming, China, in June and pledged to increase tourism to Nepal, a poor country heavily dependent on Chinese help and investment. The Nepalese press reports that China has also offered lawmakers financial assistance in drafting the new constitution.
The government of Nepal has every right to seek positive trade and diplomatic relations with China. But it must stop allowing China to dictate policy regarding Tibetans in Nepal.
Mr. Koirala and Nepal’s Constituent Assembly should move quickly to guarantee resident Tibetans legal status that respects their basic rights, and to treat Tibetan refugees in accordance with Nepalese and international law. Without these steps, Nepal’s struggle to achieve lasting democratic governance will remain woefully incomplete.
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