The governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Australia, Finland, and France have issued a joint demarche to the Nepal government objecting to the detention of three Tibetan community leaders on June 19, and to the harsh treatment of Tibetans in Kathmandu protesting against the Chinese crackdown in Tibet since March 10. The U.S. State Department issued a strongly worded statement yesterday on the unfolding situation in Nepal calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Tibetan community activists Kelsang Chung, Director of the United Nations-funded Tibetan Refugee Reception Center, and Ngawang Sangmo and Tashi Dolma, president and vice president of the regional Tibetan Women’s Association, who were detained in police raids on their homes in Kathmandu. Deliberations on the legal basis for their detention are ongoing.

ICT commends the governments’ strong message to the Nepalese authorities but urges stronger measures to press the Nepal government to protect the fundamental rights of the Tibetans in Nepal in the face of pressure from the Chinese government to do otherwise.

The round-up of Tibetan community leaders in Nepal suggests that an alliance between a new Maoist-controlled government in Nepal and the Chinese government does not bode well for the future of long-staying Tibetan refugees and residents in Nepal. Tibetans’ political rights are already constrained and they appear to be targeted by the Nepalese authorities, under the direction of the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, for harsh treatment in the buildup to the Olympics.

Nepal’s Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala announced his resignation yesterday (June 26), yielding to mounting pressure from the two major communist parties in Nepal, including Maoists. Koirala’s resignation paves the way for takeover by Maoist Chief Prachanda as the new Prime Minister in the next three to four days. The Maoists emerged as the biggest party in elections in April to a new constituent assembly.

In recent weeks Prachanda has expressed his support for the Chinese government’s suppression of Tibetans following the wave of protests that has swept the Tibetan plateau since March 10. “We cannot term the Chinese government’s step to check violence unleashed by the separatists in Tibet as ‘crackdown,'” he was quoted as telling reporters on March 24. “We regard Tibet as inseparable part of China.” Last year, Prachanda ruled out allowing the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Center to reopen their office in Kathmandu – closed in January 2005 – on the grounds that it would harm the country’s “good relations” with its “friendly” northern neighbor China. (IANS, April 9, 2007).

The Chinese authorities are known to be particularly concerned about peaceful demonstrations by Tibetans outside the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu. ICT has photographic evidence of Chinese embassy officials behind police lines during a demonstration, appearing to direct Nepalese police treatment of protestors.

In a statement issued yesterday by Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman, the US State Department said: “The ongoing harsh treatment of peaceful protesters during their arrests by the Nepali police is distressing. We understand and respect Nepal’s national security concerns and the importance of protecting diplomatic premises. We urge Nepal to ensure the humane treatment of peaceful protesters and to adhere to its international human rights obligations as Nepal continues on its path as a democratic nation.”

There are fears for the safety of Tibetan peace marchers in Nepal, who are mainly monks and nuns in their twenties and thirties, who began walking to the Tibetan border on Wednesday (June 25). A Tibetan source in Kathmandu told ICT: “People here are really worried about their safety and possible serious repercussions from both the Nepal and Tibet side of the border.”

For information on the Tibetan refugee situation in Nepal, see: Dangerous Crossing: Conditions Impacting the Flight of Tibetan Refugees.