Kathmandu – Over 2,000 Tibetans gathered in the courtyard of a private school in a Tibetan suburb of Kathmandu to celebrate the 69th birthday of the 14th Dalai Lama.

In light of actions taken in recent years by the Nepalese government and police against Tibetans who gathered publicly to mark the Dalai Lama’s birthday, Tibetan leaders in Nepal decided against the traditional prayer ceremony in the worshiping place around the Boudha stupa or to circumambulate Buddhist monasteries with the photograph of the Dalai Lama.

“We want to take His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s photograph to the stupa and offer prayers,” said a Tibetan community leader, “but the Nepalese are receiving so much pressure from the Chinese that we can’t even have a public birthday celebration outside our own walls.”

Speaking on the occasion, the Dalai Lama’s Representative in Nepal, Wangchuk Tsering, expressed gratitude to the Nepalese government for humanitarian support extended towards the Tibetans refugees living in Nepal. He also urged his fellow Tibetans to preserve their culture and its distinct traditions.

Other dignitaries who attended the Dalai Lama’s birthday celebration included the German Ambassador to Nepal, R?diger Lempare; the Vice President of Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputy, Ms. Dolma Gyari; and the President of the Nepal Human Rights organization, Mr. Sudip Patak.

On May 28, the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Sun Heping, told the Nepal Council of World Affairs, “We appreciate it very much that His Majesty’s Government of Nepal is committed to the one China policy, understands how sensitive the Tibet issue is to China and never allow any anti-China activities to be carried out on Nepali soil.”

“Together with this [Free Tibet] movement, Dalai’s representative’s office and reception station in Kathmandu, and Tibetan extremists have never stopped anti-China activities by destabilizing and attempting to separate Tibet from China,” Sun Heping said.

Referring directly to Tibetan refugees transiting through Nepal to India, and the legal Tibetan residents in Nepal, the Chinese envoy, said “Tibetan separatists and pro-Dalai external forces” use “Tibetan illegal immigrants” in Nepal as a ploy against China.

“The escalating rhetoric of the Chinese ambassador to Nepal is the latest and most clear indicator of the extreme pressure China is putting on the Nepalese government to deny Tibetans in Nepal basic civil rights,” said Kelley Currie, Director of Government Relations for ICT.

“During recent fact-finding missions to Nepal, we have confirmed that this pressure is escalating. If the international community does not maintain vigilance on this issue, Tibetan public life in Nepal will suffer.”

The International Campaign for Tibet’s 2003 update of Dangerous Crossing: Conditions Impacting the Flight of Tibetan Refugees describes the changing political climate in Nepal for Tibetan refugees and highlights the Chinese government’s efforts to undermine Nepal’s tradition of tolerance towards Tibetans.

In spite of curtailments of the July 6 celebration, Tibetans welcomed the opportunity to gather to sing religious hymns, pray, and offer incense with the Dalai Lama’s photograph.

“I am happy today that at least I got a chance to see and meet our brothers and sisters in such an auspicious gathering” Choegyal Rinzin, a college student in Nepal told ICT. “I would not have been surprised if the Nepalese authorities would not have allowed us at all to gather and display the photo of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”