Twelve Tibetans still detained
Several hundred Nepalese police in riot gear were deployed in various areas of Kathmandu yesterday (July 6) to prevent Tibetans from celebrating the Dalai Lama’s birthday, an important and symbolic occasion for Tibetans who revere him as spiritual and national leader. Setting a new low bar in violations of freedom of belief and assembly, and a disturbing precedent, Nepalese officials did not give permission for Tibetans to gather publicly for the birthday celebrations, ordering that the birthday should be celebrated only in people’s homes. Nepalese police also confiscated pictures of the Dalai Lama and a “Happy Birthday” banner hanging inside a walled courtyard at Samten Ling monastery in the Boudha area of Kathmandu yesterday.
In the Swayambhu area, around 300 police in riot gear blocked access to Namgyal Middle School where the birthday celebrations were due to be held yesterday. Three Tibetans were detained by police for burning incense and throwing tsampa (barley flour), a traditional way of celebrating the birthday, near the school gate. The Tibetans were released and handed over to Nepalese monitors from the human rights organization HURON early in the same evening.
According to reports from Tibetans in Kathmandu, around 50 people climbed over a two-meter wall with barbed wire on top to join the celebration at the school. Several people received minor injuries. Invited guests to the ceremony at the Namgyal Middle School had to use a long ladder to cross over the barbed wire wall. An ICT monitor in Kathmandu said: “The atmosphere was tense, with many elderly Tibetans crying because they could not get into the celebration, and arguing with the police.”
Virtually all of the several hundred Tibetans and Himalayan peoples who had gathered for the birthday event were forced to return home by police. Three Tibetan minors were injured when the police hit out at the crowd with bamboo sticks. Earlier yesterday morning, several hundred Nepalese police had been deployed in Boudhanath where many Tibetans live by the main stupa.
Over the past three years, Nepal has tightened restrictions on Tibetan gatherings. Last year, police set up checkpoints at different locations stopping Tibetans heading for the birthday celebrations. This year, however, restrictions were laid out verbally to Nepalese human rights monitors and Tibetan community leaders in response to a letter requesting permission to hold the birthday event. Local authorities said that no mass gathering and no pictures of the Dalai Lama would be allowed.
After being prevented from joining the birthday celebration yesterday, a 56-year old Tibetan woman told an ICT monitor: “The Nepalese government treats Tibetan refugees and Himalayan Buddhists as if they were gangsters or robbers. We are not here to protest against the Chinese government, or even the Nepal government, but just to celebrate His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s birthday, as we have done since we arrived in this country as refugees. We want to show how much we love His Holiness the Dalai Lama and how important he is for us.”
A June 26 celebration in Kathmandu of the birthday of the Karmapa, another important and popular Tibetan lama, was also disrupted by Nepalese police, with observers reporting hundreds of police in riot gear deployed in every corner of the Boudha area. (ICT report, Nepalese officials restrict Karmapa celebrations; 47 currently in detention).
In Washington, D.C. where the Dalai Lama is presiding over the Kalachakra, a 10-day religious teaching, his birthday was celebrated with several thousand people including Arun Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, and Martin Luther King III, son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (ICT report, Dalai Lama’s birthday celebrated in Washington).
Tibetans remain in police custody following peaceful vigil
Twelve Tibetans remain in prison in Kathmandu following their detention during a candlelit vigil on June 21 in Boudhanath. The vigil was held in honor of the Dalai Lama’s upcoming birthday and to express solidarity with Tibetan demonstrators in Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan province where protests have continued periodically since the spring of 2008.
The Tibetans are being held in poor conditions in a basement cell in the Boudha area; one of them was tied with rope, severely beaten, and left in a toilet on one night during his custody. The cases of the Tibetans are scheduled to be heard on July 10 in Nepal’s Supreme Court. According to reports from monitors in Kathmandu, Chinese government officials are urging continued detention.
Fourteen Tibetans who were detained in an apparent community sweep in the Boudha area on June 28 have been released from custody. In two separate incidents, Tibetans were detained while playing cards and mahjong (a Chinese tile game) (ICT report, Nepalese officials restrict Karmapa celebrations; 47 currently in detention).
The constraints on Tibetans’ freedoms, harassment, imprisonment, and is a further indication of the strong influence of the Chinese government in Nepal and the vulnerability of Nepal’s long-staying Tibetan refugee population. (ICT report, Dangerous Crossing: 2010 Update – 20 June 2011).
Nepalese police prevent Tibetans in Kathmandu from celebrating the birthday of the Dalai Lama on July 6