Hunger strikers

Hunger strikers with supporters from the Human Rights Organization of Nepal (HURON) in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Nepalese police officers

Nepalese police officers enjoying a bowl of thukpa, a traditional Tibetan dish handed out after the hunger strike.

Nepalese police officers

Nepalese police officers drinking tea, provided by the hunger strikers at the end of their fast.

Nepalese police yesterday broke up a 24-hour hunger strike by Tibetans living in Kathmandu intended to demonstrate solidarity with Tibetans impacted by a crackdown underway at Kirti Monastery and its environs in eastern Tibet. Some 30 Tibetan hunger strikers were gathered privately, encircled by Tibetan national flags and other “pro-Tibet” signage, inside a local community centre in the Boudha area of Kathmandu when Nepalese police barged in, even insisting that one Tibetan woman take off her tee-shirt with a ‘save Tibet’ message, in front of everyone present.

The International Campaign for Tibet is reporting increased harassment of Tibetans in Nepal under direct pressure from the Chinese government, which has made public its position that activities regarding by Beijing as “pro-Tibet” must be prohibited in Nepal. This most recent police action provides another indication that Nepal has agreed to abide by China’s dictate.

The hunger strike, organized by the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), concluded peacefully on April 19 morning, with Tibetans giving tea and Tibetan food to Nepalese police on duty, despite the tensions of the day before. According to an eyewitness account, both uniformed and plainclothes Nepalese police entered the Boudha community centre in Kathmandu yesterday where about 30 Tibetans were taking part in a peaceful vigil and 24-hour hunger strike in solidarity with Tibetans in Ngaba, Tibet. Kirti Monastery in Ngaba has been under tight security since a monk named Phuntsog self-immolated and later died on March 17 (ICT report, List of prisoners and “disappeared” Tibetans in Ngaba crackdown: situation provokes U.S. government concern).

One of the Nepalese police demanded that a 42-year old Tibetan woman called Sonam Choedron remove her tee-shirt that bore the message ‘save Tibet and stop the killing in Tibet’. When she objected, she was told that if she did not comply, all of the Tibetan hunger strikers would be taken to prison.

Sonam Choedron told ICT: “I felt absolutely humiliated. The police action hurt me a lot. It is not fair but it shows how badly Nepalese police are treating Tibetans. It is surely against Nepalese law. This was not a political rally, but prayers in solidarity – and in private – with the Kirti monk who lost his life.”

Nepalese police stayed on duty at the hunger strike until 10 pm last night and arrived back at the centre at 6 am this morning. According to eyewitness sources, there was an unusually high number of what were thought to be Nepalese intelligence officials present with the police. The hunger strike concluded peacefully at 9 am today (April 19). In an example of the civility that once prevailed between Tibetan and Nepalese, local Tibetans later offered Nepalese police on duty in the Boudha area bowls of Tibetan thukpa (noodles with meat) and tea.

Mary Beth Markey, ICT President, said: “This Nepalese police action against Tibetans was unwarranted, and the tee-shirt incident was shameful, unbefitting a professional police force. The offending officer should offer an apology to Ms. Choedron. Chinese government interference in Nepal’s treatment of its Tibetan community should be resisted by the Nepalese government and people as it is in direct opposition to the strong ties among the Himalayan peoples that have existed for centuries.”

(Also see ICT report on “undue force” used by Nepalese police on March 10 this year, the anniversary of Tibet’s national uprising in 1959 and the third anniversary of a wave of largely peaceful protest across Tibet, Nepal police crackdown on March 10 commemoration in Kathmandu).