Four Tibetan community leaders in Kathmandu were detained yesterday (October 17) by Nepalese police following a speech by China’s Ambassador to Nepal Yang Houlan on Sunday (October 16) in which he blamed “international and domestic forces” for “coordinating [anti-China] activities” in Nepal.

China has made Nepal’s handling of Tibetan new and long-staying refugees a focal point in its bilateral relations and presses Nepal to crack down on activities it deems to be “anti-China.” The Nepalese authorities have become increasingly compliant in meeting this demand.

In one incident yesterday, three Tibetan community leaders – Thrinley Gyatso and Jampa Dhondup from the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office and Tsering Dhundup, head of the Boudhanath Tibetan community – were taken into police custody for several hours of questioning, that included whether representatives of the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala would join the thousands of devotees attending a significant prayer ceremony (October 18) to mark the passing of an significant Tibetan Buddhist lama, Trulshik Rinpoche. Trulshik Rinpoche had been one of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s teachers and the head of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. He died on September 2 in Nepal where he had established Thupten Choling Monastery, Nepal’s largest monastery. A witness to the questioning told ICT that there were indications that the questions followed directions from the Chinese Embassy.

In a separate incident in Kathmandu on Monday (October 17), Chime, the head of the Jawalakhel Tibetan settlement, was detained for more than an hour by police and questioned following a visit to the settlement by U.S. government officials earlier that day.

On Sunday (October 16) China’s ambassador to Nepal Yang Houlan spoke at Nepal’s Press Club, saying: “We have the authentic information that our oldest and nearest friend Nepal is turning into a playground for anti-China activities. Some international and domestic forces are coordinating their activities against China.”

Yang Houlan’s comments contribute to an atmosphere of tension for Tibetans in Nepal this week. China appears to be moving Nepal to impose the kind of limits on civil and political rights that China imposes on Tibetans in Tibet. Beijing has buttressed its expectations with cash and other assistance to support Nepal in carrying out security measures targeting Tibetans.

On July 26, 2010 the first “Nepal-China border Security and Law Enforcement Talks” concluded with Beijing and Kathmandu agreeing to establish high-level intelligence sharing capabilities targeting “anti-China” activities and border management, in addition to a pledge from Beijing for an annual aid package to enhance Nepal’s handling of “anti-China” activities. Greater cooperation between Chinese and Nepalese security forces regarding intelligence sharing and border enforcement increases the threat of forced repatriation for Tibetans.

Reference: ICT report, Dangerous Crossing: Conditions impacting the flight of Tibetan refugees 2010 update