Reports by news agencies (and those posted on local news portals in Nepal – e.g. “e-kantipur”) outline unspeakable cruelty displayed by Chinese authorities against Tibetans attempting to escape flee China. Such acts of inhumanity cannot be permitted to pass.
According to reports, a group of about 70 Tibetan refugees including women, children and monks tried to cross into Nepal from the Tibet, on Saturday. Chinese soldiers having prior information of the flight “arrived with weapons and opened fire.” According to published reports, about 40 refugees managed to cross into Nepal while two were reportedly killed. Additionally, 2 others have gone “missing.”
While the world is focused on conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, Sri Lanka and other hot spots, Tibet remains till this day, under a brutal occupation. The Chinese entered Tibet with military forces in 1950 and consolidated it after 1959.
China’s indifference towards the people of Tibet is reflected by Saturday’s tragic event. In stark contrast to universally accepted standards, Chinese soldiers chose to mow down fleeing and unarmed Tibetans for what was termed a ‘border violation’. Despite the modernity of their economic enterprise, the Chinese seem wed to the Stalinist dictum of keeping foreigners out and insiders within. The actions of China’s border troops show parallels with the attitudes of KGB (border guards).
China may think that its economic prowess and its capacity as the world’s largest market gives it the go ahead to suppress the Tibetan people. It is now an established fact that China has colonized Tibet with Han Chinese to such an extent that Tibetans are now a minority in their own homeland.
Tibetans are in such a sorry predicament that no country in the world (including the United Sates) is openly willing to challenge China on its Tibet policy. The US needs China’s vast market to sell its produce while other major European powers also do not want to antagonize China for fear of economic retaliation. China, as the largest holder of the US Treasury’s 30-year bond, exercises considerable leverage not just in bi-lateral regional trade, but truly in the smooth functioning of the entire global economy.
Owing to China’s increasing economic might, the cause for Tibetan freedom is now championed only by individuals and diminishing groups. They do not receive government support, for fear of antagonizing China. And despite the Tibetan spiritual leader (the Dalai Lama’s) heightened stature as a Nobel laureate, the cause he champions appears to be losing momentum.
China’s reaction towards the Dalai Lama has been harsh. Beijing puts pressure on foreign governments not to welcome the Dalai Lama in their countries. Such pressure is acutely felt in countries like Nepal which are forced to bow down to Beijing in the name of ‘peaceful coexistence.’
Beijing’s propaganda in tandem with the aid it provides to Nepal has been consistent over the years. The leftist and communists in Nepal have steadfastly backed China’s claim to Tibet. Nepal has held a long relationship with both China and India. Nepal was a trade partner and co-belligerents in different wars of the past. Nepal is one of the few countries besides India, which can trace the independence and sovereignty of Tibet in the past through a careful study of history. Despite China’s constant claim that Tibet was forever part of China, historical analysis reveals that Tibet was only an ally of China during its wars with Nepal. In fact, the China laid claim on Tibet after the Tibetans asked for Chinese military assistance during a war with Nepal. The Chinese simply decided never to leave.
It was a miserable decision by the former Nepali government to close the Tibetan contact offices in Nepal. Tibetan people are Nepal’s earliest neighbors. Many ethnic groups in Nepal (including the renowned Sherpas and Tamangs) are said to have migrated to Nepal from Tibet. Nepalis and Tibetans have fraternal relations that go as far back as the time of the Lichhavi King Amshuvarma who married his daughter Bhrikuti to the Tibetan King Srong Chong Gampo.
The Chinese on the other hand, came into contact with the Nepalis only after the Tibetans felt threatened by Nepal’s expansionist policies in the 18th century. Tibet sought military support from China, which brought them to Nepal’s border at that time.
It is commonly held misperception that the Tibetans and Chinese are one people or of the same stock. The language, script and culture stand wide apart when these two peoples are compared. The current existence of Tibetans as a Chinese minority is but a recent invention.
For a country like Nepal, it cannot allow Tibetan freedom fighters to operate from within its borders. In the past, Tibetan Khampas (supported by the CIA) had launched anti-Chinese operations from inside Nepal’s borders.
However, as is the case today (as it was then), Nepal’s geo-strategic position does not permit any actions that could potentially provoke China. But, this should not stop Nepal from providing moral support to the beleaguered Tibetans.
China has no right to ask Nepal not to allow such figures as Dalai Lama into the country. It also cannot ask Nepal not to accept Tibetan refugees, from entering Nepal.
There have been incidences of Nepali security agencies arresting and deporting Tibetan refugees back into China. These kinds of activities cannot be condoned as they violate internationally accepted human rights standards and humanitarian laws.
As a self-declared loktantric nation, Nepal cannot be seen enforcing hypocritical standards in aid of draconian Chinese policies in Tibet. Nepal should not be an accessory to such immoral and despicable activities. Human and political rights are not just for the Nepalis, the Tibetans in Nepal should enjoy these rights are well. As a secular state, there should not be prohibitions on Tibetan refugees gathering at Boudhha during Dalai Lama’s birthday celebration.
Nepal and Nepalis should learn to tolerate and show solidarity to the Tibetan people if we are expect similar support during the hour of their need. Conflicting standards that tout universal human rights and freedoms for purposes of convenience are morally unacceptable.
When it comes to the issue of Tibetan refugees seeking asylum in Nepal, our rights activists need to do much more to ensure their rights are protected. Moral pressure from American Senators or Indian politicians should not be our guiding principles. Rather, our own conscience should guide Nepal’s policy on Tibetan refugees.