Tibetan Refugees in Nepal Returned to Chinese Authorities

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 8--Four Tibetans detained in Nepal were returned to Chinese authorities despite Nepal�s promise to no longer forcefully return Tibetan refugees to China, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

�This is clearly a violation of a pledge made by the Nepalese foreign secretary to the U.S. Senate during his recent visit to the U.S. that Nepal will not forcefully return any Tibetan refugees to the Chinese authorities,� said one source who spoke to RFA on condition of anonymity.

At the beginning of August, four youths, including a 15-year-old boy from the Amdo region (Qinghai Province) of China, were hiding in the Nepalese border town of Tato Pani. After hiding several days, they were detained by Nepalese border police. The four were then sent to the Nepalese Immigration Office, and instead of bringing them to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kathmandu, the Tibetans were released into Chinese police custody. The current status of the Tibetans is unclear.

"This accusation is baseless," said one Nepalese government official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The Nepalese government is maintaining its policy of sending [Tibetan] refugees to the UNHCR instead of back to China."

During a U.S. visit in mid-July, Nepalese foreign secretary Madhu Raman Acharya assured U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that Nepal would no longer force Tibetan refugees to return to China. The promise came amid threats from Feinstein to withdraw support of a favorable trade bill with the Nepalese garment industry because Nepal had returned 18 Tibetan refugees to China in May. Eight of the refugees were later released by the Chinese authorities and the Nepalese government promised to no longer deport Tibetan asylum-seekers. Feinstein then resumed her push to pass the Nepalese garment bill.

Senator Feinstein�s office and the UNHCR told RFA they are still trying to verify the story and neither made further comments.

Each year, hundreds of Tibetans travel through Nepal on their way to Dharamsala in India, where the Dalai Lama has lived since his departure from Tibet more than 40 years ago. They are usually required to stay in a transit camp in Kathmandu pending interviews with the UNHCR, which facilitates their travel to India.

RFA broadcasts news and information to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo, and Kham), and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content. ###

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