Chinese under-cover police act as informants to Nepalese border patrols

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2004-Nepalese security personnel have in recent weeks handed over to China a total of 21 Tibetan refugees who crossed the border into Nepal, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

Five Tibetans were arrested Dec. 26 after crossing the border with China at the Nepalese town of Tatopani, according to sources who asked not to be named. "Each of these five Tibetans gave 2,000 Chinese yuan (U.S. $241) to the escort, who assured their safe passage to Kathmandu," one Tibetan man working in the area told RFA's Tibetan service. "But the Royal Nepalese police stationed in Tatopani were tipped off... They arrested them and handed over to the Chinese authorities at the Dram border post."

A further five refugees were escorted across the border at the same location the following day, the man said, adding that the Nepalese border police had relied on informants on their side of the border to tip them off.

"Many Chinese armed police dressed in plain clothes entered on the Nepalese side of the border and hung around the tourist spots close to Barabisi and also around the Nepalese immigration office," another source said. "When they see any Tibetan escapees, the Chinese officials pressure the Nepalese officials to hand them over� Nepalese officials who hand over Tibetan escapees are awarded a special flag and possibly a monetary reward."

Another group of 11 Tibetans arrived in the border town of Barabisi but was also handed back, according to the Tibetan man, making a total of 21 refugees to be handed over to Chinese police in the month of December. The identities and personal details of the refugees are unknown.

Whether the central government in Kathmandu has been aware of or involved in these deportations was unclear. Sources in the region believe border police officials may have been acting on their own authority.

Groups of Tibetans are frequently arrested for entering Nepal illegally. They are often on their way to the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile.

In May 2003, Nepal expelled a group of 18 Tibetans, returning them to China in the face of widespread criticism and appeals from the European Union, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, and Tibetan government-in-exile.

Last November, however, Nepalese authorities released nine Tibetan men who had crossed the border from China without travel documents two years ago, after an overseas Tibetan organization provided money for their fines. Children and a pregnant woman traveling with the same group had been released the previous year.

The UNHCR has helped other groups travel on to India. Around 20,000 Tibetan refugees have settled in Nepal, but the kingdom is careful to avoid angering Beijing and has refused to let the Dalai Lama visit.

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