The United States has called on Nepal to protect the rights of Tibetan exiles after police in the Himalayan kingdom stormed into polling centers and blocked voting by Tibetans for the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile.
Policemen in riot gear also seized ballot boxes from three voting centers in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, throwing in jeapordy the outcome of the elections held among some 80,000 Tibetan exiles to pick candidates for polls for a new parliament-in-exile and prime minister next year.
“We urge the Nepalese government to protect the longstanding rights and privileges of Tibetans in Nepal, particularly their right to express themselves freely in accordance with Nepali law,” a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said on Oct 6.
The Dalai Lama's special envoy had expressed concern over the police action, saying Kathmandu had acted under pressure from China.
Lodi Gyari, the Dalai Lama's representative in Washington who met U.S. Ambassador to Nepal Scott DeLisi at the State Department Oct. 5, said Kathmandu's action was a cause "both of concern and regret."
"Nepal has become like an autonomous region of China. [Gyari] said he was concerned because of the long-term historical relationship between Nepal and Tibet," according to an Oct. 5 statement by the government-in-exile.
"There was concern and the [U.S.] ambassador is looking into the matter," it said.
Nepal's increasing political tilt toward China has made life difficult for Tibetan exiles protesting China's rule in neighboring Tibetan regions of China.
Tibetans demonstrating outside Chinese diplomatic facilities in Nepal have routinely been beaten, detained, and threatened with deportation to India.
Nepal shares a long border with Tibet and is home to around 20,000 exiles who began arriving in 1959 when a failed uprising against Chinese rule forced the Dalai Lama into exile in India's Himalayan foothills at Dharamsala.
Nepal's government defended its action in blocking Tibetans' vote.
"The administration intervened in the so-called election because Nepal's foreign policy does not allow any activities against any friendly neighboring countries," Nepal's Home Ministry spokesman Jaya Mukunda Khanal told CNN.
China reviles the Dalai Lama as a "separatist" for seeking self-determination for his homeland, but the spiritual leader says he is only campaigning for greater autonomy for his people.
The International Network of Parliamentarians on Tibet (INPaT), which brings together 133 legislators from more than 30 parliaments worldwide, has called on the Nepalese government "to immediately release the ballot boxes to the legitimate representatives of the local Tibetan Election Commission in Nepal.”
Matteo Mecacci, co-chair of INPaT, said legislators in the group were “deeply disturbed by this unwarranted action” which he believed was “due to a demand by the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu.”
Reported in Washington by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.