WASHINGTON—The Dalai Lama's special envoy has expressed concern over Nepal's police action to block voting by Tibetan refugees for the spiritual leader's exiled government amid suggestions that Kathmandu had acted under pressure from China.
Lodi Gyari, the Dalai Lama's representative in Washington, met U.S. Ambassador to Nepal Scott DeLisi at the U.S. State Department in Washington on Oct.5 and said Kathmandu's action was "one both of concern and regret."
"He said his concern was not because of what this meant to the Tibetans but for its implication on Nepal as a sovereign state," the exiled government said in a statement.
"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," the statement said. "There was concern and the [U.S.] ambassador is looking into the matter."
Nepali police in riot gear on Sunday blocked thousands of Tibetan exiles in the Himalayan kingdom from voting for a new government-in-exile. They forcibly seized ballot boxes after storming into three voting centers in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, home to almost 9,000 Tibetan exiles, as the election was held.
Nepal's increasing political tilt toward China has made life difficult for the 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.
The election is being held among some 80,000 exiles to pick candidates for polls for a new parliament-in-exile and prime minister next year.
Kathmandu police chief Ramesh Kharel confirmed the seizure of ballot boxes and said the action was taken to prevent what he termed an "illegal vote."
"The Tibetans are living in exile in Nepal. It is illegal for them to carry out elections here, so we seized the ballot boxes," he told AFP.
Call for return of ballot boxes
Meanwhile, the International Network of Parliamentarians on Tibet (INPaT), which brings together 133 legislators from more than 30 parliaments worldwide, 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.”
Mecacci said the police action was “believed to be due to a demand by the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu.”
INPaT said it fears video footage of the seizure of ballot boxes by the riot police “does not enhance Nepal's standing on the world stage” and “runs counter to the strong cultural and religious ties among the Himalayan peoples that have existed for centuries.”
Original reporting by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.