Nepalese authorities have installed security cameras around Kathmandu’s world-famous Boudhanath Stupa, prompting fears among Tibetan refugees that they are being watched for “anti-China” activity, though officials insist the surveillance equipment has been set up only because of safety concerns.
Installation of the nearly 20 cameras was completed in September at a cost of around 400,000 Nepalese rupees (U.S. $4,758), and is widely believed by Tibetan residents to have been financed by China, sources said.
Around 7,000 Tibetans live near the centuries-old religious monument, which serves as a focal point for the religious and social life of the Tibetan community in Nepal.
“I believe this was intended to control and suppress Tibetan refugee activities, which could be fueled by protests inside Tibet,” a Tibetan resident of the area said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“With these surveillance cameras in place, it will be easy for the Nepalese authorities to arrest Tibetans engaged in these activities,” he said.
However, Tsering Dorjee Lama, director of the Boudhanath Development Office, said that the cameras had been set up “at our own initiative.”
“The Boudhanath Stupa is a world-famous Buddhist holy site, and the installation of the surveillance cameras is for its security, for the safety of foreign tourists and local people, and to prevent crimes,” he said.
“It is not for the purpose of curbing friendly Tibetan activities.”
Use of the cameras will be strictly controlled by the Boudhanath Development Office itself, he said.
Nepal regularly monitors the movements and activities of Tibetans living in the country and restricts demonstrations and other political activity likely to anger its powerful northern neighbor China, the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said in an October report, “Dangerous Crossings.”
“A 2010 intelligence-sharing agreement between Nepal and China has been followed by unprecedented levels of surveillance of the Tibetan community by Nepali and Chinese state agents, and facilitates the arrest and harassment of Tibetans,” ICT said.
Reported by Thubten Sangyal for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.