As China Squeezes Nepal, Tibetan Escape Route Narrows

Tibetans seeking to flee Chinese rule are finding their traditional passage of escape — via the Himalayan nation of Nepal — far more fraught and difficult than before

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Prakash Mathema / AFP / Getty Images

Nepalese police arrest Tibetan protesters in Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital, on March 10, 2012, during a demonstration marking the 53rd anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule

As the bus crept into this quiet town in the foothills of the Himalayas, Tsultrin Lhamo finally felt free. For the 20-year-old Tibetan fleeing a homeland under Chinese rule, her arrival in the Dalai Lama’s adopted hometown in India marked the end of a treacherous overland journey and, she hoped, the start of a new life.

China’s growing crackdown on religious freedoms, from the imprisonment of Tibetans possessing portraits of their spiritual leader to the ironfisted control of monasteries by Chinese armed forces, had made life too difficult to stay behind, she says. Like those before her, she paid a Nepalese guide to lead her through the mountainous terrain that connects western China to its neighbor, Nepal. With help from UNHCR, the U.N.’s refugee agency, she secured safe passage from Kathmandu to India. It was a grueling journey that spanned four months and three countries. She traveled on foot, took shelter in trees and dodged Chinese and Nepalese patrols. Still, she considers herself lucky. “So many people are desperate to leave Tibet,” she says. “But it has become almost impossible now.”

Since the Dalai Lama fled in 1959, Nepal has played a critical role for the Tibetan exile community, providing safe haven and a passageway to India. But in recent years, Nepal’s hospitality has waned — and the reason, many say, is China’s growing influence on the country’s political elite. Since 2008, when an uprising convulsed Lhasa shortly before the Beijing Olympics and was violently suppressed by Chinese authorities, the number of Tibetans making the journey to India has plummeted. From the early 1990s until 2007, some 2,500 Tibetans were arriving in India each year. In 2008, that number dropped to under 600, and has since hovered at about 800 refugees per year. A key reason, observers say, is that China has significantly tightened security, not only inside Tibet but also along the border with Nepal, choking off crucial escape routes.

(MORE: With an Eye to India, China Courts Nepal)

But China’s strategy for containing Tibet’s fight for greater independence is no longer restricted to soldiers and sleuths on its own soil. With an eye on curbing what it calls “anti-China activities,” Beijing has in recent years enlisted the support of its small but strategically important neighbor, Nepal, which hosts an estimated 20,000 Tibetan refugees and serves as a crucial transit path for those traveling to India. According to a confidential U.S. embassy cable revealed by WikiLeaks in 2010, “Beijing has asked Kathmandu to step up patrols … and make it more difficult for Tibetans to enter Nepal.” Another cable reads that China “rewards [Nepalese forces] by providing financial incentives to officers who hand over Tibetans attempting to exit China.”

Indeed, “border management” and “information sharing” have emerged as key areas of collaboration between the two states, with some reports claiming Nepalese police receive training and equipment from the Chinese. Anecdotal evidence also points to a Chinese security presence on the Nepalese side of the border. Earlier this year, CNN journalists filming in Nepal were intercepted by Chinese-speaking men in plainclothes, who prevented them from using their cameras before following them deep into Nepalese territory.

(PHOTOS: The Dalai Lama: Six Decades of Spiritual Leadership)

China’s growing influence in Nepal has alarmed Tibetan activists and officials, who have long viewed Kathmandu as a sanctuary and an ally. Under an informal agreement made in 1989 between the Nepalese and the U.N. refugee agency, Nepal pledged to allow fleeing Tibetans to pass safely to India. Now, Tibetans say, that trust is eroding. “Nepal is obliging every demand China makes,” says Thinley Gyatso, a secretary in the Tibetan government-in-exile’s Finance Department who spent several years living in the Himalayan nation. Though there are still only a few documented cases of Nepal repatriating Tibetan refugees — including a case in 2010 in which three Tibetans were forcefully returned to China — information about dealings between security forces near the border remains scarce. A recent account in the New Yorker says Nepalese police have been “apprehending Tibetans far inside Nepal, robbing them, and then returning them to Tibet at gunpoint, where they are typically imprisoned and not uncommonly tortured by the Chinese.”

In return for its cooperation, Nepal, an impoverished nation of 30 million people, which for years relied heavily on aid, trade and investment from India, has found a new benefactor. On a visit to Kathmandu in March last year, China’s army chief Chen Bingde pledged $20 million in military aid. This year, which Beijing has dubbed a “year of friendly exchanges” between China and Nepal, began with a visit by the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who offered $119 million in aid. China has also promised assistance and technology for constructing a “dry port” in Tatopani near the border with Tibet, and in April, a Nepalese parliamentary panel cleared the way for a Chinese company to build a $1.6 billion hydroelectric plant in the Himalayan country.

(MORE: Tibet’s Next Incarnation)

China’s foray in Nepal appears to be a classic example of the Asian giant’s much-touted checkbook diplomacy, a strategy Beijing has employed across the globe to expand its influence by opening up seemingly endless pipelines of aid and investment. But China’s diplomatic push in Nepal over the past few years takes this tack a step further, says Robbie Barnett, director of Columbia University’s Modern Tibetan Studies Program. “In many respects, China now determines Nepal’s local and foreign policy,” he says.

Eager to appease China, Nepal is distancing itself from Tibetan refugees, many of whom have lived in Nepal for decades. According to a report by the International Campaign for Tibet to be released later this month, Beijing has “sought to delegitimize the Tibetan community in Nepal.” Since 1998, when the Nepalese stopped issuing refugee identity certificates, many young Tibetans who’ve spent their lives in Nepal have become effectively stateless, unable to attend schools or apply for jobs, and are exposed to exploitation and even deportation. In 2010, Nepalese authorities confiscated hundreds of ballot boxes during the prime-ministerial elections held by Tibet’s exiled government, which is headquartered in Dharamsala, India. Last year, Tibetans in Nepal commemorating the 52nd anniversary of the Tibetan revolt, were violently dispersed by Nepalese police; the police cracked down on Tibetan protesters this year too.

The situation is exacerbated by Nepal’s messy political landscape, where the long transition from a Hindu monarchy to a secular, democratic republic drags haltingly along. The country suffered a decadelong Maoist rebellion that ended in 2006 when the Maoists agreed to join the political process. But since then, political consensus has remained elusive and the country still doesn’t have a constitution. The future of many Tibetans, laments Gyatso, now depends on stability in Nepal. For the hundreds wanting to leave Tibet and the thousands already in Nepal, that is not a promising thought.

(MORE: Burning Desire for Freedom)

79 comments
Shrawan Shrestha
Shrawan Shrestha

This photo was taken in front of Chinese embassy in Nepal. Tibetans tries to climb Chinese embassy compound wall and demonstrate. No government will tolerate such actions. I want to see photo's of Tibetan's demonstrating in front of Chinese embassy in India and U.S. And see what government's reaction be like there.

Sonam R Lama
Sonam R Lama

Falun Gong 

Main articles: History of Falun Gong and Organ harvesting in the People's Republic of China 

On 20 July 1999, the government banned Falun Gong and all 'heterodox religions', and began a nationwide crackdown of the popular new religious movement[58] following a demonstration by 10,000 practitioners outside the leadership enclave at Zhongnanhai on 25 April.[59] Protests in Beijing were frequent for the first few years following the 1999 edict, though these protests have largely been eradicated.[60] Practitioners have occasionally hacked into state television channels to broadcast pro-Falun Gong materials. Outside of mainland China, practitioners are active in appealing to the governments, media, and people of their respective countries about the situation in China. 

According to Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Ian Denis Johnson, the government mobilized every aspect of society, including the media apparatus, police force, army, education system, families and workplaces, against Falun Gong.[60] An extra-constitutional body, the "6–10 Office" was created to do what Forbes describes as "[overseeing] the terror campaign."[61] The campaign was driven by large-scale propaganda through television, newspaper, radio and internet.[62] Human Rights Watch noted that families and workplaces were urged to cooperate with the government, while practitioners themselves were subject to various coercive measures to have them recant their beliefs.[63] Amnesty International raised particular concerns over reports of torture, illegal imprisonment including forced labor, and psychiatric abuses.[64][65] 

In March 2006, Falun Gong and The Epoch Times said that the Chinese government and its agencies, including the People's Liberation Army, were conducting "widespread and systematic organ harvesting of living practitioners" specifically at the Sujiatun Thrombosis Hospital in Shenyang according to two eye-witness accounts that practitioners detained in the hospital's basement were being tissue-typed, and killed to order.[66] In July 2006, David Kilgour and David Matas, sponsored by Falun Gong to investigate the allegations, published a report which they admitted the evidence was circumstantial, but which taken together supported the allegations that large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners were victims of systematic organ harvesting whilst still alive.[67] 

 

Continued: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P...

Ivan
Ivan

Dont trust the chinese on anything...these are people who sell poisoned milk to their own kind...

Tibet has to be free...the suffering has to end..china should be subdued only then can the world be at peace...

Yang Kang
Yang Kang

Another Mad Dog starts barking here. 

Take the bones CIA feeds you, and enjoy your lunch. 

Ivan
Ivan

Better than that melamine contaminated milk your chinki masters feed you :) at least CIA is human your masters are pure evil...be careful if you dont reply to this post in harsh terms, your han chinese masters might employ you as a slave in a Xingxang cobalt mine...

rishav29
rishav29

being a nepali, and learning from many fabled legends/history  of my country, i do not believe that tibet ever was a truely sovereign state as uncle-sam's propaganda machine would like you to believe. every time nepal had a war with tibet, we have had to make our treaties with the chinese empire, and the last one was about 150 years ago. meaning, tibet was already quasi-chinese 150 years ago.

china, including tibet has prospered a lot, and to be true i am not sure that most Tibetans (other than those in dalai lama's refuge) would like to revert back to those days of religious blindness and human god avatars.

JigmeNamgyal
JigmeNamgyal

Its really sad to see that so many chinese here have nothing but hate for us Tibetan.Tibet issue have nothing to do outside force , its more of moral issue for chinese as people and as a modern nation. Whats going on in Tibet happens almost every town in china ,there is injustice ,corrupt official  and taking advantage of weak people.Knowing chinese race and culture, i am sure you'll correct whats wrong in china. China deserves to be Super power and as a tibetan  i pray china inherits its rightful place in world and set examples to world community at large, China is just society and not bully.And to all chinese who are reading this, Hate , anger and revenge will get you nowhere .Live harmony among other nation. Esp with India .

Mette Bruun
Mette Bruun

I am amazed of how incredibly un-educated, un-informed and headlessly foolish you who post here are (whether you are chinese or chinese living in the Tibetan area). But I guess it can't be any different as you live in a non-democratic, communist country where ALL medias are controlled by the government.

You're in my prayers every night, as I wish for you enlightenment.

People do not desperately put themself on fire due to the way things are in their country unless theres something seriuosly wrong. But how should you guys know any better?

Sonam R Lama
Sonam R Lama

We never claimed that Tibet was modern free society in the 19 hundreds

nor is it now under china. Hows was china during the period worse than Tibet. How was the rest of the world.  How many people died during the cultural revolution. How many people died because of mao’s failed policies. How was life under communist china. What is happening to Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners now. No matter how tibet was at that time it was always better than China especially about how the people felt. Even Mao before

the long march chose to hide in Tibet because it was more freer than china.

Yes it was a theo-aristocracy who has been denigning that. Most of the countries in the world had similar policies and some country do even still. Just look at china then and now only difference it the buildings look more modern now but the same repressive policies going on.

Most Tibetans accept autonomy. The definition of autonomy according to Webster

1: the quality or state of being self-governing; especially : the right of self-government 2: self-directing freedom and especially moral independence 3: a self-governing state

Promised by the Chinese government in seventeen point agreement:3)In accordance with the policy towards nationalities laid down in the Common Programme of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee, the Tibetan people have the right of exercising national regional autonomy under the unified leadership of the CPG.

7)The policy of freedom of religious belief laid down in the common

programme of the CPPCC shall be carried out. The religious beliefs,

customs and habits of the Tibetan people shall be respected and lama

monasteries shall be protected. The central authorities will not effect a

change in the income of the monasteries.

11)In matters relating to various reforms in Tibet, there will be no

compulsion on the part of the central authorities. The local government

of Tibet shall carry out reforms of its own accord, and, when the people

raise demands for reform, they shall be settled by means of

consultation with the leading personnel of Tibet.

China under Mao http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

The current policies of the Chinese government.

Organ Harvesting in China :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

KhatarnakDemon
KhatarnakDemon

@Sonam R Lama

Do not worry the world will come ahead once we start with the struggle .........   we hit no civilians but only target  military personals and properties.

Are u n ur community ready to fund an armed struggle to over through the oppression ....

Above is an open question .......... I m not talking about resorting to terrorist activities ,NO i am talking about a better designed armed military offensive following a Standard Operating Procedure and Behavioral Conduct Guidelines for the recruits......

there is no way to free tibet other than an armed struggle , like that of the mujaheddin struggle in afganistan which led to the breakup of a superpower USSR ..........

I m ready if any of u r too ......... then message me your contact details! ASAP

really_skeptical
really_skeptical

I think neither side tells the entire truth, and both sides exaggerate to their benefit

JigmeNamgyal
JigmeNamgyal

I don't think we tibetan have anything to hide. we  have lost everything , from our beloved country to our ancient culture. Our history is open to anyone who genuinely seeks to know the truth.

Sonam R Lama
Sonam R Lama

 Finally it is good to be skeptical finding the truth for oneself is the best but always take what people present as truth with a grain of salt :)

Sonam R Lama
Sonam R Lama

 As for the benefit all we have to do is look at the lives of people in exile and the lives of the people in Tibet. you can see the difference.

Sonam R Lama
Sonam R Lama

 History can be looked up differently by people from different cultures and countries i accept that we always believed we were independent. Chinese government may believe they had control over us at certain periods of history which is true but so did Tibet have control of large portion of china through out history. I am a Tibetan so i am a little biased but i believe Tibetan exile side have a little hard time gathering correct number and figures about Chinese activities inside Tibet. I am pretty sure the numbers are off but not by much. Right now Tibet is almost at lock down. They are trying to stop people escaping into Nepal by putting pressure on the Nepali Government. We the Tibetans can except when we are wrong but the problem with the Chinese government is they cannot because their whole system was build on one lie after the other. It might have started as people wanting what was best for their country but like every other political system the struggle for power and corruption made the government into a monster. To be honest there are people on the exile side who believe printing exaggerated information is better than printing no information. But they misguided they do it believing that is the best and it will get results faster which is doing more harm than helping. The truth is Tibet is suffering under the hands of the Chinese Government and we don't know how to make the world listen. I believe we have to make our Chinese brother and sisters listen as they are the only ones that give us autonomy.

Sonam R Lama
Sonam R Lama

 Yang Kang :) i wish i had some CIA money. if wirting these post gives me money don't worry i will go stay in line for it next time

Yang Kang
Yang Kang

Hi, dude, 

Stop barking for a sec. We all know how many bones CIA has fed you. 

Sonam R Lama
Sonam R Lama

I am Tibetan born and raised in Nepal. What the Nepali Government does under the influence of the Chinese Government is in no way reflection of the People. Our Nepali brothers and sisters very kind and generous but the harden policies of a country hardens the peoples heart and I pray they stay true to the spirit of Nepal. Chinese brothers and sisters are also very kind and generous but their heart has harden a little because of Government policies but their spirits are being renewed as I see more and more people standing up for their neighbors and friends. Stand up for your brothers and sisters but please do not use violence because it will never help the situation and only gives the government an excuse to crack down even harder. Remember the person on the other side also has family and friends that care from him. May Buddha bless all the Chinese brothers and sisters, Nepali brothers and sisters, Tibetan brothers and sisters and the rest of the world. Make 2013 a year for Peace 

KhatarnakDemon
KhatarnakDemon

@Sonam R Lama

Arel u n ur community ready to fund an armed struggle to over through the oppression ....

Above is an open question .......... I m not talking about resorting to terrorist activities ,NO i am talking about a better designed armed military offensive following a Standard Operating Procedure and Behavioral Conduct Guidelines for the recruits......

there is no way to free tibet other than an armed struggle , like that of the mujaheddin struggle in afganistan which led to the breakup of a superpower USSR ..........

I m ready if any of u r too ......... then message me your contact details! ASAP

Sonam R Lama
Sonam R Lama

Haha it is funny Chinese government is trying to change history to make it look like  owned Tibet. Their claim comes from Yuan dynasty. Excert taken from wikipedia after their editing "In 1253, Drogön Chögyal Phagpa

(1235–1280) succeeded Sakya Pandita at the Mongol court. Phagpa became a

religious teacher to Kublai Khan. Kublai Khan appointed Chögyal Phagpa

as his Imperial Preceptor in 1260, the year when he became emperor of Mongolia. Phagpa developed the priest-patron concept that characterized Tibeto-Mongolian relations from that point forward.[35][36]

With the support of Kublai Khan, Phagpa established himself and his

sect as the preeminent political power in Tibet. Through their influence

with the Mongol rulers, Tibetan lamas gained considerable influence in

various Mongol clans, not only with Kublai, but, for example, also with

the Il-Khanids." Doesn't say China ruled Tibet but the mongols did. so if that is true I as a Tibetan choose to be under the Mongolians because if your argument was true we were not ruled by Chinese but the mongols. And china should be a part of Mongolia too. It has no right to claim independence according to Chinese reasoning.

maopai
maopai

@Sonam R Lama Zhu Yuanzhang defeated the Mongolian and Tibetan savages. Tibet was a part of the Ming dynasty.

really_skeptical
really_skeptical

Actually, in more recent history, it is the Qing dynasty that really treated Tibet like Chinese territory.

Nepal and other surrounding countries have invaded Tibet at the time and the Dalai Lama at the time asked the Qing emperor to repel the invaders. The Qing rulers were not originally Chinese, but at some point they have assimilated. In fact present day they mostly have Chinese surnames. 

Sonam R Lama
Sonam R Lama

:) yes they did come to help so did mongols. but i look at it this way if i ask the help of a neighbor to help me with a burglar in my house does the house automatically become his. the only time they really try to exert control 1910 and they lasted two years.

In 1910, the Qing government sent a military expedition of its own under Zhao Erfeng to establish direct Chinese rule and deposed the Dalai Lama in an imperial edict, who fled to British India. Zhao Erfeng

defeated the Tibetan military conclusively and expelled the Dalai

Lama's forces from the province. However, his actions were unpopular,

and there was much animosity against him for his mistreatment of

civilians and disregard for local culture.

Post-Qing period

After the Xinhai Revolution (1911–12) toppled the Qing Dynasty and the last Qing troops were escorted out of Tibet, the new Republic of China apologized for the actions of the Qing and offered to restore the Dalai Lama's title.[44] The Dalai Lama refused any Chinese title, and declared himself ruler of an independent Tibet[45] in collusion with Mongolia. For the next 36 years, the 13th Dalai Lama and the regents who succeeded him governed Tibet. During this time, Tibet fought Chinese warlords for control of the ethnically Tibetan areas in Xikang and Qinghai (parts of Kham and Amdo) along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River.[30] In 1914 the Tibetan government signed the Simla Accord with Britain, ceding the South Tibet region to British India. The Chinese government denounced the agreement as illegal.[46][47]

When the regents in the 1930s and 40s displayed negligence in

affairs, the Kuomintang Government of the Republic of China used this to

their advantage to expand their reach into the territory.[48]

took it of wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... not sure it correct but we learned something similar

Sonam R Lama
Sonam R Lama

We

never claimed that Tibet was modern free society in the 19 hundreds

nor is it now under china. Hows was china

during the period worse than Tibet. How many people died during the

cultural revolution.

How many people died because of mao’s failed policies. How was life

under communist china. What is happening to Tibetans, Falun Gong

practitioners now. No matter how tibet was at that time it was always

better than China especially about how the people felt. Even Mao before

the long march chose to hide in Tibet because it was more freer than

china. Get your facts right Chinese stooges. Chinese people when they

know you can be the most generous and kind people.  China under Mao http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

The current policies of the Chinese government.

Organ Harvesting in China :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

maopai
maopai

@Sonam R Lama Tibetans were never better than Han people. You Tibetans are nomadic savages.

Tibetans have an average IQ of 85, the same IQ as blacks.

shawninchicago
shawninchicago

Kody,

I found you more funny without 50 cents. You poles are overzealots for crusading on behalf of the "West." Too many of you in Chicago (on the south side, no less) and I wish this great nation (USA) was still populated by Protestants.

shawninchicago
shawninchicago

"freedom fighter", do you know the Tibetans in the US tried to identify themsleves with American Blacks? Heartbreak for you Southern/East European unemployable!

shawninchicago
shawninchicago

Tibetans are the "blacks" in China. They are daker than Han Chinese. Are you saying white people in Europe are primitive, poor, uneducated religion fanatics like Tibetans?