Tibetan activists plan to resume protest rallies in front of the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu on Friday even though Nepal’s new Maoist-led government is expected to treat demonstrators harshly.
Nepal’s Tibetan residents, who number more than 15,000 and form the world’s largest population of Tibetan refugees after that of India, protested regularly at the embassy during the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, in spite of harsh police beatings and mass arrests.
The refugees are worried that the new government, which took office during the games, will be even less tolerant. Puspa Kamal Dahal, the new prime minister known by his nom de guerre Prachanda, was warmly welcomed to the closing ceremony in Beijing last weekend by Hu Jintao, Chinese president, making him the first Nepali prime minister to make China his first port of call rather than India.
Officials in the new government say they have no special affinity with China and say the Beijing visit was a coincidence of the timing of the games, despite their adherence to the political philosophy developed by Mao Zedong.
However, C.P. Gajurel, foreign department chief of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), told the Financial Times that “the party will ask the government to stop” Tibetan demonstrations.
Upendra Yadav, the new foreign minister, said policy had not yet been set. “We will definitely discuss about Tibetan refugees but as we have not yet made any policy, I will not comment,” he said.
“China has given special attention to Nepal due to the Tibetan issue,” said Tashi, a 26-year-old Tibetan student born in Nepal. “If the new government constricts democratic space, we will be forced to move to western countries where there is freedom to raise our voice for free Tibet,” said Tashi, adding that he had participated in 80 per cent of rallies held in the capital.
Thakpa Tenzing, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, is hopeful that the new government will allow peaceful movements. He also stressed that in spite of increasing pressure, his group would continue the peaceful rallies in Kathmandu that began in March, when riots broke out in Lhasa.
“Our protests have not stopped,” he said. “We will resume on August 29 and 30.”