DHARAMSHALA: Human Rights Watch today released a 100-page report titled ‘Under China’s Shadow: Mistreatment of Tibetans in Nepal’ outlining the increasing restrictions imposed on Tibetans in Nepal as a result of strong pressure from China.
“The situation for the Tibetan refugee community in Nepal has markedly deteriorated since China’s violent crackdown on protests in Tibet in 2008,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, in a press release issued today to mark the launch of the report.
Human Rights Watch urged the Nepal government to uphold its legal obligation towards Tibetans, under the terms of the “Gentleman’s Agreement” signed between the government of Nepal and the office of the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Under the terms of the agreement, Nepal guarantees Tibetans who reach its territory safe passage to India, where they can obtain refugee status. International law prohibits Nepal from forcibly repatriating Tibetan refugees because they would be at risk of torture or persecution in China.
“As a result of a massive security presence in Tibetan areas of China and increased cooperation between Nepalese and Chinese security forces in recent years, China has been able to stem the flow of Tibetan refugees escaping to Nepal. In 2013, fewer than 200 Tibetans were recorded as having fled China, as compared to a pre-2008 annual average of more than 2,000,” he said.
The consequences of Nepal’s hardening stance are being felt across the Tibetan community. Nepal continues to deny at least half the Tibetans in Nepal proper identity documents, making Tibetans more vulnerable to increased surveillance, monitoring, and abuse by police or the criminal justice system, regardless of whether they are politically active. It is harder for Tibetans to obtain documentation that would allow them to go to school, seek employment, run businesses, travel abroad, or engage in other activities, the report said.
“Nepal continues to deny thousands of Tibetans, most of them born in Nepal, any legal existence by refusing to issue them any form of official identification,” said Adams. “This fuels a pattern of marginalization and abuse of the Tibetan community at large.” He called on Nepal government to take specific measures to guarantee the basic rights of Tibetans in the country, including providing all eligible Tibetans with refugee identification certificates and strictly upholding international law prohibiting deportation of Tibetan refugees.
The report explains that Tibetan refugee communities in Nepal are now facing a de facto ban on political protests, sharp restrictions on public activities promoting Tibetan culture and religion, and routine abuses by Nepali security forces.