DHARAMSHALA, Jan. 23: China and Nepal have reportedly signed an agreement in secrecy during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit in October, to handover people crossing “each other’s” borders illegally or without proper documentation within a week of their custody. The agreement is especially susceptible to target the influx of Tibetan refugees that crossover into Nepal from occupied Tibet to escape China’s persecution.
Nepalese news agency Khabarhub reported on Thursday that the revelation came as Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradeep Gyawali was offering a written clarification to the members of parliament about the agreement that was kept under wraps since it was signed alongside other bilateral agreements in October when Xi visited Nepal.
The revelation was necessitated by the Nepalese constitution which requires the government to inform the parliament within one month of the session’s resumption about any international treaty or agreement the government has signed.
The new agreement violates the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” between the government of Nepal and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), put in place in 1989, where Nepal agreed to provide safe passage and transit for Tibetan refugees to travel to third countries like India where the bulk of the diaspora is based.
In October, the much-talked-about extradition treaty between Nepal and China was ultimately shelved much to the relief of some 20,000 Tibetans living in the country who stood to be directly affected by the treaty. Nepalese media at the time reported it to be due to “local opposition” within the country and fears of the same infringing upon the sovereignty of Nepal.
The existing border between Nepal and occupied Tibet is highly militarised making it one of the most dangerous journeys for exile Tibetans through the Himalayas. Their problems are however stacked even if they manage to survive the perilous cross over with Nepal growing increasingly hostile to Tibetan refugees over the years at Beijing’s behest.
Nepal which is home to more than 20,000 Tibetans who either came across the border or were born to settlers are finding it hard to sustain a free and normal existence. Earlier in March 2019, the Kathmandu government began collecting details of Tibetans living in the country for a database which, observers say, will serve to monitor the Tibetan community and curb anti-china activities.