DHARAMSHALA, MAY 21: An American citizen of Tibetan origin and his Canadian friend, were arrested by Nepalese police for wearing a jacket with the words “Team Tibet” on the back.
Ngodup Tsering, a Tibetan American resident of Minnesota, and his friend were visiting the Swayambhunath temple on March 19, 2014 when 15 Nepalese police armed with guns stopped them.
“One of the policemen, whose name badge read Subedi, asked me to read what was written on my jacket. It was a sports jacket with the words “Team Tibet” written across the back,” said Ngodup.
Without further explanation Ngodup was asked to remove the jacket and the two were roughly escorted into the police van and taken to the Bijeshwori Ward No. 15 Police station.
At the station, Ngodup and his friend were asked to produce their passports. When they enquired the reason for their arrest, the police officer held up the jacket and asked if they had bought it in Nepal. “I told them that I had brought it from Minnesota.” The officer said that “these words are illegal in Nepal.” China’s direct influence in Nepal’s hardening of stance against the Tibetans was made clear when the officer told Ngodup that they “have direct and clear orders from China”.
Ngodup called the Embassy of the United States in Nepal to report the details of his arrest. The Embassy apparently called the station nine times. The Deputy Superintendent of the police station called on a Tibetan manager of a nearby hotel to validate and stay as reference for the two before they were released later in the day. The jacket, however, was not returned.
Ngodup said he waited for his brother’s immigration process to finish before speaking about this incident, as I did not want the authorities to jeopardize this process.
On April 1, 2014 the international group Human Rights Watch released a report titled Under China's Shadow: Mistreatment of Tibetans in Nepal
. This report details deteriorating political conditions for Tibetan refugees in Nepal, including intimidation and arbitrary detention. The report specifically calls on the Government of Nepal to secure basic rights for Tibetans.
According to University of Colorado professor of anthropology Carole McGranahan, "This is the worst period ever for Tibetan refugees in Nepal. In the political chaos following the end of Nepal's civil war in 2006, successive governments grew closer to the People's Republic of China with clear repercussions for the Tibetan community. The arrest and detention of a U.S. Citizen for wearing clothing with the word 'Tibet' on it reveals to the world what Tibetans in Nepal have known for some time now: China's influence in Nepal has grown exponentially in the last decade."
Nepal, home to some 20,000 Tibetans, has accommodated Tibetan exiles for decades but has come under increasing pressure from China, a major donor for the impoverished country, to crack down on the political protests.
Nepal has long been a transit for Tibetans fleeing repression under China with an average of 2000 Tibetans crossing the border to until 2008 when widespread protests across the Tibetan plateau was crushed by the Chinese government. The number has now dwindled with only 200 Tibetans recorded to have crossed into Nepal in 2013..”