By Tenzin Tsering
Police in riot gear arrive at a polling station in Kathmandu, October 3, 2010
Dharamsala, October 4: Tibetan exiles and activist groups around the world have strongly condemned Nepal for what they see as “the height of kowtowing” to China, after Nepalese police forces disrupted the Tibetan preliminary elections on Sunday.
As hundreds of Tibetan residents of Nepal went to cast their ballots to nominate candidates for the post of Tibetan Prime Minister and the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile, Nepalese police arrived in full riot gear at the three polling booths in Kathmandu, the region's capital, and ransacked the polling booths. The police took away ballot boxes an hour before the voting was to complete.
Tibetan youth activist group Students for Free Tibet (SFT), and the regional Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) of New York and New Jersey, will hold "Give Back Our Ballot Box!" protest at the Nepali Consulate in New York City on Monday.
“We strongly appeal to the Government of Nepal to reverse this blatant violation of human right of the Tibetan people in Nepal and to respect the basic fundamental rights of the Tibetan people for peaceful assembly and right to vote. We also urge the international community including the United Nations to intervene on this issue immediately,” said Tsewang Rigzin, President of Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), the largest Tibetan non-governmental organization seeking complete independence from China.
Nepal, which is home to some 20,000 Tibetans has since 2008 hardened its stance on the Tibetan refugees, a trend observed in the Himalayan country’s increasing ties with China.
“I am sure the people of Nepal are shocked in the way their leaders unleashed this ’goonda’
act by robbing ballot boxes from Kathmandu Tibetans yesterday in broad daylight," Tibetan poet and independence activist Tenzin Tsundue said, while calling the act shocking and condemnable. "Nepal cannot get away with this 'goonda giri'
. We want our ballot boxes back. Nepal must remember our centuries old brotherhood and not get carried away by Chinese candies or bullets. Nepal must remain strong when its freedom and democracy is being tested both internally and externally,” he added.
According to Jamphel Choesang, Chief Election Commissioner of the Tibetan exile government in exile, “Tibetan government representative Mr Thinley Gyatso had duly informed and obtained permission from the district authority for the election process.”
Despite this, Nepali security forces under the direction of the Home Ministry of Nepal arrived in at least two polling booths, at Boudha and Swyambhu and confiscated the ballot boxes, the Election Commissioner added.
“We condemn this heinous act of repression by the Nepali authorities which tramples on the Tibetan people’s democratic right to freely elect their political leadership. Tibetans in Nepal have for decades participated, unimpeded, in the exile Tibetan democratic process and should be allowed to continue doing so,” Tenzin Dorjee, Director of SFT, said in a statement to the press.
Tibetans in Nepal expressed shock and a sense of helplessness at these latest anti-Tibetan actions of the Nepali police forces.
“We were in shock. We could not do anything. Where I was voting at Boudha, it felt like a battlefield when Nepalese police armed with guns and batons arrived at the polling booth. One Tibetan man jumped across the wall to avoid arrest. He had tried to prevent the police from confiscating the ballot boxes,” said Tenzin Namgyal from Boudha, who couldn’t cast her vote.
In July, Nepal -- which constantly assures China of its commitment towards ‘One China’ policy -- had banned the birthday celebrations of the Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama. A month earlier, it had forcibly handed over three fleeing Tibetan refugees to Chinese authorities.
China recently announced it would give Nepal’s Ministry of Home Affairs US $1.47 million (10 million Yuan) every year to strengthen its security apparatus to curb “anti-China activities” on its soil.