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China Pleased as Nepal Shuts Down Offices of Tibetan Exiles

  • Anjana Pasricha

China has welcomed Nepal's decision to shut down two offices associated with Tibetan exile organizations.

One of the offices forced to suspend operations in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu represented Tibet's exiled leader, the Dalai Lama. The second provided aid to Tibetan refugees who had fled across Himalayan passes from Tibet to Nepal.

Nepalese authorities asked both offices to close last week, saying they were not registered with the government. Officials have also said the Dalai Lama's office cannot be allowed to operate because the government does not recognize him or his representatives, and considers Tibet a part of China.

The decision to shut the offices caught Nepal's Tibetan refugee community unawares.

Wangchuk Tsering, who had been running both the Tibetan centers, says the move came under pressure from China. He points out that the two offices had been functioning for more than four decades.

"Definitely, we were all very much surprised and upset," he commented. "The government of Nepal knew that this office is running here for all these years. Obviously if [the] Dalai Lama's office, they have objections for that, that is definitely for political reason."

China invaded Tibet in 1951, and in 1959 the Dalai Lama fled to India, where he set up a government-in-exile. Beijing regularly protests any dealings between foreign governments and the Dalai Lama or his representatives, and the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu has frequently protested the presence of the two Tibetan offices.

On Tuesday Beijing's foreign ministry spokesman, Kong Quan called Nepal's decision "just".

Mr. Kong says China believes this is a legitimate decision made by the Nepalese government in accordance with its laws.

Nepal has a 20,000-strong Tibetan refugee community. In addition, more than 2,000 Tibetans reportedly pass through Nepal each year en route to visit the Dalai Lama's settlement in India.

In the past, human rights groups have accused Nepal of cracking down on Tibetan refugees as it tries to boost economic and political ties with China. China is both a key aid donor and a major trading partner of the tiny Himalayan country, and Nepal is careful not to antagonize its giant neighbor.

The group Human Rights Watch has urged the Nepalese government to allow the refugee center in Kathmandu to reopen, saying it served as a "critical safety net for tens of thousands of persecuted Tibetans."

The closure of the Tibetan offices is unrelated to Tuesday's decision by Nepal's King to declare a state of emergency and dismiss the country's government.