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Tibetans Hope For Improved Treatment of Refugees in Nepal


Tibetan activists are hoping political change in Nepal will lead to better treatment of refugees from Tibet. But as VOA's Steve Herman reports in New Delhi, China's influence over Nepal still poses a threat to the Tibetans.

Tibetan activists released a report Monday about the fate of refugees fleeing Tibet. The report, by the International Campaign for Tibet, says about 2,500 Tibetans last year crossed from Chinese territory into India, through Nepal.

Activists had hoped for better treatment of Tibetans in Nepal after direct rule by King Gyanendra ended last April.

The king, regarded as sympathetic to Beijing on the Tibetan issue, in 2005 closed two Tibetan organizations that had cared for the refugees since the 1960's.

A member of the Tibetan parliament in exile, Youdon Aukatsang, is hoping the situation will improve, but notes Chinese pressure on the Nepalese government remains strong.

"So Nepal is crushed between India and China. And China seems to have more influence on Nepal than India does have at the moment," said Youdon Aukatsang. "So that's really affecting and impacting our political freedoms inside Nepal for Tibetans there."

China has opposed allowing Tibetans in Nepal to re-settle in the United States.

Kate Saunders of the International Campaign for Tibet says despite the new parliament in Nepal, and the greatly reduced role for the king, Tibetans in Nepal remain in danger.

"In this report we've documented at least one issue of Tibetans being returned from the Nepalese side of the border once they've arrived," she said. "So Tibetans are not safe, even in Nepal."

The plight of those trying to reach the Dalai Lama's headquarters in exile in northern India gained fresh attention after videotape of a September 30 incident was released.

This showed Chinese border guards firing on an unarmed group of Tibetans trying to cross into Nepal. A 17-year-old nun was shot and killed.

China has said its guards were acting in self-defense during normal border patrol activities.

A longer version of the video was screened in New Delhi for the first time on Monday.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a revolt against Chinese rule. China accuses the Buddhist spiritual leader of trying to split Tibet from China. The Dalai Lama has repeatedly said while he desires greater autonomy for Tibet, he does not advocate independence.