Human Rights Watch urges Nepal to stop crackdown on Tibetan protesters
By BINAJ GURUBACHARYA, AP
March 20, 2008, 12:00 am TWN
KATMANDU, Nepal -- An international human rights group urged Nepal on Thursday to stop doing "Beijing's bidding" and end its crackdown on Tibetan exiles protesting against China.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said Nepal "should cease arbitrary arrests and detentions, harassment, and the use of excessive force to silence Tibetan protesters, activists and journalists."
Nepal's government, in response, denied using excessive force and said it would continue to clamp down on illegal anti-China rallies in Nepal.
On Thursday, police prevented Tibetan exiles, including several Buddhist monks, from gathering in front of the U.N. headquarters in Katmandu and arrested nearly 20 people.
Police searched the streets surrounding the building for more protesters to prevent any new gatherings by the exiles.
The rights group said in a statement that Nepal's government needs to reaffirm its commitment to freedom of assembly, association and expression.
There have been several protests by Tibetan exiles in Katmandu in the past week. On Wednesday, about 100 Tibetan protesters were prevented from rallying at the U.N. headquarters to demand an investigation into China's recent crackdown in Tibet.
Police have fired tear gas and beat protesters with bamboo batons at several of the demonstrations. Scores have been arrested and detained.
Human Rights Watch said it had witnessed Nepali police hitting, kicking and dragging protesters.
"The police are violently dispersing peaceful Tibetan protesters in Nepal's capital and arbitrarily detaining increasing numbers," Human Rights Watch's Brad Adams said in the statement.
The group urged Nepal's government to ensure police don't use force against peaceful protesters.
"Now is the time for the Nepali government to protect Tibetans, not to do the bidding of Beijing," Adams said.
The Nepali government denied it was using excessive force, saying it was only trying to stop political activities by Tibetans.
"We have given the Tibetans refugee status and allow them to carry out culture events. However, they do not have the right for political activities," said Modraj Dotel, the Home Ministry spokesman.
"We will not allow any anti-China activities in Nepal and will stop it. The allegations that excessive force was used to break these protests are baseless," he said, adding police were only trying to stop protesters from using political slogans.
Nepal's government does not want to harm its good relations with neighboring China, and has not issued any statements on Beijing's crackdown on anti-Chinese protests in Tibet.
Nepal's border with China in the Himalayas is a key route for Tibetans fleeing Chinese rule in the region. Most of the refugees eventually move to India, where Tibet's government-in-exile and its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, are based.