‘To all the Tibetans in-exile living in Nepal’
A Kathmandu-ite might barely register the seemingly random presence of police in riot gear appearing at the mere rumour of some political rally or strike. So the extra presence in various places around the valley today – near the UN’s central headquarters, near the two Chinese diplomatic enclaves, at major cross-streets – might easily pass without notice. But 10 March marks the 51st anniversary of the Tibetan uprising (now commonly referred to as Uprising Day for its annual marking) against the Chinese military presence, which led to the exile of the Dalai Lama – and the refugee population that now maintains a community in Nepal and elsewhere. The UN House and other Kathmandu markers have frequently been sites of peaceful protest that, on occasion, has lead to inordinate and violent police retaliation, most recently in the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
That year, of course, also marked the massive demonstrations that swept through Tibet itself and elsewhere around the world – including in Kathmandu, where protesters demonstrated daily for months in the aftermath of the Spring 2008 anti-government show of force. Eventually, those daily demonstrations became a significant bugbear in relations between the Nepali and Chinese governments, infuriating Beijing and embarrassing Kathmandu. Nepal’s various governments have since consistently reiterated their commitment to China’s policy towards Tibet, backing their statements with firm action on protesters. But a letter dated 8 March from the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Committee of Kathmandu, currently making its rounds in the community, makes the ominous allegation that the Nepali police have been going so far as to threaten some extremely dire consequences to the kinds of protests Kathmandu has seen in the past. In a stark warning to the community, the letter states that, in the areas deemed off limits to demonstrators, “the police may even resort to shoot[ing].” As news of arrests of Tibetan activists continue to trickle in, the accompanying photographs taken today around the valley indicate that the Nepali government will continue to channel the paranoia of Beijing.