India arrested another seven Tibetans on Thursday on the eve of a planned visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, while Nepal – the next stop on Xi’s South Asian itinerary – restricted the return from India of 33 Tibetan delegates who had attended a conference in Dharamsala, sources in the region said.
The arrests on Thursday in Tamil Nadu state, where Xi will meet India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, brought to 35 the number of Tibetans picked up ahead of the Xi visit, aimed at shoring up the Sino-Indian relationship after trade and border friction.
Six Tibetan activists and a stinger for RFA’s Tibetan service assigned to cover the Xi visit to the small Tamil Nadu town of Mamallapuram were taken into police custody in the state capital Chennai.
“I understand that the government would not want unruly scenes when foreign dignitaries visit. But these arrested Tibetans have not even protested, they just want a silent protest,” Henry Tiphagne, executive director of the rights group People’s Watch, told the Times of India on Thursday.
The Core Group for Tibetan Cause-India released a statement on October 9 calling on Modi to raise the Tibetan issue with Xi and urge China to resume long-frozen dialogue with representatives of the Dalai Lama as soon as possible.
Kathmandu, which hosts Xi this weekend for a rare visit by a Chinese leader, has prevented 33 Tibetan delegates based in Nepal from returning home after they attended a major meeting of Tibetan exile groups from around the world in Dharamsala, India, the delegates told RFA.
“We all have come to attend the special meeting but we are not allowed to go back to Nepal because Chinese President Xi Jinping is visiting Nepal on October 12 and therefore until then we are stuck here,” one of the delegates told RFA’s Tibetan Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Groups of three or more people are not allowed to hang out together in Nepal at the moment. Even going out to buy vegetable has become difficult,” the delegate added.
Of the 33, three delegates were able to slip back into Nepal just before the restriction was imposed, five delegates were sent back to India from the Nepalese border and rest are still stranded in India, the delegate said.
The Oct 3-5 Special General Meeting held in Dharamsala drew 340 Tibetan community leaders and representatives from 24 countries including India, the United States, Canada, Australia, Nepal and Bhutan.
Nepali media have reported that Nepal is preparing to sign an extradition treaty with China during Xi’s visit, raising concerns from human rights groups about the fate of Tibetans in the Himalayan country.
The online news outfit Khabarhub said that Beijing had been pressing Kathmandu to sign the treaty during the Xi visit and that a draft is ready for Nepali cabinet approval.
The news website quoted an unnamed expert as saying there was worry that China is mainly interested in extraditing Tibetans involved in ‘anti-China’ activities in Nepal.
Sophie Richardson, the China director at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said China’s judicial system presents problems that has made many countries reluctant to enter into extradition treaties with Beijing.
“In China’s case, we have well documented all of the problems with the deeply politicized judicial system, in which the courts are not independent from party control, people are regularly denied basic fair trial rights, and where punishments can wildly disproportionate to an alleged crime,” she told RFA.
A 2009 survey put the number of Tibetans in India at about 128,000 and 13,500 in Nepal.
Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India following a failed 1959 national uprising against rule by China, which marched into the formerly independent Himalayan region nine years earlier.
Chinese authorities have maintained a tight grip on Tibet and on Tibetan-populated prefectures of Chinese provinces ever since, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of ethnic and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Paul Eckert.