US embassy cable - 02KATHMANDU1245

TIBETAN REFUGEE UPDATE: ASYLUM REQUEST, PUBLIC GATHERINGS, DECLINE IN TRANSIT NUMBERS, BORDER VISIT

Identifier: 02KATHMANDU1245
Wikileaks: View 02KATHMANDU1245 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Kathmandu
Created: 2002-06-25 13:46:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREF PREL ECPS PROP PHUM NP CH Tibetan Refugees
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KATHMANDU 001245 
 
SIPDIS 
 
GENEVA FOR RMA 
LONDON FOR POL/RIEDEL 
BEIJING PASS CHENGDU 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/24/2012 
TAGS: PREF, PREL, ECPS, PROP, PHUM, NP, CH, Tibetan Refugees 
SUBJECT: TIBETAN REFUGEE UPDATE: ASYLUM REQUEST, PUBLIC 
GATHERINGS, DECLINE IN TRANSIT NUMBERS, BORDER VISIT 
 
REF: A. KATHMANDU 976 
 
     B. KATHMANDU 497 
     C. KATHMANDU 411 
     D. 01 KATHMANDU 1840 
     E. 01 KATHMANDU 1768 
     F. 01 KATHMANDU 1175 
     G. 01 KATHMANDU 616 
 
Classified By: DCM Robert K. Boggs, Reasons 1.5 (b), (d). 
 
1. (C) Summary.  A group of Tibetan refugees arrested by 
Nepalese authorities in transit to Tibet from India seek a 
royal amnesty on the King's upcoming birthday, July 7. 
UNHCR, Post and other diplomatic missions are encouraging the 
GON to grant the requests.  At the urging of UNHCR, Nepal 
released an unaccompanied minor child jailed for two months 
after entering Nepal from Tibet.  Two other undocumented 
Tibetan refugees remain jailed in Kathmandu.  A Tibetan 
community gathering was held on private property June 5, but 
police shut down an April 28 cultural program at a public 
venue to celebrate the birthday of Dharamsala's Panchen Lama. 
 
2. (C) Summary, con't:  The UNHCR Representative in Kathmandu 
briefed visiting officers from the U.S. Mission in China on 
the continued decline in numbers of Tibetan refugee arrivals. 
 Both UNHCR and sources at the Tibetan Reception Center 
attributed the drop to greater ease in obtaining Chinese 
passports, possible tighter Chinese control of travelers, and 
the pull-back of Nepal's security forces from border areas, 
which allows Tibetans to slip across more easily.  Seeing the 
Dalai Lama and pursuing studies in India continue to be the 
most popular reasons for traveling to India.  Poloff visited 
the Nepalese immigration post at Kodari June 11 to discuss 
their treatment of Tibetan refugees.  End Summary. 
 
Jailed Tibetans Still Seeking Amnesty 
------------------------------------- 
 
3. (SBU) The group of Tibetan refugees arrested in August, 
2001 while attempting to transit Nepal on their way back to 
Tibet from India (Ref A) continue to seek a royal amnesty. 
The King will next grant an amnesty on the occasion of his 
birthday, July 7.  (Note:  Of the original group of eleven, 
one was released into the care of medical professionals at 
the Tibetan Reception Center in Kathmandu due to severe 
emotional distress.  The number went back to eleven, however, 
after one woman gave birth February 19.  End Note.)  Lawyers 
for a local human rights organization have prepared petitions 
for amnesty on behalf of the group. 
 
4. (C) Post plans to contact Home Ministry officials and 
write to the Prime Minister requesting that favorable 
consideration be given to the amnesty request.  UK and 
Australian Emboffs have indicated to us that they will also 
encourage GON officials to consider granting amnesty, and 
UNHCR informed us that they wrote to the PM June 19 in 
support of the Tibetans' appeal.  Similar efforts were 
expended in advance of the February 19 Democracy Day, the 
last time the King granted amnesties, but without success 
(Ref C). 
 
Nepal Releases Minor Child 
-------------------------- 
 
5. (C) UNHCR secured the release June 18 of an unaccompanied 
14-year-old Tibetan arrested in March after entering Nepal 
from Tibet.  According to a UNHCR protection officer, 
repeated entreaties on behalf of the boy fell on deaf ears at 
first.  Only when UNHCR pointed out that Nepal was a 
signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the 
Child--and thus should not lock up minors--did authorities 
agree to release him.  (Note:  Nepal, like its South Asian 
neighbors, has not yet signed the UN Refugee Convention.  End 
Note.) 
 
Tibetan Public Gatherings Still O.K.--In Private 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
6. (C) Kathmandu's Tibetans gathered at the Tibetan Reception 
Center June 5 to mark the anniversary of the founding of the 
modern Tibetan system of government headed by the Dalai Lama. 
 Nepalese authorities did not interfere with the assembly. 
On April 28, however, a cultural program sponsored by the 
Tibetan Youth Club to mark the thirteenth birthday of Gedhun 
Choekyi Nyima - Dharamsala's pick for Panchen Lama - was 
cancelled at the last minute after police told organizers 
they would not let it proceed.  The event was to have been 
held at Kathmandu's Academy Hall, a public venue.  Over the 
past year, Nepalese authorities have allowed all manner of 
Tibetan community activities to go forward on private 
property (such as the reception center) but have not 
permitted events at public venues, like that of the April 28 
program, they construe to have political overtones. 
 
Decline in New Arrivals Continues 
--------------------------------- 
 
7. (C) UNHCR Representative Michel Dupoizat told Emboff and 
visiting China Mission PolOffs recently that the number of 
Tibetans processed by UNHCR at the Tibetan Reception Center, 
operated by the Tibetan community and headed by the Dalai 
Lama's representative, Wangchuk Tsering, continues to decline 
following a peak of 3,109 in 1998.  Subsequent annual figures 
for the years 1999, 2000 and 2001 were 2,182, 2,381 and 
1,381, respectively.  Only 323 have arrived in 2002 as of the 
end of May (compared to 816, 665, 833 and 582 for the same 
period in the years 1998-2001.)  Dupoizat stressed that these 
figures cover only those arriving at and processed by the 
Center.  Many others may not reach the Center as they pass 
through Nepal en route to India. 
 
8. (C) The Center keeps detailed records on each arrival 
based on whether he or she arrived with passport, without 
passport or as unaccompanied minors.  The three categories 
are further divided into region of origin: Kham, Amdo and 
U-Tsang.  While at the Center, PolOffs met a number of recent 
arrivals.  One group of three had come from the Deqin Tibetan 
Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province.  After making their 
way on their own to Lhasa, they hired a guide for RMB 2,000 
per person to take them the rest of the way to Kathmandu. 
 
Chinese Security Cited as Behind Drop in Arrivals 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
9. (C) Asked why numbers at the Reception Center are down, 
Dupoizat and Wangchuk Tsering offered several explanations. 
Dupoziat noted that it is now easier for Tibetans to obtain 
travel documents, making UNHCR assistance unnecessary. 
Citing unconfirmable reports, Dupoizat, echoed separately by 
Tsering, suggested that the Chinese were becoming better at 
 
SIPDIS 
intercepting would-be India-bound travelers.  Lastly, it was 
suggested that the security situation within Nepal, with the 
consequent pullback of security forces from many border 
areas, has made it easier for Tibetans to slip all the way 
through Nepal once across the border. 
 
Background:  Nepal and Tibetan Refugees 
--------------------------------------- 
 
10. (C) By way of background, Dupoizat explained that until 
January 1, 1990, the Nepal government allowed Tibetans to 
stay in Nepal as refugees.  Official recognition was spotty, 
however; although Nepalese identity cards were issued to some 
Tibetans resident in Nepal, others did not receive them. 
Beginning in 1990, Nepal allowed new arrivals to transit but 
insisted that they leave for a "third country," which was 
invariably India.  Most Tibetans now arriving in Nepal intend 
to travel on to Dharamsala to see the Dalai Lama or to study, 
either in a secular school or monastery, he noted.  This 
"transit-through" system worked fairly smoothly, he said, 
until about 2000.  However, following the December 25, 1999 
hijacking of a plane bound from Kathmandu to New Delhi, the 
January 2000 flight to India of the Karmapa, and subsequent 
high-level visits between Nepal and China, the situation in 
Nepal tightened up.  As a result, the Nepal government no 
longer grants permission for UNHCR to send monitoring 
missions to the border with Tibet (Ref E).  Nepal has, 
however, permitted "familiarization" visits to the 
headquarters of border districts for the purpose of 
consulting with officials based there (Ref D). 
 
UNHCR's Card System Marks One-Year Anniversary 
--------------------------------------------- - 
11. (C) To address the continuing need to assist Tibetan 
travelers while meeting the Nepal government's concerns, in 
May 2001 UNHCR instituted a system whereby a card is prepared 
for each individual Tibetan arriving at the Tibet Reception 
Center identifying him as a "person of concern" to UNHCR (Ref 
F).  The person is not given the card at this point, however. 
 Once the number of individuals at the Center reaches a 
"critical mass" (enough to fill a bus), they are sent to the 
Indian border in the company of a Nepali immigration officer. 
 An Office of Tibet staffer accompanies the group all the way 
to Dharamsala, carrying the Tibetans' cards which he turns 
over to the government-in-exile.  If and when the individual 
decides to return to Tibet, the card is stamped with the date 
he departs for Tibet from Dharamsala.  He then has 30 days to 
transit Nepal to Tibet.  The Nepal Government tacitly, but 
not formally, recognizes this system, and to date no one in 
possession of this card has been detained by Nepalese 
authorities. 
 
Dalai Lama Still a Draw to TRC 
------------------------------ 
 
12. (C) During a separate meeting with Wangchuk Tsering, head 
of the Center and the Dalai Lama's Representative in Nepal, 
Tsering suggested that most Tibetans do, indeed, try to reach 
 
SIPDIS 
the Center if only because those arriving in Dharamsala from 
the Center are granted an audience with the Dalai Lama.  Most 
hire a guide to escort them along one of the three or four 
most common mountain routes, which include via Kodari, Humla 
in the west, and Nangpa Pass in the Khumbu region.  Those 
living within 30 kilometers of the border can obtain a Border 
Trade Pass relatively easily (as can Nepalis living on the 
other side of the border).  Others try to get travel passes 
(Ch: tongxing zheng) which will allow them to at least 
approach the border area to make an attempt to slip across. 
 
Refugees Pass Us By, Immigration Officers Say 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
13. (C) On June 11 Poloff met with Nepalese officials at the 
Kodari border immigration office last visited by Post in May 
2001 (Ref F).  In March 2001 immigration officers there told 
Emboff that they turned over to China approximately 150 
Tibetans per year (Ref G).  During a May 2001 follow-up 
visit, Emboff heard that this practice had ceased.  On June 
11 Immigration officers repeated the claim that they no 
longer turn over Tibetans to China.  They insisted that 
intending refugees elude detection by sneaking through 
heavily forested areas around the border.  There had been no 
recent interdictions of Tibetans, the officers added. 
 
14. (U) Post would like to thank Embassy Beijing for its 
contribution to this report. 
MALINOWSKI 

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