25 November 2019 I Eight Members of the US Congress have warned Nepal of a repetition of 2003 diplomatic hiccup “when a trade bill regarding the Nepalese garment industry was withdrawn in the Senate after Nepal returned 18 Tibetan refugees to China”.
The warning comes on the heels of Nepal’s crackdown on the Tibetan community during and in the run up to President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Himalayan nation.
The letter, addressed to Nepal’s ambassador to the United States Dr Arjun Kumar Karki, is signed by the Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Congressmen James P. McGovern and Christopher H. Smith. The other six Members of the US Congress who have signed the letter are Chairman Eliot L. Engel and Ranking Member Michael T. McCaul of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Chairman David Price and Co-Chair Vern Buchanan of the House Democracy Partnership and Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Steve Chabot.
The letter highlights Nepal’s regular deportations of Tibetans back to China where, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission fears, the asylum-seekers are most likely to face persecution.
Nepal’s oft-repeated rhetoric that it would not allow “anti-China activities on its soil” cannot justify restrictions on fundamental civil and political rights of the Tibetan refugees, the US lawmakers say.
The letter also mentions deportation of six Tibetans who had crossed into Nepal on 5 September. “According to witness accounts, when the Tibetans arrived on foot at Legme on September 5, Nepalese border police arrested and handcuffed the refugees, took them to Simikot, in Humla district, Karnali Pradesh, and turned them over to Chinese border police on the same evening,” the letter dated November 8 reads.
The US Representatives have accused Nepal of violating “customary international law” by returning the Tibetan refugees “to a place where they may face persecution”. They have further warned, “Nepal’s adherence to its obligations in this regard remains a priority interest for Congress, as it was in 2003 when a trade bill regarding the Nepalese garment industry was withdrawn in the Senate after Nepal returned 18 Tibetan refugees to China.”
The Congress Members have expressed discontent at Nepal’s tilting more towards inking the feared extradition treaty with its communist neighbour: “We had welcomed reports prior to President Xi’s visit that a proposed extradition treaty between Nepal and the PRC would not be signed. We believe that was a correct decision given the well-documented lack of independence of the Chinese judicial system and its failure to guarantee due process. So we are disappointed and concerned that the Joint Statement between China and Nepal issued during President Xi’s trip “expressed hope for an early conclusion of the Treaty on Extradition.” Extradition treaties can be a legitimate tool for international law enforcement, but should not be used to send people to a country where they would be at risk of serious human rights abuses. Recognizing the PRC’s long-standing repression of Tibetans within its borders, we fear that an extradition treaty would be used by that government to persecute Tibetans living in Nepal”.
So we are disappointed and concerned that the Joint Statement between China and Nepal issued during President Xi’s trip “expressed hope for an early conclusion of the Treaty on Extradition.”
Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission was established by the United States House of Representatives in 2008. It is charged with promoting, defending and advocating for international human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.