Nepal Bars Dalai Lama Birthday Celebrations

Nepal Bars Dalai Lama Birthday CelebrationsTibetan spiritual leader and Nobel laureate Dalai Lama (GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)

The communist government of Nepal succumbed to pressure from China once again and barred Tibetan refugees in the Himalayan country from celebrating the birthday of their spiritual leader, the 14th Dalai Lama, who is living in exile in India.

The 13,500-odd Tibetan refugees in Nepal who stay in 12 settlements under harsh conditions had been planning a series of events in Kathmandu Valley to celebrate the 84th birthday of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. The main celebration was planned at the Mustang Gumba at Swayambhunath in Kathmandu and many western diplomats were scheduled to attend the celebrations.

The 14th Dalai Lama was born on 6 July 1935, at Amdo in Tibet and had fled his country in 1959 to escape incarceration by the Chinese military which had invaded and occupied Tibet since 1950 (read this, this and this).

The Nepal government asked the Tibetan refugees to cancel the celebrations and deployed a strong police contingent armed with assault rifles at Swayambhunath, which is an important pilgrimage site and attracts tourists from across the world. A Tibetan news portal said that the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office in Kathmandu issued a notice cancelling the celebrations after being asked to do so by the Nepal government which, since 1990, has stopped recognising Tibetans fleeing persecution in China-occupied Tibet as refugees and has stopped issuing documents to allow them to live in Nepal.

In the past, too, Nepal had prevented Tibetans from celebrating the Dalai Lama’s birthday as well as other Tibetan cultural and political events like the anniversary of the 10 March Tibetan uprising and the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Dalai Lama.

A Nepal government spokesperson said that the Dalai Lama’s birthday celebrations planned in Kathmandu went against the Nepal government’s ‘One China’ policy. China is a major investor in Nepal and the communist government is perceived to be particularly close to Beijing. Diplomats from the missions of the USA, UK, France and Germany in Kathmandu who were to attend the birthday celebrations expressed severe disappointment at the event’s cancellation and have criticised its forced cancellation as a violation of the human rights of Tibetan refugees.