KATHMANDU — Armed police have blocked thousands of Tibetan exiles in Nepal from voting for a new government-in-exile by forcibly seizing ballot boxes, police and activists said.
Witnesses said police stormed three separate voting centres in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, home to almost 9,000 Tibetan exiles, as the election was being held on Sunday.
“This was in total violation of our human rights,” said one exile, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We believe everybody should be allowed to vote.”
Thousands of Tibetans living in India, Bhutan, Nepal, Europe and the United States took part in Sunday’s vote, a preliminary election for a new prime minister and parliament in exile.
Kathmandu police chief Ramesh Kharel confirmed the seizure of ballot boxes and said the action was taken to prevent what he termed an “illegal vote”.
“The Tibetans are living in exile in Nepal. It is illegal for them to carry out elections here, so we seized the ballot boxes,” he told AFP.
Nepal shares a long border with Tibet and is home to around 20,000 exiles, who began arriving in 1959 when a failed uprising against Chinese rule forced their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, into exile.
But the Nepalese authorities are under mounting pressure from Beijing to clamp down on what it calls anti-China activities, and the government has said it will not tolerate demonstrations against Chinese rule in Tibet.