Thursday, April 03, 2008

Scenes from an embassy

Embassy embarassment
Kathmandu, Nepal

Pro-Tibetan Protests in front of the Consular section of the Chinese Embassy (Hattisar) had become an almost daily routine.

As of Tuesday the 1st, protests began in front of the actual Chinese Embassy building in Baluwatar (conveniently located down the block from the Prime Minister of Nepal's residence).

Here are some scenes from Monday's protest in Hattisar. Typically, the marchers approach the embassy's giant metal gates, holding banners and posters. The Nepal Police accost them, preventing them from approaching the gates. At this point the protestors sit down, "drop" or refuse to move, and the police drag them away.

On Monday, I noticed there were no monks in attendance. I asked a young English-speaking Tibetan girl about this. She, with her mother, was watching in tears.

"Some of them are monks," she said. "But they can't wear the monk dress. Police are arresting all monks and nuns on the road just for wearing the robes." So the monks were protesting in plainclothes. Indeed, I did notice quite a few protestors had the close-cropped monastic hair.

While the protestors shout and scream "stop the killing in Tibet, " "we want freedom in Tibet" and "Dalai Lama Zindabad" the police eventually apply the lathi (bamboo canes). Reporters and observers who'd been to many of the demos told me the police violence, while still including hair-pulling, even some face-punching, and lathi whacks, was actually reduced from that of a few days ago.

UN human rights observers in their trademark blue vests stood by watching. But they were denied entrance to the rooftop of a private house (next door to the Chinese Embassy) for better rooftop viewing. The Nepali homeowner said he "had been told not to" let anyone watch from the roof.

There were at least 2 dozen media members, both professional and amateur, in attendance, not to mention loads of ordinary Nepalis with cell phone cameras. Office workers peered down from the safety of first-floor windows while ground-floor shopkeepers slammed their metal gates shut.

Protestors were piled into police vans and trucks, and taken to various police stations where they were jailed until nightfall.

Just when the police would drive off with a truckfull of screaming protestors, another scuffle would start up down the block, with another group appearing seemingly out of nowhere. This went on for about 2 hours - groups appearing, sitting down, getting rounded up and dragged off, trucked away then another small group appearing elsewhere.

I read one report that claimed "protestors attacked the Chinese Embassy." I find that hard to believe, as they are not allowed anywhere near the enormous metal gates of the compound.


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