Kathmandu, June 24
Immigration authorities at the country’s sole international airport have refused to let an American tourist enter Nepal on suspicion of being an agent of the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama, according to sources.
Penpa Tsering, 53, who arrived at Tribhuvan International Airport from New York city via New Delhi on Saturday, was denied entry into Nepal and was deported to the US after hours of questioning at the airport.
The tourist holding US passport was scorned and mistreated because of his Tibetan origin, eyewitnesses told THT. “Authorities decided to deport him after questioning harshly for hours.”
Penpa was sent back to the US after immigration officials found out that in their records a man by his name was the ‘most-wanted’ person by China. “We acted at the request of the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu,” an official said. Penpa, however, requested immigration desk officers to let him visit Nepal as he wanted to reunite with his friends and relatives in Kathmandu.
According to the official, the Chinese Embassy had written to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to restrict a person named ‘Penpa Tsering’ from entering Nepal labelling him a campaigner of the free Tibet movement ,as well as a strong advocate of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader. China also feared that a person with the name of ‘Penpa Tsering’ could accelerate Tibetans’ movement against China in Nepal, he added.
They sent him back to the US via Doha on Saturday evening.
The officials, who believed that their action aimed at honouring Nepal’s one-China policy, however, were not sure whether the same person was wanted by China. “After consulting higher authorities, including Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa, we simply chose to be on the safe side by deporting him to the US,” another official said.
Penpa, who repeatedly denied his affiliation to the Dalai Lama during questioning, had already obtained a multiple-entry visa from India for 10 years, an officer who read Penpa’s US passport data, said.
He claimed that Penpa had visited Kathmandu for three days in 2013 also.
Kumar Bahadur Khadka, chief immigration officer at TIA, confirmed Penpa’s deportation but refused to share more information about the incident. Immigration officials can take such action against anyone whose name is in the blacklist, Eshor Raj Poudel, director general at the Department of Immigration, said. “In Penpa’s case, I don’t have more details to share,” he added.
The 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released recently by the US Department of State mentioned that Nepal, which does not recognise Tibetans who arrived in the country after 1990 as refugees, continued its attempts to stop them from celebrating culturally important events, such as Tibetan New Year, World Peace Day and the Dalai Lama’s birthday.
The government has not issued personal identification documents to Tibetan refugees in more than 20 years, leaving majority of this refugee population without recourse to present required documents at police checkpoints or during police stops, adds the report.
A version of this article appears in print on June 25, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.