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China Won't Comment on Tibetans Repatriated by Nepal - 2003-06-05

The Chinese government has declined to say what it intends to do with 18 Tibetan asylum seekers who entered Nepal last month but were sent back to China last week.

A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Thursday said the issue is a simple case of illegal immigration, because the Tibetans entered Nepal without permission. She accused China's critics of trying to politicize the issue and interfere in the country's internal affairs.

Earlier this week, an official Chinese newspaper, the Global Times, quoted the Foreign Ministry as saying the Tibetans will be punished under Chinese law. It did not say what penalty the 18 might face, although outsiders believe they will be sent to prison.

There has been strong international condemnation of both Nepal for deporting the Tibetans and China for detaining them. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said the move violated international norms of treatment for asylum seekers.

But the Chinese spokeswoman said her government is very concerned about illegal migration.