(Interview with Dalai Lama's special envoy Lodi Gyari)
Tibetan exile leaders are urging authorities in Nepal to return several ballot boxes seized Sunday as Tibetans voted to elect their next prime minister and 44 members of the parliament-in-exile.
The Washington based International Campaign for Tibet says armed police in riot gear confiscated ballot boxes from three polling stations where almost 9,000 Tibetans were registered to vote.
Nepalese officials admitted that 18 ballot boxes were seized. Nepal's Home Ministry spokesman Jaya Mukunda Khanal said this was done because Nepal forbids activities against friendly neighboring countries.
But Thinley Gyatso, the regional Tibetan election commissioner in Nepal, informed VOA Tibetan Service that his office had been granted permission by the district commissioner in Kathmandu to conduct voting.
China, which rules Tibet as an autonomous region, strongly opposes the activities of the government-in-exile, which is loyal to the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama. But the Nepalese officials denied they were acting at China's request.
An estimated 20,000 Tibetans live in Nepal, either to avoid Chinese rule or for fear of persecution in their homeland. Since 2008, Nepal has hardened its stance on the Tibetan refugees, a trend observed in the Himalayan country’s increasing ties with China.
Sunday’s elections were preliminary election towards the 2011 general elections to be held next year March 20, which will decide the third directly elected Tibetan prime minister and members of the Tibetan Parliament.
An estimated 140,000 Tibetans live in exile, about 100,000 of them in India. Organizers say almost 80,000 Tibetans worldwide have registered to vote.