Arrest of 122 Chinese nationals was not a ‘joint operation’, security agencies sayAlthough the Chinese Foreign Ministry had said that Monday’s arrests were a joint operation between China and Nepal, Nepali security agencies say they acted solely on their own.
In a massive crackdown, the Nepal Police, acting on a tip-off from Interpol and the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, arrested 122 Chinese nationals on Monday for their alleged involvement in cyber fraud and online gambling, among other charges.
During a regular press briefing in Beijing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said that the operation had been jointly carried out by Chinese and Nepali police.
However, security officials, including the head of the Nepal Police, have objected to the Chinese statement on the grounds that the arrest of the Chinese nationals was not a “joint operation” and had been carried out solely by the Nepal Police.
At a security meeting at the Home Ministry on Wednesday, the heads of all three security agencies—Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and the National Intelligence Department—urged Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa to express Nepal’s strong reservation over the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s statement calling Monday’s arrests a “joint operation”, according to one chief.
“We share information with India and conduct similar operations but we never call it a joint operation and neither do they because that would mean we’ve allowed the police of a foreign nation to enter Nepali lands,” the chief of one security agency told the Post on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter. “This was not the case with the Chinese because they only gave us a tip so there was no joint operation.”
Thapa, who later held talks with Chinese Ambassador Hou Yanqi on Wednesday, duly expressed the concern of the security agencies, said the security official. Ambassador Hou was scheduled to meet Thapa regarding his upcoming 10-day visit to China on January 6.
Home Secretary Prem Kumar Rai confirmed that Thapa had met Hou but said he was not aware of the content of the meeting.
Rai, however, outright dismissed the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s claims about a “joint operation.”
“We only received some information from the Chinese. It was not a joint operation or even a collaboration. The operation was carried out solely by our security agencies,” Rai told the Post.
“It would’ve been better if Beijing had not issued such statement,” Thapa is reported to have told Hou, according to a security agency chief who was briefed about the meeting. “It has undermined the independent operation carried out by the Nepal Police.”
Hou is reported to have said that she will look into it and communicate with Beijing regarding Nepal’s concern.
Subsequently, the Chinese Foreign Ministry updated the English-language statement to read “collaboration” instead of “joint operation”.
“This is a major operation conducted in collaboration by the Chinese and Nepalese police,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry statement now reads.
Kedar Nath Sharma, head of the peace and security division at the Home Ministry, too emphasised that Monday’s arrests were not part of any “joint operation”.
“The operation was undertaken by the Nepal Police with tip-offs from Interpol and China. It was not a joint operation by the two police forces of Nepal and China as stated by the Chinese Foreign Ministry,” said Sharma.
A top security official told the Post that the Nepal Police is still investigating the crimes that the Chinese are believed to have committed in Nepal. Around 800 other Chinese nationals are also under close observation, according to the police.
Human rights community in Kathmandu is also closely monitoring developments and looking into whether the arrested Chinese nationals will be handed over to China and if the government will ensure their safety upon their return.
Indra Aryal, chairperson of the Human Rights Organisation Nepal, said that the government is considering deporting the arrested Chinese nationals to China, bowing to pressure from Beijing.
“If they have not violated our domestic law, how can government charge them with a case?” said Aryal. “If they have not committed a crime in foreign lands, then the Chinese government should provide details about the registration of a criminal case against each individual.”
The human rights community is especially concerned since China has legal provisions for capital punishment and Nepal does not.
“The United Nations Convention against Torture, which Nepal is a party to, does not allow the government of Nepal to deport Chinese nationals to a country where they could be executed,” said Aryal. “China’s human rights record is not good and as per our local laws, Chinese nationals cannot be handed over to the Chinese government without fulfilling their right to full legal recourse. We might have a Mutual Legal Assistance treaty with China, but not an extradition treaty.”