Thursday, May 1, 2008

What's up with Nepal?

Just finished reading the fascinating book High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed, an exploration of the madness that comes upon people determined to reach the summit of Chomolungma, as locals call Mount Everest. Greed, threats, prostitution, drugs -- it's all fomented in the region, swirling around indolent playboys seeking a quick and easy thrill and another checkmark on the "to do" list.

One interesting thing of the book is mention of the extensive network of sites and press that monitors all things Everest, including I check it from time to time, and was rather surprised to see this item which claims Nepalese complicity cracking down on China's latest paranoia.

The Olympic torch is on Mount Everest at the moment, and the torch relay for the 2008 Beijing Games has been a target for criticism from pro-democracy, pro-Tibet, pro-Korean, and other demonstrators. So the Chinese are trying to sweep criticism out of the way on the leg up Mount Everest. I was surprised at Nepal's complicity:

Nepalese soldiers and police on Mount Everest were authorized last week to shoot human rights sympathizers during China's Olympic torch run to the summit. This was shocking for several reasons, including the fact that the torch is not scheduled anywhere near Nepal. The Nepalese soldiers and climbers are on the lower elevations of the south side of the peak - with the steep and technical Lho La pass only one of the obstacles to the far away slopes of China.

I realize that Nepal is in an uncomfortable spot, especially this region on China's border. However, authorizing lethal force in an area with a large Western presence seems unwise. Nepal has a largely benign international reputation, often tinged with sorrow/pity over their long-running civil war involving Maoist terrorists. Now to find that Nepal is joining in the effort to shut people up whom China doesn't like...well, that's a bit disappointing.

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