Chinese Honour Guard stand with Nepalese and Chinese flags ahead of a welcoming ceremony for the Nepalese President Bidhya Devi Bhandari.

© Madoka Ikegami/Pool Photo via AP
 
As Nepal gets ready to welcome President Xi Jinping of China on October 12, 2019, it appears that the two countries are preparing to sign an extradition treaty. Details of the agreement are not yet known, but it should be made public and should not put anyone in Nepal that the Chinese government sees as a threat – including refugees, activists, and journalists – in danger of being sent back to face unfair trials or the risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

Concerns about extradition treaties with Beijing have been a key driver of the unprecedented protests rocking Hong Kong since June.

The proposed Hong Kong laws would have allowed the transfer of people accused of crimes abroad to mainland China which does not have an independent judiciary, and has a record of arbitrary detention, torture, serious violations of fair trial rights, and various systems of incommunicado detention without trial. In the past, the Chinese government has used bogus charges, such as fraud, to imprison those who oppose its policies.

Extradition treaties are often a legitimate tool of international law enforcement, but sending people to a country where they are at risk of serious human rights abuses is a breach of international human rights law.

Several international legal obligations prohibit Nepal from returning people to places where there is a real risk of serious human rights violations. Nepal is also bound by the principle of non-refoulement, which means refugees must not be sent back to countries where they face threats to their life or freedom.

Nepal is home to around 20,000 Tibetans, and while many have been granted refugee status, some have not. This makes them especially vulnerable, particularly as Nepal’s willingness to defend Tibetans’ rights has shrunk considerably under Chinese pressure.

A number of economic and infrastructure agreements are expected to be signed during Xi’s visit. But as Prime Minister K.P. Oli has said, achieving economic growth and protecting human rights have to go together.