Former Nepal PM's Hong Kong detention no laughing matter

November 03, 2016 15:34
Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, former prime minister of Nepal, and his wife were detained by Hong Kong immigration at Lo Wu border. Photo: Dr. Baburam Bhattarai

Detaining a former head of state at any crossing point is no laughing matter, no matter if that person is from a poor nation like Nepal or any other country.

It is almost unimaginable for that to happen to visiting leaders from rich and powerful countries.

It would be a diplomatic suicide and no place including Hong Kong is naive enough to commit such a blunder.

But something similar occurred on Oct. 29, 2016 in Hong Kong and almost nobody noticed it.

Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, a former prime minister of Nepal, and his wife were disrespectfully detained by Hong Kong immigration at Lo Wu while entering Hong Kong after attending a seminar in Guangzhou.

Dr. Bhattarai and his wife were visiting Hong Kong on the invitation of the local Nepalese community and he was to speak at various events.

The unfortunate incident was disclosed by Dr. Bhattarai himself through a news portal after his return to Nepal.

He wrote about his feelings while in detention and compared the experience with South Africa’s apartheid.

He said he was kept in a detention room for at least an hour and released afterward.

The whole Nepalese community in Hong Kong was shocked, social media was overwhelmed with complaints and many were outraged.

Understandably, South Asians including the Nepalese community have an image issue in Hong Kong.

We are accused of being involved in illegal activities such as drugs, gang-fighting, fake asylum-seekers and so on, and the recent events did not help at all.

But not all Nepalese people in Hong Kong are bad. We might be poor but we are not thugs and not all of us indulge in illegal activities.

Most importantly, we are Gurkhas and we know how to earn our living with dignity and honor.

Barring a few bad apples, we are a very honest, hardworking and honorable people and many have achieved great success in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s disciplinary services such as the police, customs and immigration see our community as an eye sore. Given the situation in Hong Kong, that is understandable.

However, seeing things from a wholesale and stereotyped mindset is not only wrong but also baneful.

There is always something good as well as bad in everything including society and seeing it from an old and outdated perspective will do no good.

It has almost been 20 years since the handover but those disciplinary forces still have the same old colonial mentality and cannot stop discriminating against the poor and weaker members of the community.

In fact, they tend to fulfill their daily quota victimizing the weakest of society and this old and dirty practice has always been used for ages.

Lo Wu checkpoint is notorious for such practices.

New migrants in need of visa extension are forced to use Shenzhen as a stopover.

They cross the border at Lo Wu in the morning, visit Shenzhen for the day and return to Hong Kong in the evening.

Perhaps it was the reason behind the stringent border controls at Lo Wu and that is also understandable.

If you happen to be carrying a Nepalese passport and crossing through Lo Wu, you are almost certain to be picked up by immigration and I can say it from my own experience.

But not all people crossing through Lo Wu is a criminal or petty thief. They should not be treated like one.

Dr. Bhattarai is not a simple person with a Nepalese passport.

He is a former head of state for God’s sake and the immigration officers should have easily noticed it.

Had the officer at the control point been more deligent, alert or dutiful, the honorable leader and his wife would not have experienced such humiliation and indignity.

Needless to say, the officer had blinkers on and obviously did not have a care in the world.

Hong Kong immigration should be grateful that the incident happened to a leader from a poor and weak country like Nepal.

After displaying such flagrant rudeness, ignorance and disrespect, immigration still has nothing worry about.

It is not the person or his passport but the position that we must learn to respect.

Failure to do so will have consequences.

Imagine what could have happened if it was a former head of state from a rich country instead of poor Dr. Bhattarai?

We can easily guess and it should be a lesson to be learned for all of us.

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EJ Insight contributor