Nepalese soldiers and police guarding the slopes of Mount Everest are authorised to shoot to stop any protests during China’s Olympic torch run to the summit, an official said on Sunday.
Chinese climbers plan to take the torch to the summit of Everest — the world’s highest peak on the border between Nepal and Tibet — in the first few days of May. During that time, other climbers will be banned from the mountain’s higher elevations.
Police and soldiers “have been given orders to stop any protest on the mountain using whatever means necessary, including use of weapons”, Nepal’s Home Ministry spokesman Modraj Dotel said, adding that the use of deadly force was authorised only as a last resort. The troops will first try to persuade protesters to leave and will arrest those who don’t. If demonstrators defy all non-violent means of restraint, troops have the option of using their weapons, such as in cases where a large group cannot be corralled. It was unclear if the protesters would have to attack or become violent before force was authorised. Twenty-five soldiers and policemen have already established several camps on the mountain, Dotel said, adding that more troops could be sent if needed.
The torch relay — the longest in Olympic history — was meant to highlight China’s rising economic and political power. But activists have seized on it as a platform to protest China’s human rights record.