Human Rights Watch has accused the Nepal government of exerting increased surveillance and abuse of Tibetan refugees under China pressure. In a new 100-page report “Under China’s Shadow: Mistreatment of Tibetans in Nepal” published on Tuesday, the New York-based HRW also accused the Nepal government of forcibly returning fleeing Tibetans to China, where they were allegedly persecuted, though the rights body said it could not corroborate this claim.

“While Nepal continues to offer some protections to Tibetans, it is succumbing to Chinese pressure to limit the flow of Tibetans across the border and imposing restrictions on Tibetans in violation of its legal obligations,” the report quoted HRW Asia Director Brad Adams as saying.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala’s foreign policy advisor Dinesh Bhattarai, however, questioned the veracity of the report. “How do they know that we are under pressure from China?” Mr. Bhattarai told The Hindu. He also refuted the allegation that the government deported Tibetan refugees to China.

In June 2003, the government, then under the de facto control of king Gyanendra Shah, deported 18 of the 21 Tibetans, who were on their way to India, to China despite pleas from the Tibetan community and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The government handed over only three of the detainees — all minors — to the U.N. agency. That was the first known instance of deportation of Tibetan refugees and it drew international condemnation. In recent years, especially since massive protests before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, security around potential areas of Tibetan protests in Kathmandu and elsewhere in Nepal has been increased on days that are marked by Tibetans the world over. On March 10, “Tibetan Uprising Day,” the police arrested at least nine Tibetans from two places.

Making a note of this, HRW said Tibetan refugee communities were now facing a de facto ban on political protests, sharp restrictions on public activities promoting Tibetan culture and religion, and routine abuses by Nepali security forces. “These include excessive use of force, arbitrary detention, ill-treatment in detention, threats and intimidation, intrusive surveillance, and arbitrary application of vaguely formulated and overly broad definitions of security offenses.”

HRW has asked the new Nepali government to “make it clear to China that it will accept Tibetans who flee persecution as refugees and will not restrict basic rights of peaceful expression, assembly, and association.”