They are not Chinese spies, says Chief Minister

The Himachal Pradesh police have arrested eight Taiwanese nationals from a fortified residence-cum-monastery from Chauntra in Mandi district on charges of overstaying.

The police on Tuesday night seized Rs. 30 lakh in cash, $ 3000 and some Nepalese and Chinese currency from their possession. Some SIM cards, international ATM cards and three laptops were also recovered.

Police sources, who had earlier called them Chinese, said on Wednesday that passports seized from them revealed that they were Taiwanese nationals. The passports were issued by the Republic of China.

These men aged between 20 and 40 were illegally working as masons, carpenters and painters. They were overstaying on expired tourist visas.

A local court remanded them in police custody for three days.

Chauntra village is having a sizeable Tibetan population and is close to Palampur and Dharamshala in Kangra district. Tibetans in these areas have made huge investments in real estate and temples. Tibetan monasteries are regularly visited by foreigners.

Himachal Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal dismissed the rumours that those arrested were Chinese spies and living here with ulterior motives.

Last month, Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama had expressed apprehensions that there could be a threat to his life from Chinese agents.

None of those arrested had registered themselves with the foreigner registration office or filed a “C” form with the officials, said the police.

Tibetan officials in Dharamshala refused to call them mercenaries and said they were only construction workers. In the past too huge amounts of foreign and Indian currencies were recovered by the police from Tibetan monasteries in Himachal.