In a major crackdown, eight Chinese nationals have been arrested on charges of overstaying from a fortified monastery in Mandi district and Rs 30 lakh, $3000 and SIM cards have been seized from them, police said.
There was some confusion about their nationality with official sources in New Delhi saying the foreigners arrested were Taiwanese nationals and will be deported after interrogation.
Chinese embassy sources said those arrested have Chinese passports but "violated the tourist visa norms by indulging in craftsmenship" besides overstaying. They also said consular services will be provided if sought by those people.
Following inputs by central intelligence agencies, raids were carried out last night at the monastry in Chauntra village in Mandi, 150 km from Shimla. However, some Chinese fled the spot.
Besides currency, police also recovered mobile phones suspected to have Chinese SIM cards and international ATM cards.
The raids came within days of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama saying he had been passed reports from inside Tibet warning that Chinese agents had trained Tibetan women for a mission to poison him while posing as devotees seeking his blessings.
In Ahemdabad, Home Minister P Chidambarm said the motive behind the illegal stay of the foreigners was being ascertained and a report in this connection will be received by Thursday.
"This is too early to give any official version. It is too early to come to a conclusion...don't rush to any judgment" he told reporters.
In Shimla, Director General of Police D S Manhas said the police had received information that illegal activities may be going on in this resettlement area.
"Based upon these intelligence inputs, the searches were carried out yesterday and we were able to apprehend eight Chinese who were staying there illegally and had not reported to the police," he said.
Manhas said the Chinese, holding expired tourist visas, were found working and further investigations were underway. Some of them were engaged as masons, carpenters, painters and electricians.
A first information report has been registered in Jogindernagar police
station against the arrested persons under various sections of Essential Commodities Act, sections 379 (punishment for theft), 411 (dishonestly receiving stolen property) of IPC and various section of Excise and Income Tax Act.
Manhas said Income Tax authorities have been informed about the seizures.
"Definitely for the last six-eight months we have been getting some intelligence inputs and there were two cases reported where Chinese were found overstaying without any basic documentation and without any intimation," he said.
"So, we are taking all intelligence inputs seriously so that the security of the Dalai Lama is not compromised in any way," he said.
When contacted in Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama refrained from commenting on the arrests. "I don't know," he said at the airport before leaving for the United Kindom.
In Shimla, Himachal Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said before the raids some Chinese had left the spot. "It is a matter of serious security concern," Dhumal said, seeking a joint probe by central and state investigating agencies.
"The motive of their stay would be known after investigations but I have been cautioning the Central government repeatedly about increased Chinese activities along the border and intrusions of air space in Kinnaur." He also sought Centre's assistance to beef up the security of Dalai Lama and Karmapa Lama, another top Tibetan Buddhist leader.
The arrested Chinese nationals have been living in the house, protected by a 15-foot high wall, for quite some time, the police said.