Nepal Sees ‘Red’, As China Threatens Top Opposition MP For Exposing Its Land-Grab Machinations

Jaideep Mazumdar

Nov 25, 2020, 03:06 PM | Updated 03:22 PM IST

Nepal’s Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli and Chinese President Xi Jinping. 
Nepal’s Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli and Chinese President Xi Jinping. 
  • MP Jeevan Bahadur Shahi has found that China has cut off access to a vital road passing through Humla district it has annexed in Nepal, and this has led to tremendous sufferings for the people of that remote area.
  • After exposing China, he and the editor of a prominent newspaper have been intimidated by the Chinese embassy, to the shock of civil society.
  • Citizens of Nepal are ultimately getting to see the ugly, authoritarian and bellicose face of China. And Nepal’s honeymoon with China seems to be souring steadily.

    The latest cause of outrage is the veiled threat by the Chinese to a Nepal lawmaker — Karnali province Member of Parliament (MP) Jeevan Bahadur Shahi.

    Shahi, a senior leader of the Opposition Nepali Congress (NC), had gone to Lacha-Mimi area in the remote Humla district of northwestern Nepal bordering Chinese-occupied Tibet (CoT) to investigate encroachment of a huge tract of land belonging to Nepal by China (read this).

    After conducting the field visit last month, Shahi had confirmed the allegations that China had indeed annexed a large slice of territory belonging to Nepal and had constructed multistoried buildings there.

    In an interview published in popular Nepali news portal Khabarhub, Shahi, a former Minister of tourism, said he had collected irrefutable evidence of the Chinese annexation.

    Jeevan Bahadur Shahi.
    Jeevan Bahadur Shahi.

    Shahi is a native of Humla.

    Shahi said that China has cut off access to a vital road passing through the area it has annexed and this has led to tremendous sufferings for the people of that remote area.

    China has also been denying locals access to the farmlands that fall in the territory it has surreptitiously annexed.

    Following this interview and the sensation it created, especially since it debunked the Nepal government’s denial of China encroaching on Nepal territory, the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu issued a statement calling Shahi’s claims “biased”.

    In a serious breach of diplomatic protocol, the Chinese embassy also sent a letter to the Nepali Congress (NC) saying that Shahi’s claims would jeopardise ties between the NC and the Communist Party of China (CCP), as well as relations between Nepal and China.

    In addition, the CCP-controlled Global Times published a disparaging article about Shahi and the NC and accused the NC of being a pro-India party.

    Shahi gave another interview (published earlier this week) to Khabarhub where he revealed China’s perfidy and said he felt threatened by the tone and tenor of the letter written by the Chinese embassy and the vilification campaign by the CCP mouthpiece.

    Shahi also said he felt humiliated as the Nepal government has “expressed its loyalty towards China by not claiming Nepal’s land”. The MP said he would resign from his seat in Parliament if proved wrong.

    Over the past three days, Nepal’s media has been carrying news reports and opinion pieces decrying China’s annexation of Nepali territory and the ‘threat’ to the country’s MP by the Chinese embassy.

    Breach Of Diplomatic Protocol By Ambassador

    Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi.
    Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi.

    The action of the Chinese embassy, coming on the heels of the repeated high-profile parleys between Chinese ambassador Hou Yanqi with Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister and a host of senior leaders of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), has caused outrage in Nepal.

    Yanqi has been openly interfering in Nepal’s internal politics and acting as a mediator between the warring factions of the NCP. She (Yanqi) has also been meeting President Bhandari in this regard, thus dragging the President’s office and her own into controversy.

    Social media users in Nepal have erupted in anger over what they view is China overstepping its limits and trying to bully Nepalese politicians. Many have not only condemned China’s actions, but said it is high time Nepal realises the dangers in cosying up to China.

    Most of those who commented on these developments in social media demanded that the Nepal government summon the Chinese envoy and lodge a protest against her.

    Many also derided the Oli government as being subservient to and a lackey of Beijing.

    A number of media outlets pointed out that this is not the first time that the Chinese embassy has treated citizens of Nepal as China’s vassals.

    In February this year, the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu spurred nationwide anger (read this) when it threatened The Kathmandu Post, a widely circulated English daily, and its editor for publishing an article critical of China’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic.

    The well-respected newspaper carried an op-ed piece titled ‘China’s Secrecy Made Coronavirus Crisis Much Worse’ written by Ivo Daalder, former US ambassador to NATO.

    The article was first published in The Korean Herald.

    The article was accompanied by a sketch of Mao, as seen in China’s 100 yuan bank note, donning a surgical mask.

    The Chinese embassy in Kathmandu issued a statement saying that The Kathmandu Post “with a picture of malicious intention, deliberately smeared the efforts of the Chinese government and people fighting against the new coronavirus pneumonia and even viciously attacked the political system of China”.

    The Chinese embassy launched a personal attack on the newspaper’s Chief Editor, Anup Kaphle, accusing him of being biased against China.

    The statement went on to claim that Kaphle had not only disregarded the facts but also become a “parrot of some anti-China forces”, accusing him of an ulterior purpose, which, the readers were informed, would be “destined to failure.”

    The statement ominously ends by noting the embassy’s “right of further action.” This was interpreted, rightly, as a threat of ‘direct and punitive action’ by China on a Nepali newspaper and its Chief Editor.

    The Chinese embassy statement, naturally, caused major rage among journalists, diplomats, intellectuals and many politicians in Nepal.

    Editors of 17 newspapers and online news portals condemned the Chinese embassy statement and reminded Beijing that the press in Nepal was free.

    A large number of citizens, including senior diplomats, publicly castigated Chinese ambassador Yanqi and told her bluntly that she breached diplomatic protocol and overstepped her limits, warning her of grave repercussions (read this and this).

    But Yanqi does not seem to have learnt any lessons. The latest threat and attempt at intimidation of none other than a parliamentarian has proved that the Chinese envoy has little regard for diplomatic niceties.

    “The Chinese ambassador perhaps feels she can issue threats openly to Nepalese citizens, no matter who they are, and get away with it because she considers Nepal to be a vassal state. It is not the Chinese ambassador, but our politicians like (Prime Minister) Oli who have brought matters to such a shameful and dangerous pass through their subservience to Beijing,” said a former Nepali ambassador to the USA.

    Many in Nepal’s intelligentsia say that the Chinese embassy’s recent actions should serve to open the eyes of Nepal’s citizens to the true face of China.

    “The open threats issued by the Chinese embassy and the breach of all protocol should serve as a timely reminder to all of us that China is an expansionist power which treats weaker countries like vassals,” said a former vice-chancellor of Kathmandu University.

    Also read: Locals In This Village In Nepal Wanted To Demarcate Border With China, But Government Ceded The Territory To Beijing

    Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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