China’s envoy to Nepal Hou Yanqi is at the centre of a fresh controversy for her meetings with Nepalese political leaders amid growing pressure on Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli from within his party to step down over charges of poor governance.
Hou is no stranger to such controversies, as she held a series of meetings with leaders of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) in late April and early May after an internal rift in the party became public and threatened to lead to the ouster of Oli. Political analysts also believe China played a key role in bringing together various communist leaders to form the ruling party.
In the past week, Hou met President Bidya Bhandari on July 3 for what was described as a courtesy call and senior politician Madhav Kumar Nepal, who heads the foreign relations department of NCP, on July 5.
As with her meetings with Oli and NCP chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” and Nepal in April-May, analysts believe Hou is engaged in efforts to shore up the position of the beleaguered prime minister. Media reports in May said that Hou had, in her earlier meetings, expressed concern at the rift within the NCP and urged the party’s leaders to maintain unity and avert any sort of split.
Hou’s latest meetings with government officials and political leaders have sparked concerns among political analysts and former diplomats as they came at a time when Nepal’s politics is in disarray and different actors are attempting to gain the upper hand, The Kathmandu Post reported on Tuesday.
Questions have been raised about Bhandari’s role in the ruling party, especially against the backdrop of tensions between Oli and Prachanda. Thirty of the 44 members of NCP’s standing committee have asked Oli to step down as party chairman and prime minister.
Bhandari’s meeting with Hou led to more questions, especially since foreign ministry officials said the President’s Office has repeatedly violated the diplomatic code of conduct, The Kathmandu Post reported.
An under secretary of the foreign ministry is posted in the President’s Office to brief Bhandari on potential meetings with foreign dignitaries and envoys, but this official wasn’t informed about the meeting between Bhandari and Hou, the report said.
“As per the diplomatic code of conduct, foreign ministry officials should be present at such meetings, but we were not informed,” an unnamed ministry official told The Post. “So there is no institutional record of the meetings and we don’t know what the talking points were.”
During her meeting with NCP leader Nepal, Hou discussed the conflict within the ruling party and urged all sides to maintain restraint, according to sources cited by The Post.
Bishnu Rijal, deputy chief of NCP’s foreign relations department, didn’t provide details of the meeting.
“I don’t have details about the meeting between Nepal and ambassador Hou but as far as I understand Chinese protocol, the Chinese begin meeting top ranking officials and gradually come down to other officials,” said Rijal, implying Hou should have already met the two NCP chairs before meeting Nepal.
Hou also reportedly met Oli before the beginning of NCP’s standing committee meeting, which began on June 24. On Monday evening, Hou met senior NCP leader Jhala Nath Khanal to discuss internal politics, according to an aide to Khanal.
The Chinese envoy has reportedly been advising NCP leaders to remain united as Beijing is concerned about “political stability” in Nepal.
Asked about the objective of Hou’s meetings, Chinese embassy spokesperson Zhang Si told The Post that China didn’t wish to see the NCP in trouble and wished its leaders would resolve their differences and stay united.
The ambassador and the embassy have a good relationship with the government, political parties, think tanks and people from all walks of life, and always exchange views on issues of common concern, Zhang said.
Foreign affairs analysts, however, haven’t taken kindly to the Chinese envoy holding meetings with Nepalese leaders at a time of crisis within the ruling party, The Post reported.
“I blame our leaders for inviting interference in our internal affairs,” former ambassador Lokraj Baral said. “Earlier, the Indian ambassadors would involve themselves in our internal affairs, and now it is the Chinese’s turn.”
Baral pointed to the changing facets of Nepal’s relationship with both countries, where India is viewed with more suspicion than China.
“When the Indian ambassadors did the same thing, we called it interference,” he said. “But the same does not apply to the Chinese. Only the media have raised this issue, but the political leadership and public intellectuals have not thought about it that way.”
Recently, NCP and the Chinese Communist Party held a virtual interaction and Nepal, as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, voted in favour of the controversial Chinese security law for Hong Kong.
Source : Hindustan Times0