Rebellion Is Justified!: "China Rushes to Mend Ties with Nepal Maoists"

Monday, July 17

"China Rushes to Mend Ties with Nepal Maoists"

KATHMANDU: With Nepal inching towards a new, interim government where the Maoist rebels would be a key partner, a red-faced China is rushing to mend fences with the guerrillas it once branded as anti-government forces tarnishing the image of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong.

Beijing’s Nepal strategy started unravelling in April when King Gyanendra’s regime crumbled after 15 months in power. Earlier, China had supported the February 2005 coup through which the king seized power and ruled with the help of the army.

When the international community suspended assistance to the royal regime, and India, the US and Britain suspended military supplies, China stepped up the sale of arms and ammunition that were used by the royal government to launch attacks on the Maoist guerrillas as well as suppress the anti-king protests by opposition parties.

However, China realised it had backed the wrong horse when nationwide protests forced the king to step down three months ago and an alliance of seven major opposition parties came to power. Within days of the new government being formed, Beijing rushed a team here to extend the hand of friendship to it.

Now Beijing is showing how far that arm can stretch by wooing the Maoists, at least two of whom were earlier sentenced to death in Tibet on charges of smuggling arms and explosives.The new Beijing emissary, Wang Hongwei, a member of the Chinese intelligentsia, established contact with the rebels, assuring them of Beijing’s support.

For the first time in the history of the decade-old insurgency in Nepal, a Chinese official has given an interview to Janadesh, the weekly mouthpiece of the Maoists that was banned during the king’s regime.“We believe the situation in Nepal would grow more stable after an interim government is formed with the Maoists,” Wang told the weekly. “China hopes its relations with the new government would grow stronger.”Distancing itself from King Gyanendra, who had called China Nepal’s “all-weather friend” and branded the Maoists terrorists, Wang said: “Even though India and the US dubbed the Maoists terrorists, Chinese officials never called them that. It is wrong to brand the party terrorists. I feel Washington is trying to play the terrorist card to further its own vested interests in Nepal.”

The statement was in stark contrast to what Sun Heping, then Chinese ambassador to Nepal, had said in 2003. “They (the rebels) shouldn’t be called Maoists,” he had said. “That tarnishes the image of Chairman Mao.”But now glossing over that, Wang lauded the rebels, saying they could “represent the aspirations of the poor people of Nepal”.While the Maoists seem ready to forget and forgive, Beijing’s about turn, however, is not without pitfalls.

Saying that Chinese academics and intellectuals can play a key role in Nepal’s democracy movement, Wang told the weekly the Chinese city of Shanghai had hosted a conference on Nepal issues some time back.On June 24-25, the Academy for World Watch, a Shanghai-based research institute, invited a speaker from Nepal to deliver the keynote address on the impact of Maoist activities in Nepal as well as neighbouring countries.

The speaker invited by Beijing was Sharad Chandra Shah, a royal relative who was also King Gyanendra’s adviser. Currently, investigations are on into Shah’s role in the atrocities perpetrated on unarmed protesters in April, which resulted in the death of 21 people. – IANS


(Wang Hongwei is not an official Chinese government representative, but is attached to the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies at the country's Academy of Social Sciences. However, it is highly unlikely if he would have spoken to Janadesh or referred to the CPN(Maoists) as "Maoists" instead of "anti-government guerrillas" unless he were instructed to do so by the state.)