(TibetanReview.net, Feb21’20) – Seventeen editors from across the Nepal’s media have on Feb 20 rebuked China for trying to muzzle free speech after its ambassador Hou Yanqi said Feb 18 that her country “reserves the right to further action” after The Kathmandu Post suggested Beijing’s secrecy had made the Covid-19 outbreak worse. Hou had especially accused the Post’s chief editor, Anup Kaphle, of publishing views biased against China.
A statement published by the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu on Feb18 claimed that an opinion piece published that day under the headline “China’s secrecy has made coronavirus crisis much worse” had “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 embassy’s 551-word statement added: “We hereby express our strong dissatisfaction and firm protest to it. This [article] fully revealed [the paper’s] ignorance and prejudice on China, deeply hurt the feelings of the Chinese people, and sparked strong indignation and condemnation among the Chinese people and Nepali friends from all sectors.”
The article, which was originally written for the Chicago Tribune and also published in the Korea Herald, was authored by Ivo Daalder, former US ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The Nepalese paper published it along with an image of a masked Mao Zedong, a move which the embassy said had “malicious intention”.
Daalder wrote that Chinese President Xi Jinping had trumpeted the nation’s authoritarian system as a grand model for developing nations, but it has come at a great costs as the coronavirus outbreak showed.
The 17 editors condemned the embassy for naming the editor and issuing threats against the media, accusing it of “violating diplomatic norms”.
“The undiplomatic – and frankly menacing – manner in which the Chinese embassy made its objections known is condemnable,” the Post said in an editorial. “The actions of the embassy … can be perceived as a direct threat to the Nepali people’s right to a free press, freedom of opinion and freedom of expression.”
“China can … express its reservations,” the Post said. “What it cannot do, especially in a democracy, is demand that articles be taken down and then issue veiled threats against the editor of a foreign newspaper.”
The reaction from the embassy came as China ordered three Wall Street Journal reporters to leave the country over an op-ed headline that Beijing had deemed racist. The op-ed dubbed China as the “sick man of Asia”. The three reporters had nothing to do with the op-ed and were ordered out within five days just because they worked for the journal.
China warned Feb 20 that it may take further action against Journal.