The Chinese envoy to Nepal Hou Yanqi reportedly met with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli before the start of the NCP Standing Committee meeting that began on 24 June.

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. According to an aide to Khanal, Hou met with senior NCP leader Jhala Nath Khanal on Monday evening to discuss internal politics.

Hou is no stranger to such disputes, as she held a series of meetings with leaders of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) in late April and early May, after the party’s internal rift became public and threatened to lead to the ouster of Oli. Political analysts also agree that China has played a key role in bringing numerous Communist leaders together to form the ruling party.

In the past week, Hou met with President Bidya Bhandari on 3 July for what was described as a courtesy call and senior politician Madhav Kumar Nepal, head of the NCP Foreign Relations Department, on 5 July, reported The HT.

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 recent meetings with government officials and political leaders have sparked concern among political analysts and former diplomats at a time when Nepal’s politics are in disarray and different actors are trying to gain the upper hand, the Kathmandu Post reported on Tuesday.

Questions were raised about the role of Bhandari in the ruling party, especially in the context of tensions between Oli and Prachanda. Thirty of the 44 members of the Standing Committee of the NCP 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 presidential office to brief Bhandari on potential meetings with foreign dignitaries and envoys, but the report said this official was not informed of the meeting between Bhandari and Hou.“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 Department of Foreign Relations, did not provide specifics of the meeting. “I have no specifics of the meeting between Nepal and Ambassador Hou, but to the degree that I understand the Chinese protocol, the Chinese begin to meet top officials and eventually come to other officials,” Rijal said, suggesting that Hou should have met with 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.
However, in a time of crisis within the ruling party, foreign affairs analysts have not taken kindly to the Chinese envoy holding meetings with Nepalese leaders, 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.”

The NCP and the Chinese Communist Party recently held a virtual interaction and Nepal, as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, voted in favor of the controversial Hong Kong Chinese security law.

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