KATHMANDU: China has responded aggressively after a team led by Nepali Congress (NC) Parliamentary Leader in Karnali Province Jeevan Bahadur Shahi came out with the findings that China has encroached Nepal’s land in Humla.
After Shahi’s briefing to the press and submission of the report to the government, China has not only protested it as biased, the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu responded to it aggressively by writing a letter wrote a letter to the NC party.
Besides, the Chinese government’s official news portal Global Times labeled NC as a pro-Indian political party.
The Government of Nepal is yet to respond to Shahi’s field report.
Interestingly, before any field visit, the government had said there is no encroachment from the Chinese side.
NC leader Shahi, however, has been claiming that his report besides based on a field visit consists of evidence about the Chinese intrusion.
Amrit Raj Kafle, on behalf of Khabarhub, talked to Shahi who has challenged both the Nepali and Chinese governments to prove otherwise in the Humla encroachment issue.
Excerpts of the interview:
After you published the report claiming China has intruded Nepal, China wrote a letter to your party Nepali Congress and labeled it as pro-Indian. What is your tale on this?
We prepared the report based on the field visit and enough evidence. The letter sent by the Chinese Embassy is undiplomatic. I noticed that the letter has blamed me for preparing a baseless report, which could even jeopardize NC’s relationship with China and may adversely impact Nepal China relationship as well.
The Chinese Embassy could have presented its queries to us or even could have sent its representative to the disputed area. Rather than investigating, the embassy wrote an undiplomatic letter to the NC party.
The Chinese Embassy has written that I spread the rumor about pillar 11, but I have been reiterating that some elements are talking about pillar 11 as the lost pillar so that the concern towards pillar 12 would get diverted. I request authorities concerned to send the survey team to study the boundary situation in Humla. The joint team of both countries will surely come out with the truth if dispatched there.
If experts prove me wrong, and thinks that my field report would jeopardize the relationship between two neighboring countries, I will not hesitate to resign from my post instantly.
But the language used in the Embassy’s letter looks like a threat and it seems to undermine my position and personality.
For the first time in history, the Chinese government’s official newspaper Global Times has labeled NC, the country’s oldest democratic party, as a pro-Indian party.
I think NC should express concern over it through the Chinese Ambassador in Kathmandu.
Do you feel any threat to life for your expression?
I could very much feel a sense of threat in the language used in the Global Times and the letter written by the Chinese Embassy. Here, I want to reiterate that China will be responsible if anything unfortunate happens to me.
In its letter, China has claimed that it has assisted in the Himalayan districts of Nepal, but it should be noted that in such areas it’s not China alone who helps, Nepal has also helped China.
When I was the party member, I had led an initiation to return idols worth billions of rupees to China in 1994.
Let me also make it clear that we stick to One-China Policy as agreed upon by our respected leader late BP Koirala. Yet, China has alleged me of working for the ‘Free Tibet’ movement.
Nobody has so far dared to label NC a pro-Indian or pro-USA. However, China has labeled Nepal’s oldest democratic party ‘pro-Indian’. To label a democratic party that way and to threaten a people’s representative is shameful.
I reiterate if anyone proves me wrong, I challenge the authorities to send experts’ teams from both countries to Hilsa and Limi Lapcha and investigate the issue. One should go to the remote border to find the truth and should not threaten from Beijing or Kathmandu.
In your opinion what should be the role of government in it then?
I don’t exactly remember the date, but the Ministry of Agriculture had once prepared a report claiming that China has encroached Nepal’s boundary in different places.
During that period also, the government had denied it saying China has not encroached on Nepal’s land.
However, I have served the evidence. The government does not speak a word on such the issue. Even the government officials who have been there are reluctant to speak about it.
I am humiliated as an individual. Our government has expressed its loyalty towards China by not claiming Nepal’s land.
The government has maintained silence even when Nepali territory has been encroached.
I am sure that the buildings China has constructed in Lolungjong, Hilsa lies in Nepali territory. We had built the road two-kilometer further away from Lolungjong in 2009.
Interestingly, China has arranged to make Chinese time appear in Nepali territory four kilometers from Nepal China border. Even helicopters cannot go to Limi. As the area shows the Chinese time zone, Nepali choppers cannot fly to their own area.
I request the world community to speak for Nepal and speak about the Chinese encroachment in Nepal.
How do you take the government’s silence on Chinese encroachment despite the fact that you offered details in your report?
The government sent its officials to the area. Perhaps they failed to notice the fact. It’s only about Limi Lapcha. We went there and observed the situation as they are. We have seen the constructions China has built in the Nepali territory. The assistant Chief District Officer of Humla, who had been there in the field visit, has been transferred to another district. We have heard that he was asked to clarify the purpose of his visit.
Prior to the delegation under CDO returned to district headquarters, the Foreign Minister in Kathmandu announced that not an inch of Nepali land has been encroached. We had built a road two kilometers in 2009 further away from the sport in which China has constructed nine buildings now.
The Chinese officials had come to the steep sides at Gappudocha and had confessed China’s land does not reach up to the point we were constructing the road then. The road lies 2 km west-north from the place China has constructed the buildings now.
I had asked the CDO whether he met the Chinese officials as well, and he promised to tell me later, but he did not tell me. I heard that the Ministry of Home Affairs warned him not to share the information.
You visited the area. What about your findings?
Yes, we went to Limi Lapcha and observed all pillars there.
I told you that we constructed the road in 2009. The issue had come to the fore in 2015 as well.
During that time, the representatives of our government had also reached there. The Chinese government had sent its representatives too. We are not offered details about the talk then as well.
Verbally, we were told that the construction in Limi Lapcha was meant for animal quarantines, the yaks of the Chinese farmers and Nepali farmers grazed in the area around, so, we were told the animal quarantine would be useful to both.
You said there was a dispute in 2015 too. But why do you think, it became the talk of the town now, not then?
China has constructed nine buildings there. The locals of Hilsa spoke about the intrusion now. A team of Nepali officials had been in the area to study the coronavirus impact. The locals spoke to the assistant CDO about the land encroachment there. Later, perhaps unable to sustain pressure from line authority, the Assistant CDO changed his version. The government reiterated that the land has not been encroached.
When we reached there, we saw the border is encroached. The peaks and steep sides are made the bases for the boundary between Nepal and China. If we go to Pillar 12, situated up above in the hills of Limi Lapcha at the height of 5,018 meters and look towards the area, we can easily see that the buildings constructed in Lolungjong lie in Nepali land.
While talking about the Goppudocha River as well, we can conclude that Lolungjong belongs to Nepal. We had constructed a road in Goppudocha in 2009. Now they have occupied the road we constructed then, does not it prove that they have encroached on our land.
The location of pillar 12 has not been changed. The old pillar has been demolished and a new one is built in the same place changing the orientation.
The international practice and the laws relating to international boundaries hail that the representatives of the officials of both sides should be there to monitor the construction of the international boundary line.
While observing through GPS at the pillar, we find it arranged in such a way that two kilometers inward Nepal is depicted as a Chinese area. It should have shown China on the next side of the pillar and Nepal on another side of it, but it is not so there.
We have submitted the letter of public concern requesting the government to send a team of experts to talk with China. We submitted it to Prime Minister KP Oli, but we have not got any response to date.
Besides Lolungjong, we visited other areas on the border. Some people had said pillar 11 was lost and later found. It was not any one of us, they were the people of the government. The pillar was not lost, the rumor was just to divert the attention.
Pillar 11, which lies at a distance of 77 kilometers from Limi Lapcha is in its original form. Pillar 10 is also fine. China has fenced pillar 9 (2) with barbed wire.
According to the prevailing international laws and practices, no country can make a fence in the pillar without the consent of another. China has sent the sewage of Sher Gaun towards the Nepali side.
Hilsa lies in the southeast of Karnali. Pillars 9(1), 8(1), 7(1) are also there. But, they have fenced pillar 6(1) and kept it as if it belongs to them. Pillar 5(1) is ours and it has no fence but they have fenced pillar 5(2).
Before my visit to the area, when our Armed Police Force Team went to see the pillars, the Chinese had stone-pelted them. The Chinese have not allowed our people to use the road Nepal constructed on the bank of the Karnali river.
You said you submitted the report to the government, yet the government has not said anything about it. What do you say about it?
Yes, despite the evidence-based report I submitted to the government, the latter has not responded to it. Rather a Chinese national newspaper depicted me and my party as pro-Indian. It presented me as a US and Indian agent. The Global Times has written that Nepal is run by the westerners and their INGOs.
Let China offer the evidence that it has not intruded even a single inch of Nepal’s territory, I am ready to resign from the post.
I have collected the evidence visiting the area. I have sent the photo of the fenced pillars as well. Instead of taking further action based on the evidence, the government has maintained silence.
I have no personal interest in it. I have been working for the best interest of the country and will continue to work.
It is strange that even after getting evidence the so-called patriots are keeping quiet.
It’s regrettable that the Chinese government’s official newspaper has been using a language of threat. I have been telling them to come with evidence and prove me wrong; the day I am proved wrong I will resign from my post. Otherwise, the guilty ones should apologize before the world.