Professor Hu Shisheng is the director of the South Asian and South East Asian studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, an influential Chinese think tank. A foreign affairs scholar, he has been closely observing political developments in Nepal over the years and claims that foreign hands have been influencing them. He spoke to Navin Singh Khadka of the BBC Nepali service as the leadership in the Chinese communist party changed recently.
With the change of the guard in Beijing, will there be any change in China's policy towards Nepal?
I don't think there will be any particular change, especially referring to Nepal. If there is any change, it could be change for better relations. Especially, I think the future leadership will pay much more attention on how to build, they have called in a report, peaceful coexistence with our neighbours. So they will input more resources in the neighbourhood.
Will there be any change in Beijing’s policy in terms of its Tibet-related policy?
China still regards Nepal as a country of great significance in relation to Tibet issues. So, political stability in Nepal will be a positive development for China. In this regard, China would like to see political stability in Nepal and would like to see Nepal play a more constructive role in China’s Tibet-policy, especially in regards to treating the illegal flee (of Tibetans). Of course, as scholars we have noticed that there is pressure (on Nepal) from western countries.
Why is Beijing so negative about Tibetans going to foreign lands?
No, they can apply (to go to foreign lands) in a legal way. But this has now become a human trafficking business which is not legal. It is a legal issue but the westerners regard it as a political issue. And all those illegal immigrants, they just make an excuse that they are politically persecuted. They just want to use South Asia as a springboard to enter the western world.
But there have been criticisms that China does not give political, religious and cultural freedom in Tibet and because of the suppression Tibetans flee.
Sometimes, I tend to believe that it is only because of the outside interferences that have made this issue more and more complicated. Our top leaders still regard Tibet as an internal issue. If there is too much outside interference, that will only make the top leaders disturbed and [ultimately] the issue becomes difficult. So, my personally understanding is that it is better that the outsiders do not interfere too much because the result is just the opposite (counterproductive).
You say so, but Tibetans’ spiritual leader Dali Lama, while recently congratulating Barrack Obama for winning second term of US presidency, expressed his hope that Obama’s administration would take further step to solve the problem (of Tibetans). Had China handled the Tibetan issue properly, perhaps Dalai Lama would not have issued such a statement.
The first thing is that Dalai Lama has already retired politically. So, writing this kind of letter is unwise. Second is that, whatever role the US will play, it will be a negative role, according to the historical record. It could be a negative factor in Nepal-China relations in the future. The more role the US will play the more negative it could [become]. And the Tibet issue could become more ticklish.
But how can you say the US will play any role in Nepal over Tibet just because the Dalai Lama wrote a letter to Obama?
There is some information that the US uses Nepal for intelligence collection. They call it a haven of spies and espionage to collect all kind of information about Tibetans using Nepal.
But we have not seen anywhere the US saying so.
No, you see the US embassy in Kathmandu. There are too many staff beyond their demand. And according to my own knowledge, they also provide very generous financial support to some of the monasteries along the Nepal-Tibet border regions. So, I am personally wondering that they use these kind of monasteries as information collection spots.
That is what you think, but you cannot provide any evidence to all that, can you?
Between 1950s to 1970s, the United States provided financial support to the Tibetan militants, who also received intelligence support from India. They used the Mustang region of Nepal as one of their militia bases and launched military and terrorist attacks on the transportation roads, especially along the frontiers of the Tibetan region. Such military and financial support ended only in 1970s when the US wanted China to counterbalance the Soviet Union. So, Tibet is usually a card for the US, it is not really for the benefit of Tibetans.