Wednesday was Nepal’s Democracy Day, it was the 27th anniversary of Kantipur Media Group, and the day Anup Kaphle was stepping down as editor of The Kathmandu Post. What he probably did not expect was such a high profile send-off from the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu.
A strongly worded statement by the embassy named Kaphle, accused him of being ‘always biased’ against China and issued unspecified threats against the paper for a column reprinted (pictured above) from The Korea Herald by former US ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder, that was critical of China’s response to the Covid-19 epidemic.
This was uncharacteristic of an embassy that usually keeps a low profile in Nepal, and has upheld an official policy not to interfere in Nepal’s internal affairs, to go so public with such a direct attack against a Nepal-based media. In the past, the embassy has preferred to work discreetly behind the scenes by channelling its complaints against editors through the Foreign Ministry or Home Ministry.
However, it looks like the reaction from the embassy was not restricted to Nepal, but part of a broader worldwide offensive against negative coverage of China over the coronavirus epidemic, and a backlash from Beijing against those it saw as ‘kicking China when it is down’. Beijing has been critical of especially the United States for using the epidemic for geo-strategic gain.
On Wednesday itself, China cancelled the press accreditation of three Wall Street Journal reporters for a story that in its headline called China ‘the real sick man of Asia’. The Foreign Ministry in Beijing said the story was racist and set back the country’s efforts to combat the epidemic. This is the first time that there have been multiple expulsions of Beijing based foreign correspondents since the time of Mao Zedong.
In Kathmandu, the embassy’s press statement brought a quick rebuke from a group of editors from a cross-section of the media which hit out at the embassy for naming the editor, and issuing threats against the media.