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Major embarrassment for Chinese ambassador in Nepal after demanding apology from a journalist for exposing hidden details of Chinese loans, journalist vows to reveal proof

Earlier this year in March, Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal announced that diplomatic efforts were initiated with China to convert a loan for Pokhara International Airport to a grant as it failed to garner income, instead piled up more debt. 

Recently, the Chinese ambassador to Nepal, Chen Song, courted major public embarrassment after a Nepali journalist refused to yield to his pressure. The journalist not only refused to issue a public apology but also vowed to follow up on his story about hidden details in Chinese loans to Nepal.

Notably, the row erupted after Taksar News chief editor Gajendra Budhathoki revealed that Nepalis were misled about the details of Chinese loans to Pokhara Airport. Taking to X on 27th May, Budhathoki wrote in Nepali, “They said that the loan taken for Pokhara airport is 2 percent interest rate. It is 5 percent.”  

(Image Source – OpIndia Hindi)

According to the post, Nepal had taken loans from China to develop the Pokhara Airport, and the Nepali citizens were told that the interest rate on loans was two per cent. However, after Budhathoki revealed that it was five per cent, Chinese Ambassador Song tried to rubbish his claim as “lies”. 

Responding to the journalist’s post, Song wrote, “Worst lies that I ever saw. It is public information, yet you dare to lie about it.” 

To which, Budhathoki asserted that he would publish (details) with proof. 

Following the journalist’s assertion, the Chinese ambassador demanded an apology from the journalist.   

Alluding that the journalist is affiliated with a ‘third party’ or working for some group, Song tried to cast aspersions on the journalist’s intention and wrote, “We demand a formal apology from you and whoever people you represent.” 

“If you have the document, publish it. If you don’t, need time to find proof, then what kind of intention is this. Spreading lies first, then wait for the tide to subside, and spread again,” Song also dared him to publish the details.

Refusing to apologise, Budhathoki replied, “Do not intimidate me, know your boundaries Mr. Chen, I have evidence from the Nepal Government.” He also said that he will publish the details in his magazine.

Continuing the verbal spat, Song said, “When you spread lies, do you have any boundaries?” 

Several Nepali X users slammed the Chinese ambassador for intimidating a journalist. Others lambasted China’s wolf warrior diplomacy which has earned notoriety for the brazen aggressive and intimidating posturing of Chinese Ambassadors, diplomats and its Foreign Ministry spokespersons.

One user wrote, “Sir, this is not your dictatorship. Have you heard anything about “freedom of speech”? We demand a formal apology from you for trying to interfere in our freedom of expression.”

Gajendra Budhathoki is the Chief Editor at the Nepali news outlet, Taksarnews. According to the outlet’s earlier report written by Budhathoki, the Nepali government had paid interest and commitment fee of Rs 94 crore 95 lakh to the Exim Bank of China for the loan taken for Pokhara International Airport by the end of the last Nepali financial year (2079/80). 

It is pertinent to note that China has been notorious for luring several countries into its debt trap by promising to build modern infrastructure and granting them loans for ‘financially unviable’ projects at higher interest rates with several conditions attached that are concealed from the general public, media and Parliament/Judicial scrutiny.   

This airport was inaugurated on 1st January 2023. For China, this project was part of its ultra-ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project but the Nepal government rejected its claim. While rejecting it, it was made clear that till now no project under BRI has been completed in Nepal and that China’s claims were false.

However, the company that is operating Pokhara Airport paid one instalment of the interest but it failed to pay the second instalment due in March 2024. The project garnered attention when Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Dahal Prachanda visited China. 

Earlier this year in March, Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal announced that diplomatic efforts were initiated with China to convert a loan for Pokhara International Airport to a grant as it failed to garner income, instead piled up more debt. 

The development came after opposition lawmaker Chanda Chaudhary raised questions about the increasing loss and piling debt, Nepal Prime Minister said that talks are underway to convert the loan into a grant.

Additionally in March 2024, the Auditor General of Nepal submitted an audit report of government expenses to the nation, demanding an investigation into the role of Finance Minister Varshaman Pun and questioning the viability of this project. 

The Auditor General stated that the decision to build Pokhara Airport was taken without any prior study and contained many flaws. The report claimed that approving the construction of an unnecessary international airport in Pokhara constitutes corruption. The then-Finance Minister Varshaman Pun, who is still the Finance Minister in the Prachanda government, has allegedly benefited Chinese contractors. Furthermore, a Chinese company was given a tax exemption worth more than Rs 2 billion, which the report also identifies as corruption.

Furthermore, on 1st November 2023, a major raid was conducted on the Chinese company that has been part of the Pokhara International Airport over allegations of corruption. Subsequently, the bank accounts of the employees were sealed. Nepal’s anti-corruption agency, the Akhtiyar Misuse Research Commission, raided the office of the Chinese company CAMC Engineering. The raid was conducted based on allegations of poor-quality work and commission-taking at the airport. 

Since its inception on 1st January 2023, the radar and VHF system of this airport have malfunctioned several times, causing planes to be sent back midway. This raid was conducted following complaints of corruption.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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