Nepal probes journalists for Dalai Lama news

Chinese members of a guard of honour hold Nepalese and Chinese flags ahead of a welcoming ceremony for Nepal's President Bidhya Devi Bhandar at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on April 29, 2019 (AFP Photo/MADOKA IKEGAMI)

Kathmandu (AFP) - Three Nepali journalists are being probed for circulating a news item on the Dalai Lama, officials said Tuesday, in a sign of growing Chinese influence on its small Himalayan neighbour.

The journalists, who work with Nepal's national news agency Rastriya Samachar Samiti (RSS), were asked for clarifications after translating a wire report about the Dalai Lama's discharge from a hospital and his return to Dharamshala in April.

The circulation of the translation coincided with the visit of Nepal's president Bidhya Devi Bhandari to China on invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Hari Adhikari, chairman of RSS, said that a committee has been formed and the management will decide whether to take any action against the three after it submits a report.

"As the national news agency, we don't carry news that is against the foreign policy of our country and affects the relationship with our neighbours," Adhikari said.

Nepal, home to around 20,000 Tibetans, is under intense pressure from its giant neighbour China over the exiles, and has repeatedly said it is committed to one-China policy.

China is among the top development partners for the impoverished nation, pumping in over $58.7 million in the last fiscal year into developing hydroelectricity, roads and infrastructure.

In May 2017, Kathmandu signed up to Beijing's ambitious Belt and Road initiative, a massive infrastructure drive that critics say is at the centre of the Asian giant's push to expand its global influence.

"China's interest and influence of China has been consistently increasing in Nepal and our government is also positive towards addressing their security and strategic concerns," said Geja Sharma Wagle, Kathmandu-based foreign policy analyst.

Once a safe haven for Tibetans, increased police crackdowns in Nepal have discouraged protests and even celebrations within the community.