After receiving a visit from exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, Mongolia says that China has closed down a key border crossing between the two countries.
Al Jazeera reports that hundreds of mining trucks have been stuck at the Gants Mod crossing in southeastern Mongolia in sub-zero temperatures after tariffs on commodity shipments between China and Mongolia were raised last month, coinciding with a six-day visit to Ulaanbaatar made by the Dalai Lama.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang did not confirm if there was any connection between the tariffs and the visit, only saying that he was unaware of the situation. Nevertheless, Geng had issued a warning to Mongolia on the second day of the Dalai Lama’s Ulaanbaatar visit last month.
“China resolutely opposes the Dalai Lama visiting any country to carry out anti-China separatist activities in any name or in any capacity,” Geng said at a regular press conference in Beijing on November 19th.
Even if China hasn’t admit to any retribution, Mongolian diplomats say that it is clear they have been saddled with the consequences of the visit. After the Dalai Lama left Ulaanbaatar, relations between China and Mongolia entered a “deep freeze,” with China cutting off talks about providing Mongolia with a much-needed $4.2 billion loan. Faced with an economic recession, Mongolia has turned to India for help.
In reference to the long line of Mongolian trucks left stranded at the Chinese border, Mongolian ambassador to India, Gonchig Ganbold, was quoted by Tibetan web portal Phayul.com as saying: “India should come out with clear support against the difficulties that have been imposed on Mongolia by China, which is an overreaction to the religious visit by His Holiness Dalai Lama.”
Ganbold insisted that immediate action was required to resolve this crisis. “With winter temperature already around minus-20 degrees, transport obstruction by China is likely to create a humanitarian crisis in Mongolia as these measures will hurt the flow of essential commodities,” he said.
In response, Delhi has said it will help Mongolia utilize the $1 billion financial assistance that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered during his visit to the country in 2015. The nationalist Party tabloid, the Global Times, has warned Mongolia against seeking financial assistance from India.
“Mongolia should know that mutual respect is the precondition to develop bilateral relationships and hitch a ride on China’s economic development,” the editorial concludes. “It is even more politically harebrained to ask for support from India, a move that will only complicate the situation and leave a narrower space to sort the issue out. We hope the crisis-hit Mongolia will learn its lessons.”
However, what has become an international incident may turn out to be a simple cash grab by Chinese border towns.
A report by the Financial Times suggests that the raised transport charges are due to local towns mired in debt. A provincial document published in early November — well in advance of the Dalai Lama’s visit to Ulaanbaatar — explains the current crisis that is forcing Mongolian truck drivers to wait in the freezing cold is the result of local Chinese governments needing a “repayment of principal and interest of bank loans.”
No matter the reason, Chinese authorities have long viewed the Dalai Lama as a separatist figure. And it so happens that people and countries that have chosen to associate with the exiled spiritual leader have faced repercussions from China in the past.
After giving prior warning, China cancelled a meeting last month with the Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico after Slovakia’s president, Andrej Kiska, shared a lunch with the Dalai Lama in October.
Meanwhile, musicians that have had scheduled performances in China mysteriously canceled after being connected to the Dalai Lama include Selena Gomez, Bon Jovi, and Maroon 5. At the same time, news reports that Lady Gaga’s music has been banned in China haven’t quite materialized despite her meeting with the Dalai Lama.
By Charles Liu
[Image via Tibetan Review]
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