Gandhi Jayanti celebrations in China cancelled at last moment

No reasons were provided for the abrupt revoking of the permission.

Beijing: The 150th-anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday on Wednesday was hurriedly shifted to the Indian embassy premises after China denied permission for it to be held at a public park a day before the event, reported Hindustan Times.

The event which, for over a decade, took place at a folk art museum at the Chaoyang Park, a sprawling and popular public park in Beijing, which has the only sculpture of Gandhi in China.

This tradition was all set to continue this year too until on Tuesday when the authorities of the venue, Jintai Art Museum informed the Indian embassy that the Beijing government had denied permission to hold the events. No reasons were provided for the abrupt revoking of the permission.

It was learnt that embassy officials had visited the museum at least twice to prepare for the event.

Beijing is among the four municipalities directly administered by the central government in China.

The short morning event comprising a quiz competition for children on Gandhi, a recital of religious songs by members of the Indian community and speech by Ambassador Vikram Misri was then shifted to the embassy auditorium. The 150th birth anniversary celebrations continued at the embassy later in the evening where Ambassador Misri unveiled paintings of Gandhi done by a dozen Chinese artists.

Official sources didn’t comment on the possible reason behind the cancellation but said it was done “at the last minute”.

The annual tradition of holding “Gandhi Jayanti” at the museum in the park had been more or less formalised since 2005 when the Gandhi sculpture was unveiled by visiting Indian home minister, Shivraj Patil.

“A sculpture for Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the renowned father of the Indian nation, created by well-known Chinese painter Yuan Xikun was unveiled on Friday in Beijing’s Chaoyang Park. The statue, 1.08 meters in height and 1 meter in width, stands in the international friendship forest located in the western part of the park. It depicts Gandhi doing some reading,” official news agency, Xinhua had then reported.

The celebrations have been held at the same venue until last year.

The sudden snap in tradition comes ahead of an expected summit meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping later this month.

Modi and Xi are expected to meet in India for the second round of the “informal summit” mechanism later this month. Neither New Delhi nor Beijing, however, has officially confirmed the summit, its dates or the venue.

After an upswing in ties since April 2018, following the first “informal summit” in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, bilateral ties have recently been dampened recently following Beijing’s strong reaction to the change of status of Jammu & Kashmir.

Beijing subsequently supported Islamabad in internationalising the situation in Kashmir at the UN.

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