Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary celebrations, held every year since 2005 at a public park in Beijing, had to be hurriedly shifted to the Indian Embassy premises in the last minute on Wednesday.
This happened after the Chinese government denied permission to hold the event, without giving an explanation.
This might cast a shadow over the forthcoming informal summit between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi due on October 12-13.
Indian Embassy officials in Beijing said the application for holding the event at the park was made well in advance.
For the last 14 years, Gandhi Jayanti celebrations have been held at the picturesque Chaoyang Park after a statue of India’s ‘Father of the Nation’ sculpted by famous Chinese sculptor Yuan Xikun was installed there in 2005.
The popular public park has the only sculpture of Gandhi in China.
The Indian Embassy organises the Gandhi Jayanti in Beijing along with Yuan, which is also the curator of the Jin Tai art museum located in the same park.
Chinese school children recite the Mahatma’s famous quotes and Indian community members singing Gandhi bhajans.
Surprisingly, this year, the permission was not received even though it was applied well in advance like every year, the embassy officials said.
The event was shifted to the embassy auditorium after the museum informed the Mission that the event cannot be held in the absence of the permission.
The embassy officials, who were surprised by the denial, had to make alternate arrangements in a hurry to shift the function to the embassy premises, they said.
The sudden deviation from the tradition comes at a time when President Xi Jinping is likely to visit India later this month for an “informal summit”.
Neither New Delhi nor Beijing officially confirmed the summit, its dates or the venue.
Meanwhile, the Indian Ambassador to China, Vikram Misri, addressed the event held at the Indian Embassy to mark the 150th birth anniversary of the Mahatma.
Later in the evening, Misri felicitated 13 Chinese artists from the China Artists Association who painted Gandhi’s portraits, unveiled by the diplomat, as part of the event.
For decades Gandhi, a contemporary of Chairman Mao Zedong who led China’s national liberation movement, has remained an enigma in China as the two leaders professed contrasting political philosophies.
Mao advocated violent revolutionary movements with his famous dictum that power flows out of barrel of the gun.
Gandhi’s successful non-violent movement against British remained an enigma for the Chinese, who are observing the 70th anniversary of their revolution.
But Gandhi’s first non-violent movement in Africa has a Chinese link.
Over a thousand Chinese took part along with Indians in the protest led by Gandhi against the racist Asiatic ordinance brought about by the Zanzibar government in 1906.
According to the survey carried out by state-run Global Times in 2009, Rabindranath Tagore and Jawaharlal Nehru figured from India among the 60 foreign leaders respected by the Chinese.
Gandhi’s name was conspicuously absent.
But Gandhi has belatedly become well known to the new generation of China.
The event @EOIBeijing also witnessed a #MahatmaGandhi themed performance by students and teachers of SVCC. Amb @VikramMisri also felicitated the Chinese painters for their contribution#GandhiAt150 #GandhiJayanti #BapuAt150 pic.twitter.com/f0A9NSJ9q6
— India in China (@EOIBeijing) October 2, 2019