A power-hungry dictator that is using every method of control that he can will see a Western programmer as a wildcard to their empire and call a thumbs down. They've built their fiefdoms, and can legitimately tell HR that an older Western worker will cause strife among their team.
While i disagree with asking more of my employees than I would ask of myself, I can understand being hesitant about introducing an unknown in to the group. As a manager I not only have to consider if an individual is right for the position, but I also consider the dynamics of the team, and how they will change when the person is introduced. I've had a few instances of a brilliant but verbally confrontational candidate who I passed on because the value brought as a developer was out weighed by the conflict they would introduce with other members of the team.