Published:  12:33 AM, 16 January 2020

Discontent against Chinese OBOR and other activities

China's One Belt One Road (OBOR) projects are facing hurdles. Though the country is giving an impression that its idea is to develop infrastructure in different countries and regions of the world for progress but now it is clear that its objective is to put smaller and weaker countries in Asia and Africa in debt trap for controlling them.
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and China's One Belt One Road (OBOR) projects have run into massive hurdles in Pakistan. Karachi Stock Exchange was devastated after getting affiliated with Chinese consortium. Chinese loans have jeopardized the economies of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Sudan, Maldives, Nepal and Zimbabwe, Nigeria and some other countries. Sri Lanka has in recent times handed down its Hambantota Port to China being unable to abide by the stringent terms and conditions of Chinese loans. Kenya is on the brink of giving away its Mombasa port to the Chinese authorities for reasons of inclement Chinese loans, reports by different media agencies have exposed. Immediate past Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Rajak has been charged with big corruption cases involving Chinese financial deals. Mahathir Mohamed has therefore halted almost all the Chinese projects in Malaysia.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper accused China of using coercion and intimidation against smaller Asian nations to impose its will in the South China Sea. He urged Vietnam and others in the region to push back. "We will not accept attempts to assert unlawful maritime claims at the expense of law-abiding nations," Esper said in a speech to the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, a government university. Vietnam is one of the region's most vocal critics of China's sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea and has accused Beijing of encroaching into its waters.
Agreements were signed between Bangladesh and China in October 2016 that Chinese authorities would provide loans of 2 thousand 53 crore US dollars to Bangladesh for different infrastructural projects. The accords were signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Bangladesh at that time. More than three years have elapsed but China has so far disbursed only 5% of the loans. As a result, the development programs supposed to be implemented with Chinese financial support have become totally uncertain. 27 projects were supposed to be accomplished with Chinese loans in Bangladesh by 2020. According to updated information from Economic Relations Division (ERD), loan agreements over only six of these projects have been so far signed under which China has released 106 crore 77 Iakh dollars only.
The government has meanwhile shifted the project of elevating Dhaka-Sylhet highway to four lanes to Asian Development Bank (ADB). The Joint Working Group (JWG) consisting of Bangladeshi and Chinese officials are scheduled to have a meeting shortly to sort out these problems. Under these circumstances, questions have come up whether Chinese loans are hope or just a bluff. The Padma Bridge rail link, Karnaphuli river tunnel, phase III of the Info-Sarkar project, installation of a single-point mooring with double pipeline in Maheskhali and modernization of telecommunication network for digital connectivity-these five projects are at the implementation stage out of 27 projects that China agreed to finance. The loan agreements for all five projects involving $3.9 billion were signed between October 2016 and April 2018, but so far there has been very scanty disbursement of funds.
China's failure to respect sensibilities of host country is primarily to be blamed for the growing resentment. In Myanmar, thousands of locals turned out in April 2019 for a protest against the construction of a Chinese-backed dam in Waingmaw situated in Kachin State that borders China's Yunnan Province demanding that construction of the Myitsone dam be put on hold. Myanmar's military junta backed Asia World Co. inked the $3.6 billion deal for the hydropower project located on the Irrawaddy River M 2009 with China's state-owned utility company China Power Investment Corp. according to Reuters.
In June 2019, a Chinese worker was killed and six Chinese workers were injured in a clash between Bangladeshi and Chinese construction workers at a Chinese-funded power station in southern Bangladesh near the port of Payra. The $2.5 billion coal-fired plant employs about 8,000 workers, of which 2,000 are Chinese. The Bangladeshi workers allege that Chinese used their power and money to subdue legitimate rights of Payra Thermal power plant.
Barapukuria located approximately ten miles from Phulbari where BCMCL established a coal­fired power plant in May 2005 to meet the growing demand for electricity for the energy starving nation. The 2,500-acre underground mine at Barapukuria includes 650 acres of prime agricultural land. The plant is adversely affecting the livelihood of 2,500 villagers of predominantly seven agrarian villages in Barapukuria. BCMCL has 1,086 workers, including 214 workers from Pertobangla. Out of 872 workers, who work in the underground coal mines involved in extraction, 160 are Chinese. A typical coal mining team at BCMCL includes 50 Bangladeshi laborers, two Bangladeshi foremen and a Chinese team leader. However, the working conditions in the coal pits are very bad, workers are not entitled for overtime allowances, any mining allowances or profit bonus or insurance and there are no welfare measures, even for namesake. Bangladeshi workers allege high discrimination by the Chinese workers and management. Chinese Companies in their pursuit to profiteer are using the local workforce keeping them in inhuman condition.
We know the huge infrastructure projects as the promised funds by China during the visit of Chinese President to Bangladesh in September 2016 is not forthcoming. Though the Chinese gave tall promises and signed MoUs for twenty-seven major projects in Bangladesh including the Padma Rail Link Project (2667.94 million US Dollars), Power Grid Network Strengthening Project (970.02 million USD), Establishing Digital Connectivity (837 million USD), Construction of Double Line between Joydebpur-Ishurdi section (1045.59 million USD), Construction of Marine Drive Expressway and Coastal Protection Works from Shitakunda-Chittagong-Cox's Bazaar ( 2856.56 million USD), Conversion of Meter Gauge Railway Track into Broad-gauge in Akhaura-Sylhet Section (1272.93 million USD) etc. however, these promises remained just in shelf and real term money flow from China to Bangladesh has been a small fraction of what was promised.
Host countries are concerned about imposition of Chinese culture in their countries. Anti-China protests in August-September 2019 rocked Nepal against hacking of Nepali websites by Chinese companies and involvement of Chinese in trafficking Nepali women. Local Nepalese raised their concern over construction of a dam by China at Arun River in Sankhuwasabha.

In Bangladesh, fifteen Bangladeshi women were intercepted at Dhaka's Shahjalal International Airport in May 2019 while they were being trafficked to China. A Chinese national who was previously working in a garment factory in Savar and his Bangladeshi wife were also arrested by the Detective Brach of Dhaka Police.

There are reports of similar protests in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kenya (Nairobi) over increasing apprehension regarding ill-treatment of local people by Chinese supervisors. Anti-China protests took place across six major cities in Central Asian Republic of Kazakhstan over increasing apprehensions that Chinese investments could compromise the country's sovereignty and over reports of ill treatment of ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang Province of China.

The recent leaks on utter abuse of ethnic Uighur Muslims living in Xinjaing Uighur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China has shaken the world community. The graphic details of atrocities on the helpless Uighur Muslims are still emerging with vivid accounts of mistreatment of women and children in these isolated specially erected detention camps for Uighurs for their political indoctrination benefiting the Chinese Communist Party.

Introduction of facial identification software is being widely used by the Chinese security forces to identify and detain Uighur Muslims in Xinjaing. Scores of mothers have been separated from their children in the process. However, interestingly Pakistan the so called Messiah of Muslim population worldwide is silent because the finger has been pointed at its 'trusted' ally. It seems that Pakistan's interest in Islam is only in creating Jihadi terrorists to kill innocent people all across the world.

Pakistan has been in the forefront criticizing India's sovereignty over Kashmir. It has left no stones unturned to raise the Kashmir issue on all major international forums including the UN. Pakistan claimed that in Kashmir Muslims are being subjected to violence and intimidation. Pakistan has been vociferously questioning India's legitimate sovereignty and its territorial integrity. When a provision in Article 370 was removed from Indian constitution to give Kashmir the real growth and Kashmir is moving in their desired prosperity and employment opportunities.

Pakistan reacted angrily and pledged to use all powers in its disposal to dislodge peace and tranquility in Kashmir. EU Parliament members and recently visited diplomats of USA, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Argentina, South Korea and others also have supported India's actions for peace and progress.

The US diplomat also underlined the long-term effects in Pakistan of China's "financing practices" and urged Islamabad to examine "the burdens that are falling on the new governrnent to manage with now an estimated $15 billion debt to the Chinese government and $6.7 billion in Chinese commercial debt". Ms Wells also emphasized the need for Pakistan to know that China was providing loans, not grants, as the United States.

Ms Wells also challenged the notion that CPEC would create jobs in Pakistan. "CPEC relies primarily on Chinese workers and supplies, even amid rising unemployment in Pakistan," she said. The US diplomat also demanded more transparency on the proposed link between Gwadar Port and China's Xinjiang. She said that while CPEC would only benefit China, the United States offered a better model. Under these circumstances, Pakistan has no option but to fall into economic slavery of China. With this predicament, they are bound to maintain a studied silence on torture being inflicted on their Muslim brethren. There is a report that Chinese has involved in trafficking of 269 women in last two years from Pakistan.

The Chinese have refused to share information about the detention centers, and prevented journalists and foreign investigators from examining them. However, internal Chinese government documents leaked in late 2019 have provided important details on how officials launched and maintain the detention camps. Some eight hundred thousand to two million Uighurs and other Muslims, including ethnic Kazakhs and Uzbeks, have been detained since April 2017, according to experts and government officials. Outside of the camps, the eleven million Uighurs living in Xinjiang has continued to suffer from a decades-long crackdown by Chinese authorities. Hundreds of camps are located in Xinjiang. Officially known as the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, the northwestern province has been claimed by China since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took power in 1949.

It may be mentioned that Sri Lanka's new president Gotabaya Rajapaksa has told India and Western nations that his country will be forced to seek finance from China again if they do not invest in the island. Sri Lanka has traditionally been allied to India but became close to China, securing about $7 billion in loans and investment, when Rajapaksa's brother Mahinda was president from 2005 to 2015.

"The next generation will curse our generation for giving away precious assets otherwise," President G Rajapaksa said. Sri Lanka was forced to hand the port over to China in 2017 on a 99-year lease after the Sri Lankan government was unable to repay loans taken to build it. India and some Western countries have raised concerns that nations who have taken Chinese loans under the Belt and Road initiative risk falling into a debt trap. Rajapaksa said he was certain India's government under  Prime Minister Narendra Modi would remove the apprehensions it had over ties between Sri Lanka and China.

"Some of their suspicions were due to our ties with China but that was a misunderstanding. We had a purely commercial agreement with China." Rajapaksa said. Developing countries should maintain and enhance cooperation in all sectors with India, Japan and Western countries for peace, democracy and progress. We hope all will come forward in this regard.


The writer is an academic, former ambassador, leader-student action committee 71 and freedom fighter

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