Failure of One Belt, One Road? Chinese investors worried after arson at facility in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan locals burnt a building and assets at a new gold-processing plant owned by a Kyrgyz-Chinese joint venture

(Screenshot of 24kg news agency's footage)

(Screenshot of 24kg news agency's footage)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Is China's "One Belt, One Road" facing push-back? Following outcry over the Belt and Road initiatives in Maldives, Sri Lanka, and India, a Kyrgyz-Chinese joint venture was recently severely attacked, likely in protest of the new facilities's possible negative impact on the environment.

The Embassy of China in Kyrgyzstan has reportedly asked the Kyrgyz Foreign Affairs and Internal Affairs Ministries to conduct an investigation and to protect Chinese investors, according to the Times of Central Asia.

On April 11 local protesters broke into a gold-processing plant owned by a joint Kyrgyz-Chinese venture company, and set the facility on fire in the south of Kyrgyzstan . The firefighters on site were reportedly stopped from carrying out their mission to extinguish the fire.

The report said that protests have been raised because the new gold processing plant may negatively impact the local environment. The plant is owned by Makmal GL Developing, a Kyrgyz-Chinese joint venture.

The plant, which was newly built to process ores and precious metals received from local gold-mining enterprises, has been accused of using cyanide to extract gold, instead of more modern and ecologically friendly technologies requested by the locals.

About one thousand protesters reportedly joined the riot, with some of them burning a building, two large trucks, excavators, and several other assets owned by the company, leading to a loss of US$5 million worth of equipment.

According to the State Inspectorate for Environmental and Technical Safety, the company has permission to build a gold-processing plant, and only the environmental issue hindered the launch of the plant. The company has not yet submitted the results of the environmental assessment, according to a local official.

China's One Belt One Road initiative has elevated debt risks in eight countries, including Pakistan, Laos, the Maldives, Mongolia, Tajikistan and Kyrgystan, and has caused distrust among some partner nations worried their sovereignty may be undermined due to China's problematic record of dealing with debt relief in the past, according to earlier media reports.