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China threatens 'drastic action to protect its interests' in Myanmar

Beijing blames anti-China sentiment in Myanmar on 'unshakable scent of foreign influence'

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Protesters wearing safety helmets shout slogans and flash three-finger salutes during an anti-coup protest behind a barrier in Yangon, Myanmar. 

Protesters wearing safety helmets shout slogans and flash three-finger salutes during an anti-coup protest behind a barrier in Yangon, Myanmar.  (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China's state-owned media on Tuesday (March 16) threatened that the country would take "drastic action to protect its interests" amid alleged attacks on Chinese factories in Myanmar.

China's state-run mouthpiece CGTN reported Monday (March 15) that two workers were injured after several Chinese-financed factories in the Yangon suburb of Hlaingthaya were vandalized and set ablaze on Sunday (March 14). That same day, the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar issued a statement urging the ruling junta to "take further effective measures to stop all acts of violence, punish the perpetrators in accordance with the law and ensure the safety of life and property of Chinese companies and personnel in Myanmar."

Many democracy activists in Mynamar suspect China is supporting the military junta behind last month's coup, especially considering Beijing's lack of criticism of the regime's violent tactics. China alleges that Sunday's attacks were spurred on by a tweet in which politician and Burma Human Rights Network founder Kyaw Win warned that "One Chinese factory will become ashes" if a single civilian was killed.

However, Win explained Monday that he was not the original source of the statement but had actually just translated a sign held by Myanmar protestors. That same day, he accused China of caring "more for the 2 factories than human lives that the fascist military has been butchering" and used a line frequently used by China to refer to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang: "Don't interfere [with] our internal matters."

By Tuesday, CGTN reported that 32 Chinese-funded enterprises had suffered damage from "vandalism and arson," with total losses amounting to 240 million yuan (US$37 million). Following the incidents, Myanmar's military junta declared martial law in areas where factories are concentrated, including Yangon's Hlaingthaya and Shwepyithar districts as well as the Yangon townships of North Dagon, North Okkalapa, South Dagon, and Dagon Seikkan, reported CNN.

Myanmar activists that day accused Chinese factory owners in Hlaingthaya of intentionally setting their own facilities on fire to collect insurance money and posted a video showing locals trying to put out a factory fire. Win then posted a tweet in which he condemned China for asking the "illegitimate fascist military to punish the protesters" while its own citizens "set fire to claim insurance."

CGTN pointed out that China is Myanmar's largest trading partner and warned that rising "anti-China sentiment" could strain the relationship between the two countries and that if Myanmar is unable to ensure the safety of foreign investments, it would not "only turn off Chinese investment but all investment from overseas."

The Chinese agency claimed that "rapidly rising China-hating-and-destroying sentiment won't sit well with China" and blamed the backlash against China on "an unshakable scent of foreign influence." It claimed that China has called on the Myanmar government to protect its assets and personnel while allowing the people of Myanmar to "express demands in a lawful manner."

The state-run outlet then vowed that Beijing will not "allow its interests to be exposed to further aggression." It closed by threatening that "China might be forced into taking more drastic action to protect its interests" if the junta cannot deliver on its promises and the "chaos" continues to worsen.


Updated : 2022-05-18 06:12 GMT+08:00