China Faces Backlash for Demanding Tougher Action on Myanmar’s Protesters

By The Irrawaddy 15 March 2021

Myanmar’s pro-democracy supporters have condemned China’s calls for the military regime to take tougher action against peaceful protesters amid allegations that Chinese-owned garment factories were set on fire. Beijing has demanded Myanmar’s security forces act to protect Chinese interests and citizens.

As the security forces killed at least 70 peaceful protesters across Myanmar on Sunday, China said many Chinese-owned factories in Hlaing Tharyar’s industrial zone were looted and burned. China urged the military regime to take immediate action against protesters.

Chinese government mouthpiece the Global Times said 32 factories built with Chinese investment had been vandalized, with around US$37 million (52 billion kyats) in damage.

Soon after the Chinese Embassy statement, the junta declared martial law in Hlaing Tharyar Township, where more than 37 anti-regime protesters were killed by the security forces during peaceful protests on Sunday.

Nearly a million social-media users shared a post in Burmese and Chinese saying: “We totally condemn the Chinese Embassy’s statement, only standing for its self-interest. China has been silent and failed to condemn the military regime, despite hundreds of people losing their lives during the peaceful protests.”

One pro-democracy comment said: “Shame on you, China! You totally ignore the unlawful killing of Burmese people and only speak out for your self-interest.”

Smoke rises from a Chinese-owned factory in Hlaing Tharyar, Yangon’s industrial zone, on Sunday.

Another social media user said: “While we are losing our lives and counting dead bodies, China accused Myanmar’s people of burning its garment factories and urged the regime to take serious action against innocent citizens. It is demanding more peaceful protesters are killed?”

Other comments accused China of totally ignoring the ongoing atrocities committed by the junta, saying there have been no reports of destruction of private property nor thefts by protesters.

An observer of Myanmar’s relations with China, who asked not to be named, told The Irrawaddy that the Chinese statement was a signal of approval from Beijing for the military to kill more innocent people.

“China is failing to condemn the coup and the deadly crackdown on protesters. Now its urges the prosecution of people to protect its property. Myanmar’s people won’t forget it. It is not a good sign for existing Chinese investments and future projects under the Belt and Road Initiative,” she said.

Human rights activist U Aung Myo Min told The Irrawaddy that the military repeatedly claimed it launched bloody crackdowns only after protesters became violent. China’s accusation about vandalism endorsed the military’s claim of violent acts by protesters, he said.

“China totally turns a blind eye to the acts committed by the military. There are lots of videos of looting, shooting and other lawless behavior by the security forces during crackdowns on protesters,” U Aung Myo Min said.

“If China really cares about its interests, it needs to condemn the military and endorse serious UN action against the military,” he said.

“Anti-Chinese sentiment has emerged among people, including boycotts of Chinese products. It means that wherever China invests, the people will oppose it. I believe there will be more challenges for Chinese investment,” U Aung Myo Min added.

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