Chinese Foreign Minister’s Visit Reignites Anti-China Protests in Myanmar

By The Irrawaddy 10 May 2023

Anti-China protests have broken out across Myanmar following last week’s meetings between Beijing’s foreign minister Qin Gang and Myanmar’s military dictators.

China stepped up its engagement with Myanmar’s regime with the visit by the most senior Chinese representative to Naypyitaw since the 2021 coup. Qin met junta boss Min Aung Hlaing and former dictator Than Shwe.

Following the visit, activists, students’ union members and general strike committees across the country launched an online campaign, sharing the message, “Hey China: stop killing Myanmar’s people by supporting fascist criminals,” in Chinese and English.

(online poster) An online poster shared by anti-regime activists on social media.

Protests were staged in Yangon and Yinmabin, Salingyi and Letpadaung in Sagaing Region, where the Chinese flag was burned.

Following the February 2021 coup, the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar faced daily protests in which hundreds of thousands of protesters demanded that their neighbor stop supporting the military.

China said the takeover was an internal affair not requiring foreign intervention and failed to denounce deadly crackdowns on protesters, despite widespread international condemnation. At the time there were calls for a boycott of Chinese products and threats to China-backed projects and pipelines. In the following months, there were a few attacks on China’s pipelines in Mandalay Region.

Letpadaung General Strike Committee in Salingyi, which is home to the Chinese-run copper mines, stated that the Chinese meetings fueled anti-China anger.

“We strongly say that our people do not want any country or government to cooperate with the regime,” the committee announced.

Yangon activists warned China that public anger would grow if it continued to work with the junta.

On Tuesday, a flash mob in the city called on China to respect the will of the people and to respect Myanmar’s sovereignty, instead of protecting dictators Min Aung Hlaing and Than Shwe.

A flash mob against China in Yangon on Tuesday. / Anti-Junta Alliance Yangon

Prominent activist Dr Tayzar San wrote that the neighbors would have to coexist after the fall of the dictatorship and there were many good examples of friendly, close bilateral relations over centuries.

Positive relations cannot be built with a terrorist regime, the activist said.

“If the Chinese government continues to support the fascist military like this, China will enter the list of Myanmar’s common enemies. We have a serious message and both countries will face the consequences,” Dr Tayzar San added.

Residents from Yinmabin and Salingyi in Sagaing Region protest against Beijing’s support for the junta this week.

Myanmar’s civilian National Unity Government also criticized Qin’s visit saying the “terrorist” junta offers no stability with its brutal killings, arbitrary arrests and arson attacks.

It said public consent was the only way to achieve long-term stability in Myanmar.