Suu Kyi to Make First Visit to China

By Aung Hla Tun 5 June 2015

RANGOON — Burma’s opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi will make her first visit to China this month, one of the leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party said, amid strained relations between the two countries.

Suu Kyi will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang on the June 10-14 trip, Nyan Win, secretary and spokesman for the NLD, told Reuters.

China’s Foreign Ministry said the visit would be at the invitation of the ruling Communist Party and that she would meet national leaders, but provided no details.

Since taking power in March 2011, Burma’s reformist government has sought to decrease the heavy dependence on China that grew when Burma was a pariah state under military rule.

Beijing has watched nervously as the United States lifted some sanctions and engaged with the semi-civilian government, though China has been keen to reach out to Suu Kyi.

The trip was initially scheduled for December 2014 but was delayed due to protocol issues, sources said.

The NLD is expected to do well in a general election in November, the first free vote in the country for 25 years. Suu Kyi is excluded from the presidency under a military-drafted Constitution, but her power and influence will grow if the NLD performs as well as expected.

Suu Kyi led the NLD to a sweeping victory in general elections in 1990, but the military government refused to recognize the results.

She became an international icon after winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her pro-democracy efforts and spent most of the next two decades under house arrest where she continued to resist Burma’s military rulers. She was freed in 2010.

The visit could prove awkward for Suu Kyi, as her fellow Nobel laureate, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, is in jail, and China is in the midst of a sweeping crackdown on dissent.

Suu Kyi has come under wide international criticism in recent months over her silence on Burma’s treatment of minority Muslim Rohingya, who are fleeing the country in rickety boats in search of a better life, with no country wanting to take them in.

Most of the 1.1 million Rohingya in Burma are stateless and live in apartheid-like conditions. Almost 140,000 were displaced in deadly clashes with Buddhists in Arakan State in 2012.

The relationship between China and Burma has been strained this year as stray Burma Army shells from fighting between the Burmese government and ethnic Chinese rebels have killed at least five Chinese people over the border in China’s southwestern Yunnan province. China held land and air live fire drills along parts of the border this week.