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Beijing’s debt trap: Chinese nationals face threats in Pakistan, Sri Lanka


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China seems to be trapped in its own web that it had spun around countries to catch them in a debt trap through its inherently exploitative Belt and Road Initiative.

People in countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka which are indebted to China have now started hitting back against Chinese nationals.

Last month in April, three Chinese nationals were killed in Pakistan in an alleged suicide attack.

In Sri Lanka, after the resignation of pro-China Prime Minister Mahendra Rajapaksa, Beijing has asked its citizens working in the island nation to be on the alert and guard against attacks, according to Islam Khabar,

On April 26, a burqa- clad woman suicide bomber of Baloch Liberation Army triggered an explosion in a shuttle passenger bus of the Confucius Institute of the University of Karachi, leaving three Chinese teachers dead and one injured.

The Baloch Liberation Army has been vocal against the building of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

In 2021, nine Chinese engineers were killed in a bomb attack on a bus at Dasu hydropower project in Pakistan. Islamabad had to pay USD 11.6 billion as compensation for the incident, as per Islam Khabar.

The CPEC, which ends at Gwadar Port in Balochistan, has burdened Pakistan with mountains of debt, allowing China to use “debt trap diplomacy” to gain access to strategic assets in Pakistan.

Towards the end of 2021, there were massive protests in Gwadar against the CPEC, a movement called ‘Gwadar Ko Haq Do’ (Give Gwadar its rights), demanding removal of unnecessary check-posts and in protest against giving Chinese fishing trawlers the right to fish in the area to the detriment of the interest of local small fishermen.

In other areas where CPEC projects like roads, railway and oil pipeline links are coming up, there have been protests against forcible occupation of land and displacement of people.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka is facing an unprecedented foreign exchange crisis, Colombo’s request to Beijing to restructure Lanka’s debt to China have gone in vain.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative has mired Sri Lanka in a debt trap.

At the end of February 2022, Colombo was left with a forex reserve of only USD 2.32 billion, while it was faced with a debt repayment burden of USD 4 billion in 2021-22, Islam Khabar reported.

The bulk of the debt was owed to China, nearly USD 8 billion, with USD 2 billion payable to Beijing in 2021-22.

On May 10, Beijing issued an advisory to Chinese nationals in Sri Lanka saying it was closely monitoring the violent turn of events in the island where it had substantial investments and asked Chinese nationals working in Sri Lanka to be alert and on guard against risks. China’s gaining access to the Hambantota Port on a 99-year lease has not gone down well with the patriotic Lankans, as per the media reports.

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