Beijing says foreign interference is not the answer to Rohingya crisis
Senior official offers support for Myanmar’s government, saying China doesn’t want instability over the border
Beijing expressed its support for Myanmar’s government on Saturday over the ongoing Rohingya crisis, saying foreign interference in the situation will not work.
The remarks by Guo Yezhou, a deputy head of the Communist Party’s international department, came as Beijing refused to condemn Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims – described by United Nations officials as a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing.
More than 500,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled across the border to Bangladesh following a counter-insurgency offensive by Myanmar’s army in the wake of militant attacks on security forces.
During a meeting last month with UN Secretary General António Guterres, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reiterated China’s support for the Myanmar government’s efforts to protect its national security and said it opposed recent violent attacks in the country’s Rakhine state.
Asked why China had remained silent on the humanitarian crisis, Guo said: “Based on experience, you can see recently the consequences when one country interferes in another. We won’t do it.”
Guo, who was speaking on the sidelines of the party congress in Beijing, did not elaborate.
He also pointed to China’s “friendship” with Myanmar’s government, headed by de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to explain its refusal to publicly condemn the treatment of Rohingya Muslims.
China does not want instability in Myanmar as it inevitably will be affected because the two countries share a long land border, Guo said. “We condemn violent and terrorist acts,” he added.
China has extensive investments in Myanmar. A recently opened pipeline running through the country carries oil from the Middle East and the Caucuses to China’s landlocked Yunnan province. The 771km pipeline starts from the Bay of Bengal in Rakhine.
Guo’s department has been at the forefront of building relations with Suu Kyi, who visited China in 2015 at the party’s invitation, rather than the Chinese government’s. International department head Song Tao also visited Myanmar in August and met Suu Kyi.
In contrast to China’s stance, the European Union and the United States have been considering targeted sanctions against Myanmar’s military leadership. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday that the United States held Myanmar’s military leadership responsible for its harsh crackdown.
Punitive measures aimed specifically at top generals are among a range of options that have been discussed, but they are wary of action that could hurt the wider economy or destabilise already tense ties between Suu Kyi and the army.