Bangladesh: Hundreds Brawl in Protest Against Chinese Abuse at Belt and Road Project

Bangladeshi activists and workers take part in a May Day or International Workers' Day protest in Dhaka on May 1, 2019. - Activists around the world mark international workers' day with marches demanding better working conditions, more jobs and higher wages. (Photo by MUNIR UZ ZAMAN / AFP) (Photo credit …
MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty

Hundreds of Chinese and local workers clashed at the construction site of a Beijing-funded power plant near Dhaka, Bangladesh, leaving one person dead and dozens of others wounded, law enforcement reportedly revealed on Wednesday.

The confrontation at the 1,320-megawatt plant, linked to Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), took place after the locals accused “the Chinese of trying to cover up the death of a Bangladeshi worker at the construction site about [124 miles] south of the capital,” the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency reports, adding:

At one point, hundreds of Bangladeshi and Chinese workers were fighting at the site – about 200km south of the capital – and more than a dozen were injured, including six Chinese who were taken to hospital.

“One of the Chinese workers later died in the hospital. He had injuries to his head,” Monirul Islam, a local police chief, told AFP, adding it took more than 1,000 police to restore order.

Police told AFP that the power plant’s construction site employs more than 6,000 people, including 2,000 from China.

Ram Chandra Das, identified as a regional administrator, told AFP authorities had ordered an investigation into the deadly incident.

A large number of Chinese workers have reportedly descended on BRI host countries to work on the projects. The BRI aims to link Beijing to Europe, Africa, and the Western Hemisphere through a massive network of land and sea routes as well as transportation technology.

AFP notes:

China is a close ally of Bangladesh, and Chinese state-run and private firms have invested billions of dollars in the South Asian country’s infrastructure projects – mostly in power, energy, and transport sectors.

The presence of large numbers of Chinese workers in Bangladesh, as in other countries where Beijing is investing heavily, has caused some tensions with locals, and officials said similar clashes occurred a year ago.

In October 2016, Chinese Communist Party chief Xi Jinping, who launched BRI in 2013, signed $20 billion worth of loan agreements with Bangladesh.

China’s investments in Bangladesh are part of the Belt and Road Initiative, AFP notes.

U.S. officials have accused China of using BRI as a vehicle for “debt traps” to undermine the sovereignty of borrowing countries.

BRI host countries often collateralize China’s predatory loans with natural resources and strategic assets.

Beijing’s BRI has targeted many countries in Africa where several countries have expressed concerns about China seizing their assets over potential loan defaults.

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