Myanmar Protesters Vandalize Dozens of Chinese Factories

Protesters sit on a makeshift barricade erected to deter security forces during demonstrations against the military coup in Yangon's Hlaing Tharyar township on March 14, 2021. (Photo by STR / AFP) (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)
STR/AFP via Getty Images

Protesters in Myanmar vandalized dozens of Chinese-owned factories over the weekend, setting at least four garment factories and a fertilizer plant on fire.

The military junta opened fire on the demonstrators, reportedly killing 39 in the bloodiest day since the fall of the elected civilian government in a coup at the beginning of February.

An unknown number of anti-coup demonstrators attacked the Chinese factories because Beijing supports the junta. Most of the damage occurred in the industrial Hlaingthaya suburb of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city.

According to the Chinese embassy in Myanmar, 32 “Chinese-invested” factories suffered damage, with property losses totaling over $36 million. Two factory employees were injured, with no fatalities reported.

The industrial zones of Yangon are now under martial law and most of its Chinese-owned businesses have been shut down. Ironically, Chinese nationals living in Myanmar complained they are having trouble communicating with each other because security forces have shut down the Internet to make it harder for protesters to organize.

The Chinese embassy urged Burmese security forces to take additional steps to ensure the safety of Chinese residents and the security of their property.

China’s state-run Global Times condemned the “barbaric acts” of the demonstrators in a Monday editorial and demanded “severe punishment” for the arsonists, plus compensation from the junta for Chinese factory owners:

The violent attacks were apparently well organized and planned. One twitter account tweeted a warning to the Myanmar military government saying: “If one civilian killed one Chinese factory will become ashes.” This verified account belongs to “Founder and Executive Director of Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN).” BHRN, based in London, was founded in 2015. This is just one example of inflammatory instigations. 

This account openly takes Chinese factories as hostage of Myanmar situation. This is a serious crime. Twitter is supposed to suspend this account and the owner of this account should also be held accountable and face legal punishment. 

The Global Times insisted China has “friendly ties with all parties in Myanmar” and refuses to “interfere heavily” in its politics, as though refusing to condemn a violent coup is the same thing as respecting the autonomy of a sovereign nation. According to the Chinese Communist paper, only the U.S. and its hypocritical allies think there is anything seriously wrong with the military overthrowing Myanmar’s civilian government:

Since the sudden change in Myanmar’s situation last month, the US has asked China to condemn the actions and impose sanctions to the Myanmar military. This is not in line with China’s consistent position. China will certainly not accept it. Actually, none of ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] members has the same attitude as the US and the West. Myanmar’s neighboring countries have coincidently held the same stance with profound realistic reasons. This is in line with the moral principles of independence and autonomy of each country. The West has no right to point an accusing finger at them.

The nuances of Beijing’s argument seemed to be lost on the protesters of Myanmar, who flooded the Chinese embassy’s Facebook page with negative comments after it demanded more protection for Chinese business interests from the junta. “More than half the reactions — over 29,000 — used the laughing-face emoji,” Reuters reported Monday.

Eyewitnesses described the killing of protesters by junta forces over the weekend as horrifying. U.N. special envoy Christine Schraner Burgener condemned the “ongoing brutality” and said her contacts in Myanmar reported “killings, mistreatment of demonstrators, and torture of prisoners over the weekend.”

“Heartbroken/outraged at news of the largest number of protesters murdered by Myanmar security forces in a single day. Junta leaders don’t belong in power; they belong behind bars,” U.N. human rights investigator Tom Andrews said on Twitter.

A representative of the deposed civilian government expressed support for the people of Myanmar and promised the junta and its allies “will be held accountable for every drop of blood that was shed.”

The estimated death toll from the coup is now 140, although the Associated Press suggested it could be much higher because the police have been seizing some of the corpses they created and injured protesters are reluctant to seek treatment at hospitals under junta control.

The government of Taiwan on Monday advised Taiwanese companies operating in Myanmar to “hang signs in Burmese reading ‘Taiwanese company’ at their factories and to hang our country’s national flag, and explain to local workers and neighbours they are a Taiwanese factory, to avoid outsiders getting confused and misjudging.”

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