A series of anti-China protests and attacks on junta troops guarding China-backed pipelines took place on the heels of Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang’s visit to Naypyitaw earlier this month.
Qin Gang held talks with junta boss Min Aung Hlaing on May 2, becoming the first top-level Chinese government official to meet with the regime leadership since the coup in 2021. A regime statement said that Qin Gang’s visit not only displayed the friendship between Myanmar and China but also Beijing’s support for the regime on the international stage.
Qin Gang also paid a call on former military dictator Than Shwe the same day. Than Shwe expressed hope that Myanmar and China would retain their longstanding “pauk-phaw” friendship, strengthen friendly cooperation, and work for more fruitful outcomes of bilateral relations, according to state-owned China Radio International.
The visit was followed by anti-China protests in parts of Myanmar, with demonstrators calling on Beijing to stop supporting the regime.
Two days after Qin Gang’s visit, residents of Sagaing Region’s Letpadaung, the site of a China-backed copper mine, burned a Chinese flag in protest against Beijing’s engagement with the regime.
Locals in Sagaing Region’s Yinmabin and Salingyi staged a similar protest on May 9, accusing China of complicity in atrocities against civilians committed by Myanmar’s military regime.
Protests spread overseas with Myanmar expats demonstrating outside the Chinese Embassy in London on May 10. They held banners with the messages “China is helping the military violate our human rights”, “Myanmar’s junta is a terrorist organization”, “Stop backing terrorists”, “China, get out of Burma”, “China, leave Burma alone”, and “Burmese resources are not for Chinese consumption”.
Last week, the anti-China demonstrations spread to San Francisco in the US, and Sagaing, Magwe, Yangon and Mandalay, where protesters burned Chinese flags and pictures of junta chief Min Aung Hlaing and the Chinese foreign minister. They also held banners reading “China: Stop Killing Myanmar People by Supporting Fascist Criminals”, “China: Respect Myanmar People`s Voice”, and “Stop Supporting Fascist Criminals”.
The General Strike Coordination Body (GSCB), a network of anti-regime forces, also sent an open letter to Chinese communities around the world, asking China’s government to stop supporting the regime and show sympathy for Myanmar’s people.
“As long as the Chinese government continues to support the regime and stand by it publicly, we will continue to organize anti-China protests, not only in Myanmar but also in foreign countries together with Myanmar expats there. We will step up our protests,” Rose, a GSCB member, told The Irrawaddy.
Since the foreign minister’s visit, there have been three attacks on junta troops guarding China-backed oil and gas pipelines. On May 7, Natogyi Guerilla Force attacked junta troops guarding an offtake station for oil and gas pipelines in Natogyi Township in Mandalay’s Myingyan District.
Resistance groups also attacked troops guarding pipelines in Mandalay’s Kyaukpadaung and Taungtha townships on May 21 and 22, respectively.
Despite the protests, China is stepping up its engagement with the regime. Last week, Myanmar hosted an expo for Chinese goods in Naypyitaw with 300 merchants in attendance.