CHENNAI, India, 17 November 2019
Around six decades ago, China entered Tibet forcefully and occupied the country, suppressing the protests of Tibetans and in the process killing thousands of Tibetans. The respected Tibetan religious leader the Dalai Lama was forced to flee Tibet along with his followers and seek asylum in India. For over six decades now, China has been occupying Tibet, and the world has remained a mute spectator to China’s atrocities and aggression in Tibet. This silence of the world community has certainly emboldened China and made it think that it can do anything in its self-interest and get away with it.
Later on, when freedom-seekers in China protested against the dictatorship of the Communist government and its totalitarian regime, the Chinese government through the Chinese army massacred the protesters in the infamous Tiananmen Square killings. Till now, the world does not know clearly how many people were murdered, but many think that it could be several thousands. In spite of China’s suppression of dissenters who sought freedom from the oppressive regime, and the ruthless killings of protesters, the world remained silent. This gave further confidence to the Chinese government that it could do anything, however unethical, immoral it could be, and get away with it.
Emboldened by its “successful” aggressiveness in Tibet and Tiananmen Square, China appears to be convinced that world opinion is impotent and it can take the world opinion for granted.
Then, with such confidence in its capability to suppress any freedom movement, China is now mercilessly suppressing the religious freedoms of Uighur Muslims in China. The world again is deliberately ignoring this massacre, which further has convinced China that it will remain unchallenged under any circumstances.
However, the present freedom movement in Hong Kong is teaching a lesson or two to China, as the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong blossom everywhere. It is known that several protesters in Hong Kong are being arrested, and no one knows exactly how China is dealing with them. With characteristic aggressiveness, Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that any attempts to divide China by the Hong Kong protesters would result in “shattered bones”. But the protesters in Hong Kong seem to be a determined lot. The clashes between protesters and the Chinese army/police in Hong Kong has intensified after police shot a protester at close range and a man was doused with petrol and set on fire. Hong Kong protesters have now extended the protest movement to London, where a visiting Hong Kong minister to London was met with protest.
In the midst of such protests in Hong Kong, other countries are still remaining mute spectators and silent observers, clearly highlighting the fact that the conscience of the world has gone for a toss.
But it now appears that the Communist government in China is getting rattled by the intensity of protests in Hong Kong, and it is no more being that aggressive by resorting to massive killings to suppress the protests in Hong Kong, as it did earlier in the case of Tibet, Tiananmen Square, and in its present dealings with the Uighur Muslims.
The question now is whether China will meet with similar Hong Kong-type of protests in Pakistan before long, as China seems to be viewing Pakistan as its extended territory for all practical purposes.
China’s expansionist policy is well known, and China has definite schemes in Pakistan to control the Pakistan territory in some form or other. China has extended massive grants and debt to Pakistan, which Pakistan will never be able to repay in the foreseeable future. Several strategic mines and infrastructure projects in Pakistan are under Chinese control now.
China is now focusing on the Economic Corridor project (CPEC project) in Gwadar in Pakistan. It is known that Gwadar port is of strategic and military importance to China in several ways, including from the point of view of transportation of crude oil from Middle East countries to be further transported to China from Gwadar port.
With so much investment in infrastructure projects in economically-weak Pakistan, China has to necessarily control the governance of Pakistan now and in the coming years. In all probability, the heavily debt-ridden Pakistan government will have to function without displeasing the Chinese government in any way. The dominance of China in the affairs of Pakistan will increasingly become clear and transparent.
It is known that Islamic extremists have a stranglehold in Pakistan today, and no government in Pakistan or even the Pakistan army can confront them in a big way beyond a certain level. The brainwashed extremists in Pakistan are bound to assert themselves. The Islamic extremists are already finding that intrusion of China in Pakistan is against the interest of the Islam religion. There is already developing underlying thoughts amongst the Islamic groups in Pakistan, that China’s interference in Pakistan should be resisted. Already, there are reports that the Pakistan army is being deployed to protect the Chinese technicians and experts working in Pakistan against attack by Muslim extremists. It is reported that a few Chinese technicians have been killed in the past.
Certainly, China cannot suppress the likely Islamic protesters in Pakistan in the same way it has done in Tibet and Tiananmen Square. Such likely protests against China in Pakistan would be similar to the present protest in Hong Kong, and certainly the Chinese government will blink in dealing with such a protest movement in Pakistan in the coming years, which appears to be inevitable.
Obviously, the think tank in Chinese government would be aware of such possibilities. It remains to be seen how China’s handling of Pakistan affairs will shape up in the future. But, China has limited choices with regard to its options in Pakistan, even as it has to have its stranglehold of Pakistan intact.
In the coming decade, the real challenge for China’s totalitarian methods, expansionist plans, and aggressive postures will be in Pakistan.
About the author
NS Venkataraman is a chemical engineer as well as a social activist in Chennai, India. He is the founder trustee of Nandini Voice for the Deprived, a Chennai-based not-for-profit organisation serving the cause of the deprived and down-trodden, and working for probity in public life.
More articles by NS Venkataraman on Tibet Sun.