China sends convicts to work in Sri Lanka, Maldives

[TamilNet, Sunday, 18 July 2010, 12:56 GMT]
Thousands of Chinese convicts have been pressed into service in projects by state-run Chinese companies in Sri Lanka, a strategically important country for China, which is seeking a role in the Indian Ocean. Chinese convicts also have been taken to a microstate in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives, where the Chinese government is building 4,000 houses on several different islands as a government-to- government "gift" to win influence there, writes Indian Professor of Strategic Studies Brahma Chellaney in The Japan Times, 5th July. A couple of months back a Chinese technician working in the construction of Nuraichchoalai thermal power plant undertaken by China in Puththa’lam district was arrested for alleged rape of a minor girl, Sri Lankan media reported.

China — in return for being allowed to make strategic inroads — provided Sri Lanka offensive weapon systems that helped end its long civil war. Now, Beijing is being rewarded with port-building, railroad and other infrastructure projects, says the New Delhi based Professor at Centre for Policy Research, a private think-tank.

In the case of Maldives, Beijing has so far failed to persuade the Maldivian president to lease it one of the 700 uninhabited Maldivian islands for setting up a small base for its navy, he said.

China has one of the largest prison populations in the world, numbering around 1.57 million.

Chinese companies on their own cannot get prisoners released in the thousands, let alone secure passports and exit permits for them. It is obvious that the controversial practice of making use of convicts overseas has been initiated at the instance of the Chinese government, Brahma Chellaney wrote.

According to him, Chinese dam-building projects, for example, have been controversial with local communities in Botswana, Burma, Ghana, Pakistan and Sudan, among others.

China is not only the world leader in building dams at home, but also the top dam exporter. In fact, it has no qualms about building dams in contested territories, or in areas torn by ethnic separatism, or in other human rights-abusing countries, the professor said.

But India is doing exactly the same thing in building roads and railways in the island of Sri Lanka, helping Sinhala colonisation and Colombo’s inroads into the Tamil homeland, while the communication link of Tamil towns and cities that are historically and geographically contiguous is systematically sabotaged, Eezham Tamil circles commented.

 

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