The controversial Hong Kong National Security bill was passed by Beijing last week on the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from Britain back to mainland China. The contentious bill was fast-tracked into legislation by the authoritarian Xi Jinping regime through which it is looking to punish crimes of secession, sedition, and collusion with foreign forces. Pro-democracy activists have dubbed the passing of the bill as ‘the end of the Hong Kong that the world knew before’. The controversial bill effectively quashes the autonomy and freedom of the Hong Kongers which they have enjoyed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984.
During United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) convention in Geneva, Switzerland, only 27 countries including Britain, France, Germany, and Japan opposed the bill saying Beijing must reconsider the law which “undermines” Hong Kong’s freedoms.
However, 53 nations came in support of China and its bill. The majority of the African nations supported it and many of the world’s most brutal dictatorships — North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria gave it the nod.
Since getting the African countries support, the propaganda mouthpieces of China have gone on an overdrive to milk the votes of these nations to project a favorable image in front of the world. Lengthy opinion pieces are being churned out by the Chinese state media with one reading, ‘Why Africa is not buying into misinformation on HK national security law’.
Debt-trap diplomacy has forced the African nations to capitulate
African nations like Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Mozambique, Djibouti, Dominica, and several others have supported China’s bid. The reason for Africa’s fidelity to China is the debt-trap policy of Beijing which has crippled these nations.
At least 40 of the 53 signatories have signed onto China’s ambitious Belt and Road infrastructure project and that explains the sudden support of African nations. The BRI has put these African nations under a tremendous amount of duress.
China happens to be Africa’s biggest lender with debts worth more than $150 billion owed. Overall, in 2019, China’s outstanding debt claims stood at well over $5 trillion.
The debt-trap policy forms the bedrock of the BRI and China is using it to hash out the assets of the country in lieu of the debts and also extract the support.
The modus-operandi is fairly simple—enter a host country on the pretext of development activities, hand out fishy loans with exorbitant interest rates and when the state fails to repay it, capture the territories by swooping in with debt-equity swaps.
In nutshell BRI projects are cut-off from local economic and developmental needs of the host country and the example of Pakistan in our neighborhood is a shining example of it. CPEC has crippled Pakistan as it is forced to import a lot of capital goods from China that exhausted its already meager foreign reserves.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, these African nations are trying to renegotiate the debt payments to China. And although China has paused debt repayment for 77 countries with 40 of them being in Africa, the hidden clauses of these supposedly good Samaritan moves are certainly being allegedly evoked to arm-twist the African nations.
China’s state newspaper Global Times has itself noted that preferential loans such as those by the Export-Import Bank of China (Eximbank), “are not applicable for debt relief.”
The fact that major infrastructure projects under BRI are a sham can be extrapolated from the recent episode in the African country of Kenya.
Reported by TFI, a Kenyan appellate court had recently passed a judgment against the USD 3.2 billion Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project between Kenya government and the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) under BRI, by calling the contract ‘illegal’.
The newly built Chinese railway line, from the port city of Mombasa to the capital, Nairobi, however, had shot up the cost of transportation by 50 percent.
China and its hatred for the Black Skin
The African nations also need to understand that just like the Muslim Uyghur minorities back in mainland China, Beijing does not treat the black skin any better.
While almost everyone is aware of racism in Western nations like the US, UK, and others, almost nobody bats an eye towards xenophobia prevalent in China, particularly against those who do not have a white skin-tone. Racism is a huge problem in China.
In Guangzhou’s Yuexiu district which is also known as “Little Africa”, Africans and people suspected to be in contact with ‘African contacts’ were compelled to take tests followed by a mandatory quarantine at their own expense in April. The blacks are also routinely thrown out of their rooms and hotels in China.
The US Consulate in Guangzhou had advised African-Americans to stop traveling to the city in the backdrop of the Chinese Communist Party targeting people of African origin under the pretext of cracking down on the Wuhan coronavirus.
Brilliant. Consul General of Nigeria in China confronts Chinese officials over harassment of Nigerian nationals in China by the Chinese police amidst #COVID19 pandemic. The Chinese Official laughs it off since it’s a usual practice in China. Bizarre. pic.twitter.com/J9Ky470KNP
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) April 12, 2020
The World is fighting China tooth and nail and it needs the support of African nations. Their romance with China could prove fatal for them. Being too dependent on China, even as it receives global backlash, Africa is losing favour with the world too.
China is slowly and steadily administering a deadly dose of anesthesia to the African nations. Xi Jinping’s dream to create a neo-colonial world order passes through Africa and if one of the largest continent on Earth doesn’t rise to the threat of Beijing and its expansionist policies masquerading as lucrative BRI deals, then slavery which has been Africa’s abomination could come back no sooner than later.
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