I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…
In bed with the Junta
China may have begun to distance itself from the wacky regime in North Korea, but its support of the detestable Burmese junta hasn’t missed a beat. India, China and Hong Kong have too many vested interests at stake to have joined the international chorus of condemnation when democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced this month. It should come as no surprise that China’s Foreign Ministry simply said that the world must ‘fully respect Myanmar’s judicial sovereignty’.
Having been granted a visa at the plush Myanmar consulate in Wanchai last year, I paid a 10-day visit to the repressive Southeast Asian country (carefully minimising spending on government services, I might add). For years, UN, EU and US-backed sanctions were piled upon the region’s poorest country, but it was clear during my first few hours in Yangon that – in light of the open border with China – any trade sanctions were utterly ineffective. As a local taxi driver told me, ‘it’s useless – the junta can get anything they want’.
The streets were devoid of Western brands but Chinese goods were everywhere and the only chain store I saw was Giordano – the Hong Kong clothing franchise. In 2008, trade Sino-Burmese trade grew 26.4% to US$2.6billion whilst Beijing fervently defends the junta at the UN Security Council and exacerbates their brutality by selling them weaponry. Sinopec, Crown Relocations, CITIC Group, Hutchinson Whampoa (3-Mobile, Watsons, Park ‘n’ Shop) are some of the other HK-based companies listed on Burma Campaign UK’s ‘dirty list’ for propping up the generals.
It is hypocritical of China to decry ‘interference in the internal affairs’ of Burma when it funds, arms and protects the regime. Both governments have little tolerance for freedom of speech, so join the ‘Hong Kong Coalition for a Free Burma’ on Facebook for details on upcoming demonstrations and rallies within our free corner of Asia.
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