Islamabad: Despite growing worries in China about the security of hundreds of Chinese workers in the neighbouring country, China attempted to downplay reports of large-scale protests against the CPEC projects at Pakistan's port city Gwadar, claiming they are not directed against the multibillion-dollar initiative.
According to a report in the Pakistan-based newspaper, hundreds of children joined the ongoing protests in Gwadar which entered its 18th day. The protesters are threatening to block the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects if their demands, which included banning illegal trawling in Gwadar, are not met within a week.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said, “These reports are untrue”. She further added that “The organisers have said in public that the protests are not targeting the Chinese side or the CPEC.”
The media reported that the protesters reached Gwadar city from other cities of the district. They marched through the streets chanting slogans against the government for not implementing a deal signed to ban illegal trawling in Gwadar and eliminate unnecessary checkpoints, it said.
Last year, an editorial said “Gwadar city has become the very embodiment of a security state” with government focussing on securing the port and its ancillary interests while neglecting the welfare of the local people. “Existing privations have deepened; people’s mobility is restricted by security forces and there is unwarranted questioning of their activities,” it said.
Several local fishermen claim that the Pakistani government has allowed Chinese trawlers to fish in the waters off the Balochistan coast, further "squeezing" their means of subsistence. Defending the Chinese projects in Pakistan, Mao said the “Gwadar port is a flagship port of CPEC”. “It has focused on people’s livelihood,” she said.