Beijing: China has asked its state firms in Myanmar to evacuate non-essential staff following attacks on Chinese factories and businesses by anti-coup protesters who accused Beijing of backing the military junta that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi last month.

China has told its state firms to evacuate non-essential staff from Myanmar after dozens of Chinese-run factories were attacked on Sunday, amid rising anti-China sentiment, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday.

China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC) in a notice ordered state-owned enterprises in Myanmar to evacuate staff involved in projects that had come to a halt.

Other staff to be pulled out of the neighbouring country include those who have reached the end of their rotations, workers who have not yet been inoculated against the coronavirus, employees living on remote sites and those facing serious local situations, according to the notice.

Asked about reports of evacuation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian during a media briefing here on Wednesday said that China is following the situation in Myanmar closely and attach importance to the safety of our institutes and personnel in Myanmar.

“We hope the Myanmar side will take concrete measures and take more vigorous actions to ensure their safety,” he said.

A state construction firm employee working on an infrastructure project in Myanmar confirmed to the daily that he had received the instructions from SASAC, which oversees 90 national-level SOEs in China.

“We received it over the weekend when some Chinese-invested factories were attacked,” a source was quoted as saying.

In fact, almost all projects have already stopped here. We are discussing who shall stay back to watch developments. I think most of us will head home as nothing much can be done,” he said.

According to state-run Global Times, 32 Chinese factories have been vandalised in the attacks in Yangon.

The property loss was estimated to be about 240 million yuan (USD 36.89 million), the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar told the Global Times on Monday.

Two Chinese employees were injured in the attacks with no fatalities, the embassy said.

Earlier pro-democracy protesters held demonstrations in front of the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar, accusing Beijing of backing the coup.

China, considered a close ally of Myanmar junta, has called on both the military and the National League for Democracy (NLD) headed by Suu Kyi to resolve their differences through dialogue and consultations.

Over the years, China has invested heavily in Myanmar under its multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in which thousands of Chinese workers were employed.

Some of the key BRI projects in Myanmar include a 2,800-kilometre China-Myanmar oil and gas pipeline running from Kyaukpyu to Kunming, Southwest China’s Yunnan, and a deep water port at Kyaukpyu, which provide access to China to the Bay of Bengal.

About the attacks on the Chinese factories and businesses, Zhao told the media here on March 15 that the “vandalising, looting and arson attacks” on Chinese companies in Myanmar was “egregious .

China hopes that the relevant parties in Myanmar will keep calm and exercise restraint, act in the fundamental interests of the people, address their differences through dialogue and consultation within the constitutional and legal framework, and continue to advance the democratic transition,” he said.

He said China Enterprises Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar (CECCM) has asked local police to take strong measures to protect the safety of Chinese businesses and employees.

The Myanmar side has sent additional police, fire and rescue forces to the region to maintain order and deal with the situation on the ground. China will continue to urge Myanmar to take practical measures to stop all violent behaviours and hold the culprits accountable and ensure the safety of life and property of Chinese businesses and personnel in Myanmar,” he said.

On March 7, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told media here that China will not change the course of its close ties with Myanmar post-coup, no matter how the situation evolves , ruling out joining the US in imposing sanctions against the military junta.

“China will not change the course of promoting friendship and cooperation, no matter how the situation evolves,” Wang said in his annual press conference.

Instead, he said Beijing will try to bring about reconciliation by engaging with all relevant parties.

The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar, which for five decades had languished under strict military rule that led to international isolation and sanctions.

The verified death toll among protesters since the February 1 coup has now exceeded 200, according to a tally compiled by the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

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