Bangladesh asks China for help to repatriate Rohingya refugees | Rohingya News

Bangladesh has asked China’s cooperation to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Myanmar during a visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

China had used its influence in Myanmar to broker an agreement in November 2017 to repatriate some 700,000 Rohingya who fled persecution in Myanmar in August of that year.

Despite attempts to send them back, the refugees refused, fearing a threat in Myanmar exacerbated by last year’s military takeover.

Wang arrived in Dhaka on Saturday and met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen. They discussed bilateral and global issues before his departure on Sunday, said Shahriar Alam, Bangladesh’s deputy foreign minister.

Bangladesh has strong ties with China, which is an important trading partner especially for commodities. But maintaining close ties with Beijing is a challenge for Bangladesh, which is also balancing diplomatic and trade ties with India and the United States, China’s main competitors.

More than 500 Chinese companies are active in Bangladesh. China is involved in all of the country’s major infrastructure projects such as seaports, a river tunnel and highways, and helped build its largest bridge across the Padma River at a cost of $3.6 billion.

Thousands of Rohingya are seeking shelter in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar area, the largest cluster of refugee camps in the world [File: Tanbir Miraj/AFP]

Amid recent tensions between China and Taiwan, Bangladesh issued a statement reaffirming its support for the “One China” policy.

After winning elections in 2008, Hasina’s government, at China’s request, closed the Taiwanese business mission in Dhaka, and China has since increased its involvement in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh’s garment industry, which brings in more than 80 percent of foreign exchange from exports, is heavily dependent on China for raw materials.

On Sunday, during a courtesy call, Wang Hasina said his country regards Bangladesh as a “strategic development partner” and will continue to support it, said Ihsanul Karim, the president’s press secretary.

The United News of Bangladesh agency reported that Wang had also pledged to stand by Bangladesh “on any issue at international forums.”

State-run Bangladesh news agency Sangbad Sangstha reported that Hasina addressed the global tensions caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions against Moscow, saying: “People [across the world] going through difficult times…South Asia, Southeast Asia and China can work together for economic progress.”

Alam said Wang has agreed to expand trade benefits by increasing duty-free access to Chinese markets from the current 97 percent of Bangladesh’s products and services to 98 percent.

“This is good news for Bangladesh as we have a thriving economy based on exports,” Alam said. “Now they’ve offered another 1 percent from September 1,” he said, adding that the new tax benefit is likely to include garments, wovens and other products that previously faced some obstacles.

He said Bangladesh will soon receive a list of products and services from China that would be granted duty-free access.

Alam said Wang told Bangladesh’s foreign minister that “some countries misunderstand and misinterpret China.” He didn’t elaborate.

But Momen separately told reporters the Chinese minister mentioned that part of the Taiwanese people are being provoked against China’s sovereignty. Beijing regards self-governing Taiwan as its own territory.

The junior minister said China had promised to work continuously to resolve the Rohingya crisis, quoting Wang as saying Myanmar’s internal challenges worried other countries.

“Our foreign minister has strongly reiterated that Chinese cooperation is needed. China has made progress in solving the Rohingya problem and we must end the situation,” Alam said.

On Sunday, Bangladesh and China signed or renewed four memoranda of understanding and memoranda of understanding on disaster management, infrastructure and cultural exchanges.

Analyst Munshi Faiz Ahmad, who served as Bangladesh’s ambassador to Beijing, said Wang’s visit was significant for both countries.

“Bangladesh needs China’s support to solve the Rohingya crisis. This visit will help strengthen bilateral ties,” Ahmad told the Associated Press news agency.

“China is very important to us. We also need to have good relations with both India and the United States, as they are also very important development partners of Bangladesh. Because of Bangladesh’s close ties with China, there is nothing to worry about,” he said.

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