Pakistan’s political turmoil over Imran Khan’s arrest hasn’t left Chinese citizens unscathed. Police in Karachi had to intervene to stop an attack on Chinese workers.
China is silent on the political turmoil in Pakistan. The Chinese ministry deleted a “racist” video mocking Indians. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and China’s Director of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi had a meeting in Vienna. Chinascope delves into China’s reaction to the protests in Pakistan.
China over the week
While the political unrest in Pakistan was a major headline in India, it did not receive much attention from Chinese state media and social media platforms like Weibo. According to Hu Shisheng, director of the South Asia Institute of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, the current regime in Pakistan has lost its ability to boost the economy, leading to protests by former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s supporters demanding his release.
Although Chinese state media factually reported the detention of Imran Khan on corruption charges, the coverage of the protests that followed his arrest was limited. China Central Television reported that ten people died and 1,750 were injured due to clashes between the protesters and the police.
Hashtags related to the protests in Pakistan were suppressed from trending by Chinese censors on Weibo. Despite some hashtags generating attention, news about the violent protests did not generate significant discussion on Chinese social media. The hashtag “Pakistan ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan arrested” was viewed over one million times on Weibo, and the hashtag “Arrest of ex-Pakistani PM Imran Khan sparks violent protests” did not trend heavily, likely due to Chinese censors’ control.
The political turmoil in Pakistan hasn’t left the Chinese national unscathed. The Pakistan police stopped an attack on Chinese workers in Karachi at a boatyard owned by a Chinese entity.
“There were around 31 Chinese workers on the site at the time of the attack,” reported the South China Morning Post.
The Chinese embassy in Lahore warned its citizens in Pakistan to maintain vigilance. “Do not go out unless necessary, do not go out alone, do not go to places where people gather, do not express political speeches on social media and public places, and effectively strengthen preventive measures to ensure personal and property safety,” said the Chinese Consulate General in Lahore on their WeChat page.
Political protest is a highly sensitive topic in China, so the suppression on social media was expected. But how will China respond going forward?
“China is fairly agnostic about what happens — Khan back, Khan in jail, military takeover, Sharif’s in or out — none of it is really going to change much for China to the point that they would need to step in. If we saw the state collapse altogether and militants take over, maybe they would be concerned, but I think we are far away from that outcome,” Raffaello Pantucci, a senior fellow at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the author of Sinostan, told me in an interview.
Meanwhile, China’s Ministry of Public Security has deleted a Weibo post carrying a video of black-faced Chinese performers who mocked Indian cinema and music through a parody skit.
The ministry used the video to ‘teach’ people about road safety.
Some users approved the parody performances and found the video amusing. Others pointed out the ‘racist’ tone and said it was ‘inappropriate’ for an official account to post it.
China in world news
Since the spy balloon saga strained US-China relations, there has been limited official contact between the two sides.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and China’s Director of the CCP Central Foreign Affairs Office Wang Yi met in Vienna from 10 to 11 May. The conversation lasted for 10 hours.
“The two sides held candid, in-depth, substantive and constructive discussions on ways to remove obstacles in China-US relations and stabilise the relationship from deterioration. Director Wang fully elaborated on China’s serious position on the Taiwan question,” said a Chinese readout of the meeting.
The two officials also discussed the “situation in the Asia-Pacific region, Ukraine, and other international and regional issues of mutual interest.” The tone of the readout suggests the meetings were positive overall and may have allowed some easing of the tension in their bilateral relationship.
Reuters recently reported citing a Chinese official, that Beijing didn’t want the Federal Bureau of Investigation to release ‘details of its investigation into the downed balloon’.
Though the readout didn’t mention the India-China border dispute, the military stand-off has appeared in these types of discussions in the past.