A Chinese government delegation reportedly met a group of Rohingya Muslims in Cox’s Bazar and promised each refugee up to $6,000
A day after a report surfaced of Chinese officials offering cash to Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar to return to Myanmar, the Chinese embassy in Dhaka has responded to the report with a denial.
BenarNews, a Malaysia-based news outlet reported Thursday that a Chinese government delegation has reportedly met a group of Rohingya Muslims in Cox’s Bazar and promised each refugee up to $6,000 if they return to the Rakhine state in Myanmar.
A Chinese embassy official in Dhaka was asked by BenarNews to comment on a video posted online by a Rohingya NGO that showed Chinese delegates meeting with refugees in Cox’s Bazar, and offering families money to return to their homeland. Bangladeshi officials and Rohingya leaders confirmed the meeting and the offer to BenarNews on Tuesday.
Vera Hu, political attaché at the Chinese embassy, responded over email that she did not see the video and could not say if it showed any Chinese officials.
However, she clarified: “China never offers money to Rohingya people for them to go back. It is the Myanmar government that would offer the money to Rohingya families who do not want to accept the houses built by Myanmar in Rakhine, as a fund to rebuild their homes by themselves.”
Alauddin Bhuiyan, another Bangladeshi official, also told BenarNews that during his Cox’s Bazar visit, Chinese envoy Sun Gouxiang was accompanied by two officials from the Chinese embassy in Myanmar, a diplomat from its embassy in Dhaka, and two Foreign Ministry officials from Beijing.
Bangladesh’s former ambassador to Beijing Munshi Fayez said China’s move to start talking to Rohingya refugees about possible repatriation was apparently aimed at protecting its regional ally Myanmar from international pressure, and at gaining a foothold on the economic benefits of the return of the refugees.
Before travelling to Bangladesh, Sun Gouxiang had visited several villages in the Rakhine state and met with Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyidaw on February 27, according to the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar.
Around a million Rohingya fled their homes in Rakhine and crossed into Bangladesh at the height of a brutal crackdown launched by the Myanmar military in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents on security posts in August 2017. The United Nations and the United States described the killings that took place during the military counter-offensive as “ethnic cleansing.”
Earlier in March, Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque told a UN Security Council meeting that the refugee crisis had gone from “bad to worse” and said Dhaka would no longer be able to take in refugees from Myanmar.