Fri, 22 Oct 2021

In a phone call this week, Bangladesh's foreign minister assured his counterpart in China that justice would be done in the killing earlier this month of a Chinese national working on a bridge construction project, a statement said Friday.

Police said the fatal stabbing occurred during an attempted mugging on Oct. 7, as the man was carrying funds to pay his workers at the bridge site in Pirojpur district in southern Bangladesh. It was the fourth killing since June 2019 of a Chinese national working on a major infrastructure project in Bangladesh.

"I had a very good telephone conversation with my Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. We talked about the Chinese national who was killed by a mugger in Pirojpur district. I assured him the killers must face a speedy trial, and the police already arrested two people including a man who allegedly stabbed the victim," Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, on Friday.

"The foreign minister has assured me that China maintains the confidence that we will mete out justice and guarantee the safety and security of the Chinese nationals working in different development projects in Bangladesh," Momen said of their Thursday conversation.

Dhaka maintains warm relations with Beijing. In 2018, China spent U.S. $1.3 billion (110 billion taka) on projects including $800 million (67.8 billion taka) in the power sector to become the biggest investor in Bangladesh.

China is the principal country providing loans to Bangladesh for development projects mainly in the power, road, rail, and information and communication technology sectors. Those projects are linked to One Belt, One Road, Beijing's ambitious program to build a global network of ports, highways, railways, bridges, and power plants to connect China to markets abroad.

The victim, identified as Chinese national Lau Phan, 58, who was the chief electrician of the eighth Bangladesh-China Friendship Bridge being constructed over the Kocha River, died Oct. 7, according to Hayatul Islam Khan, the district police chief in Pirojpur.

Hossain Sheikh, 19, who allegedly stabbed Lau in the chest, and a suspected accomplice, Sabbir Sheikh, 20, were arrested, Khan said, adding the charge sheet against the two had not been finished.

"They told us that they intended to mug him," Khan told BenarNews.

"Hossain had worked under Lau but lost his job in March while Sabbir continued to work for him," Khan said, noting that 14 Bangladeshis were part of the team. "On the afternoon of Oct. 7, Lau was carrying 253,000 taka ($2,984) to pay the wages of the workers."

The police chief noted that Sabbir had told Hossain that Lau would have the workers' pay that day.

"Hossain took the money and ran, but Lau caught him," Khan said. "Hossain then stabbed him," he said, adding Lau was taken to a hospital where he died.

China is to provide $30 million (2.5 billion taka) while Bangladesh is to provide $43 million (3.6 billion taka) to construct the nearly 1 km (six-tenths of a mile) bridge project, which is scheduled to be completed by June 2021.

Previous deaths

Last year, a Chinese national was killed at the Payra power plant project in southern Patuakhali district during a fight between Bangladeshi and Chinese workers. A labor leader said it was the first time a foreigner had been killed in a workplace clash in Bangladesh.

Earlier that day, a Bangladeshi worker had died after falling from a height at the Chinese-funded project, leading to the clash between workers from both countries. The Chinese victim in the brawl was an electrician. He died after suffering a head wound and excessive bleeding. Dozens of other people were injured in the fight.

The clash exposed apparent tensions among 7,000 Bangladeshi and 2,700 Chinese workers at the power plant being built with Chinese funds in Patuakhali, a district about 329 km (206 miles) south of Dhaka.

Five months later in November 2019, a Chinese national was sent back to his home country to stand trial after allegedly killing his roommate, another Chinese national. Sang Zeyang, a Payra power plant employee, allegedly stabbed and killed Feng Lue Jun during an argument over food.

In December 2019, two Bangladeshi security guards were arrested after they allegedly strangled another Chinese national, identified as Jianhui Gao, at his Dhaka apartment before burying him nearby. Jianhui was a stone supplier for the Padma Bridge project to connect Dhaka to the southern and southwestern sections of Bangladesh.

In February, Li Jiming, the Chinese Ambassador to Dhaka, told reporters that about 8,000 Chinese nationals had been working in Bangladesh.

Rohingya repatriation

Momen also told BenarNews that he had also discussed efforts to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees with Wang, adding China's top diplomat said that Myanmar could take steps to allow the refugees to return after the COVID-19 pandemic improved.

"The Chinese foreign minister told me that Myanmar officials had assured China that they will take back the Rohingya refugees. He also said China will mediate another meeting on Rohingya repatriation," he said.

"The date of the meeting has yet to be set, but hopefully, it could take place after the general election in Myanmar," Momen said of the Nov. 8 vote.

The last meeting involving Bangladesh, China and Myanmar occurred on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2019.

Munshi Faiz Ahmad, a former Bangladesh ambassador to Beijing, said China was the only country to mediate repatriation talks.

"The U.S. and the Western countries have been backing us on the Rohingya issue, but China is the only country that can make Myanmar agree to take back the Rohingya," he told BenarNews.

"So Bangladesh must work closely with both China and the U.S. to resolve the Rohingya crisis, which is a huge burden for us."

On Thursday, U.S. officials promised an additional $200 million to U.N. aid for the Rohingya during a virtual international conference that raised $600 million.

Bangladesh hosts close to 1 million Rohingya in refugee camps in Cox's Bazar district, including 740,000 who escaped from Myanmar's Rakhine state following a military crackdown in August 2017.

Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

Copyright © 1998-2018, RFA. Published with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

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