Bangladesh’s sovereignty and China

November 1, 2009
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Since the independence of Bangladesh until the 1990s, Bangladeshi citizens could not travel to Taiwan. The passports clearly stated: “Valid for all countries of the world except Israel and Taiwan.” Not that is stopped people: it was easy to go to Taiwan via Hong Kong; as long as the passport did not get stamped it was OK.

The reason? Bangladesh was too afraid to anger Beijing, who considers Taiwan a breakaway province and does not want any countries to recognize it as a separate country. Not that it stops the rest of the world–all other countries do business with Taiwan, and at the same time maintain a good relationship with China.

But our mandarins at the foreign ministry, instead of negotiating a sensible arrangement with Beijing, quaked in their boots and deprived Bangladesh of legitimate remittance from thousands of potential jobs in Taiwan and the advantage of a direct business relationship–forcing additional expense on those instead. Thankfully, that has now changed.

But it seems Beijing can still order Bangladesh around. On Nov. 1, 2009, a private organization, Drik Gallery, was going to hold a photo exhibition on Tibet, titled ‘Into Exile: Tibet 1949 – 2009′

Oct 29th, 2009. Qian Kaifu, the Cultural Counselor and Cao Yanhua, the Cultural
Attache, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Bangladesh, asked Shahidul Alam of Drik Bangladesh to cancel the event.

12:40 pm Dhaka time on Nov 1:
The Special Branch is at Drik asking to close down this exhibition. Shahidul Alam of Drik was told that the Police will shut down the exhibition forcibly if necessary. Then the gates were blocked by the police. BDNews24 reports:

Dhaka, Nov 1 (bdnews24.com)—Police prevented Drik Gallery in Dhanmondi from launching an exhibition, titled ‘Into Exile: Tibet 1949 – 2009′, on Sunday.

The exhibition was organised by ‘Students for a Free Tibet’, and includes some very rare photos of the Dalai Lama’s journey into exile.

An hour before the launch, scheduled for 5pm, police shut the gates preventing public from entering the gallery, said Drik authorities.

Drik managing director Shahidul Alam said Bangladesh Police Special Branch spoke with him and asked him to stop the exhibition citing a “government order”.

Alam said, although the police officers could not produce any document of the order, they threatened to shut down the show by force if the organisers did not do so willingly.

According to DrikNEWS, representatives from the Chinese Embassy requested the the weeklong photography exhibition be cancelled.

Drik authorities said they came under pressure for last two days to close down the exhibition.

Alam told bdnews24.com, “The day before yesterday (Friday), two officers from the Chinese Embassy came and asked us to cancel the exhibition.”

“After that I also received a series of phone calls from the ministry of cultural affairs and from a number of MPs.”

“On Saturday, officers from the Special Branch of police came and exerted pressure to stop the exhibition according to a ‘government order’. I wanted a written copy of the government order but they refused to show me.”

Officer-in-charge of Dhanmondi police station Shah Alam told bdnews24.com, “They organised the exhibition without any permission.”

He said “all such exhibitions” had been held with prior permission in the past.

However, officials of Drik—a world- renowned photo library, media and communication organisation—said they have arranged countless minor and major exhibitions over the past 20 years and never needed any permission.

Comrade Hasina and Comrade Sahara (and other Comrade MPs): please show a little spine. BNP accuses you of selling the country to India, but both BNP and AL seems to have sold their soul to China. Yes, we buy a ton of crap from China. But they do not give us a lot of loans and grants, we do not export Manpower to China. In short, there is a huge imbalance in the trade between these two countries in favor of China. Export to Bangladesh is a drop in China’s total, but in a relationship like this the buyer (Bangladesh) should have a voice, not the seller.

Comrades, why are you kow-towing to China and repressing freedom of speech in Dhaka? Yes, I know the old jokes about it raining in Peking and opening umbrellas in Dhaka. But seriously, this was not a government sponsored event. The worst Beijing could have done if you said sorry, we can not intervene, was NOT sell you some more lead-tainted toys.

We know about the arms and weapons China sells to Bangladesh. They key word here is SELL. We buy it from China. We know about the crappy training aircraft bought from China–aircraft that crash regularly and kill young officers of Bangladesh Airforce. These are so bad, these trainee pilots say final good byes to each other before each training mission.

With a friend like this, who need enemies?

So Comrade PM and Comrade Home Minister, we can understand that when the Comrade Ambassador called and complained, you had to jump and shut down a mere photo exhibition. Nice. We can not even imagine how you will react when the Comrade Ambassador demands that you cooperate with Myanmar and relinquish claims to the undersea oil that China needs to keep its industrial engine growing.

We thought you took an oath to protect and follow the constitution of Bangladesh first (which includes protecting the freedom of speech of its citizens), not the geopolitical aspirations of China when this really does not matter to Bangladesh.

Sorry, now we know better.

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