Criticism of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by a scribe angered a senior Chinese diplomat who engaged in a public spat on social media with the senior Pakistani journalist.
Denying allegations of corruption and unequal distribution of projects under the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, acting Chinese ambassador in Pakistan Zhao Lijian yesterday lambasted the critics.
The CPEC, announced in 2013, aims to facilitate trade along an overland route that connects Kashgar in China and the Gwadar port in Pakistan. A network of highways, railways and pipelines are being constructed under the project.
Addressing a seminar organised by Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) — a local think tank — in Islamabad, Zhao said, “CPEC is working well. But there are some people who are maligning the project, which enjoys the support of most of the people of Pakistan.”
Zhao took to Twitter yesterday to term the allegation that “China using Prisoners as labour to save costs under CPEC” as “nonsense.
He also tweeted against “those who accuse CPEC projects of corruption”, which kicked up a storm resulting in a very public spat with senior journalist from Dawn, Cyril Almeida.
Is China using Prisoners as labour to save costs under CPEC? This is nonsense. The person spreads rumors like this has a hidden agenda— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) December 19, 2016
For energy projects, any company accepting upfront tariff set by NEPRA is capable of wining contract.Tariff is decided by NEPRA, not company— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) December 19, 2016
For those who accuse CPEC projects of corruption, there is one Chinese saying: Gauge the heart of a gentleman with one's own mean measure.— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) December 19, 2016
In response, Almeida tweeted:
Easy there... Chinese, yes, but still a diplomat in Pakistan, no? https://t.co/tFuqGd0xiv— cyril almeida (@cyalm) December 19, 2016
No need for that war on corruption back in China, then... https://t.co/A3T9ARr5DB— cyril almeida (@cyalm) December 19, 2016
Zhao further commented about senior journalists believing stories of “Chinese prisoners in CPEC projects” questioning whether “they are out of mind.”
It is really unfortunate that senior journalists believe in this kind of stories of Chinese prisoners in CPEC projects. Are they out of mind https://t.co/wTGcIH3vI0— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) December 19, 2016
He cited China’s record of punishing “1.01 million officials” for corruption since 2013.
No need to be cynical. FYI, China punished 1.01 million officials since 2013. CPEC projects are a clean sheet. They are part of the war, too https://t.co/Q3wjJXi8VU— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) December 19, 2016
Almeida, who was recently in the news after Pakistan govt put restrictions on him after his report on differences between the army and civilian government, questioned whether Zhao’s remark was a “diplomatic” response:
Much that is unfortunate here and several out of their minds, but surely not a reasonable (diplomatic?) response... https://t.co/CTIV3ipZv1— cyril almeida (@cyalm) December 19, 2016
If that's the approach to this place, you'll have an aneurysm before long... https://t.co/VNVkdz381P— cyril almeida (@cyalm) December 19, 2016
The Chinese diplomat did not hold back:
When those people spread rumors that Chinese workers are prisoners, are they diplomatic? For those people, only one word nonsense https://t.co/nPnpCTSY5L— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) December 19, 2016
Earlier at the seminar, Zhao had dismissed allegations of corruption in the CPEC.
“This is all taxpayer’s money. These are investment projects. How can we tolerate corruption or bribe,” the diplomat said, adding a transparent bidding process was in place for award of the projects. About the alleged secrecy, Zhao said all information was readily available.
Citing the presentations at the seminar, he said where did all these people get their figures? “Some people are making false allegations,” he observed and said public support was needed to counter the “disinformation” campaigns by the opponents of CPEC. In his briefing, he sought to allay concerns of environmentalists about the coal power projects. “All international standards are being complied. Environmental issues would be taken care of,” he said.
Zhao also said that China was committed to complete the project and several early harvest schemes will mature in three-year time. He also said that bulk of the money for the CPEC was investment by Chinese companies while China has also given soft and grants also for some projects.
Zhao who uses Muhammad Lijian Zhao for his twitter account said he was using social media to dispel impression of any criticism against the CPEC.