Apr 01, 2020

A Tale of Three Ports: The Impact of the Belt and Road Initiative on Unrepresented Peoples in Pakistan and China

The UNPO has released the report A Tale of Three Ports: The Impact of the Belt and Road Initiative on Unrepresented Peoples in Pakistan and China, showing how China’s BRI is placing an additional burden on unrepresented peoples worldwide – and how European states such as Germany should take immediate steps to avoid being in complicity with gross human rights violations. Drawing on information provided by UNPO members affected by the large-scale infrastructure investments, the report sheds light on the expansion of land sea ports in Gwadar, Urumqi and Duisburg, and how they are all interlinked. 


The first chapter looks into the most important development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC): the expansion of the deep-water sea port in Gwadar. Following a deal shrouded in mystery between the Pakistan and Chinese governments, the port was handed over to China without due consideration for the local Baloch people. Today the project is currently being implemented without addressing the pre-existing conflict in the region, causing the increased alienation and resentment of the local people, who are subject to gross human rights violations perpetrated by the Pakistani military.

The second chapter explores BRI’s developments in the province of Xinjiang, looking in particular at the Urumqi International Land Port. Being positioned at the very heart of the so-called ‘Chinese dream’, Xinjiang has been the stage of Beijing’s cruel campaign against the Muslim Uyghur population. While construction for the land port unfolds, the largest arbitrary detention of a single ethnic group since the Second World War has been taking place.

The third chapter brings the focus of the debate to the heart of Europe, showing how the German city of Duisburg is proudly becoming China’s gateway to the old continent. Germany stands out among other EU member states for two reasons: firstly, because it is China’s largest European trading partner; secondly, because its apparent appetite for becoming China’s hub in Europe – by facilitating Chinese goods, companies and infrastructure.

The report culminates with an analysis on the impact of the “sinicization” of international relations. It looks into China’s manipulation of the United Nations and questions whether European countries are exporting Beijing’s human rights violations through its various engagements with the country. Rather than isolated cases, BRI-related developments are detrimental to democratic governance and fundamental rights for indigenous communities and minorities.

Given the restricted political space and the limited media coverage of these developments, the report shows that there is a pattern of oppression with far-reaching consequences for these ethnic minorities. If the European Union – and Germany in particular – do not take immediate action with regards to its relationship with China, it runs the risk of falling complicit with potential crimes against humanity.