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Chinese diplomats against deportations

Publishing Date : 13 July, 2015

Author : THABO BAGWASI

Chinese diplomats feel citizens of China are treated unfairly

The Chinese deputy ambassador to Botswana, Nan Li is convinced that citizens of his country want to invest in Botswana but they are restrained by unfair immigration laws. In a cautious statement this week, Li is certain that Botswana and China still have a lot to share going forward, but a few gaps need to be closed.


The Chinese diplomat defended the deficient long- term Chinese investment by Chinese enterprises operating in Botswana citing the country’s austere immigration laws and the country’s erratic deportation trend.


The solemn-faced Chinese emissary quashed off the popular anti-Chinese sentiment that has portrayed them in the light of rabid neo-colonialism emanating from their profit and dividend repatriation. He said from about two years ago the Chinese have been increasingly declared persona non grata for minor offences and sometimes handed out double punishment.


Li highlighted a recent case that baffled the embassy lawyers where a Chinese national was deported for a ‘minor offence’ of illegal fishing he committed two years ago and had already paid a fine for. He said the case was an extremely stringent justice for a minor offence and did not warrant deportation.


The Chinese diplomat went on to question why the Chinese national was not deported two years ago at the time he committed the said offence.


In a subject that could smack of lagging collaboration between the Chinese embassy and the local law enforcement authorities, the emissary categorically denied the involvement of his people in criminal activities saying that “dissimilar to popular belief that the Chinese are involved in criminal conduct a good majority of my people are decent expatriates operating under the confines of the law.”

He added that he has never been told or noticed of anything untoward by his people.


The Chinese emissary said that under the new immigration law passed in 2013 that allows for instantaneous, arbitral and unilateral deportation, “it has become difficult for the Chinese to manage their lives here.”


He continued saying that this law, coupled with stringent and unpredictable ways of the immigration department where the number of years of residence in Botswana have seemingly been reduced from five to three and two years is disruptive to the lives of families of the Chinese, their businesses and investments, stopping short of labelling it counter-productive.


Li went on to say that the Chinese do not feel secure, “They face difficulties in visa renewals even if they have been in the country for 5 or 20 years”.


According to Section 48 of the Immigration Act (1), “a person shall not have the right to be heard before or after a decision is made by the President in relation to that person under this Act.”

Subsection (2) goes on to say,  “a person affected by any decision made under subsection (1) shall not have the right to demand any information as to the grounds of such decision nor shall any such information be disclosed in any court.”

Meanwhile, President Ian Khama has in the past expressed displeasure at the shoddy workmanship of Chinese companies notably telling a South African publication that the country has had very bad experiences with Chinese companies, triggering a strongly worded Chinese response expressing dissatisfaction at his use of counter-diplomatic channels to air his grievances.

BOTSWANA AND CHINA ENJOY CORDIAL RELATIONS
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation recently released a statement indicating that there is no tension in the diplomatic relations between the Governments of the Republic of Botswana and the People’s Republic of China. The Ministry spokesperson said relations between the two countries remain excellent and mutually beneficial.


“The recent visit to China by Hon. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi was at the invitation of the Chinese Foreign Minister Mr. Wang Yi and it was intended to further strengthen and deepen the existing bonds of friendship between Botswana and China,” reads the statement.


The visit afforded the two Ministers an invaluable opportunity to discuss issues of bilateral, regional and global nature, and the discussions were held under an atmosphere characterized by mutual trust and respect.


“China which is now the third (3rd) largest trade partner of Botswana and the second largest consumer of Botswana diamonds, is of strategic importance to Botswana as it has a lot of potential opportunities that Botswana can exploit to drive her development agenda, such as, trade, foreign direct investment (FDI), and development assistance, to mention but a few.”  


According to the release, Minister Venson-Moitoi also had the opportunity to pay a courtesy call on the Chinese Vice President Mr. Li Yuanchao who pledged the People’s Republic of China’s support towards Botswana’s development agenda.


ECONOMIC AND TRADE RELATIONS
Economic and trade relations between China and Botswana have so far developed steadily and achieved satisfactory results, which may fall into the following categories, Li is of the view. However poor workmanship on some government projects across Botswana have soured relations at trade level. The Morupule B Power Plant is the sticky point.  


While the growth of trade volume has made headway and enjoys further space of improvement, Botswana officials are irked by persistent Chinese poor workmanship on projects. The trade volume between China and Botswana in 2006 reached US $ 62 million. In the first half of 2007, this number reached US $ 47 million.

Though there is trade imbalance, Botswana was not concerned with it, relations were stable until the advent of Morupule B, and other projects. Botswana ranks first in diamond production by value and China has turned out to be the largest diamond consumer in Asia, with a domestic purchase of US $ 2.5 billion and an import of US $ 1.66 billion of luxurious diamond in 2004, this is a good trade statistics for Botswana.

Although there exists no direct transaction of diamond between China and Botswana, it can be assumed that significant part of the diamond exported to China should originate in Botswana. Expectedly, China's continued high demand for diamond and other mineral resources will maintain a favourable price in the world market, which means good news for diamond and mining sector of Botswana.


Chinese wholesale and retail business has benefited local market, most Batswana have benefited from Chinese goods. Some Chinese nationals are active in running businesses of garment, footwear, baggage, household apparatus, light-industrial product, food, motors and many more.

But recently government of Botswana is pushing the Reservation Policy to ensure that citizens participate actively in the clothing industry. Foreigners are compelled to partner with citizens if they are to be allowed to operate such businesses.

Botswana used to have stores, shops and supermarkets merely based in urban area, and rarely did people in rural areas have access to this kind of services, the Chinese people have penetrated the rural market, setting up shops in far areas. Pundits believe Botswana-China relations can still be nurtured so that it remains beneficial to both countries.

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