Hundreds of Chinese Kachin gathered in a town at Yunnan Province’s border with Burma on Thursday to protest against the war in Kachin State and they called on the Burmese government to end its attacks on the ethnic rebels, online Kachin sources said. Chinese officials confirmed the protests had taken place.
In separate news, China sent troops to its border with Burma’s Kachin State, according to Reuters news agency, which quoted Chinese media on Friday.
On Thursday afternoon, the Chinese Kachin protesters gathered in the center of Nanbang City in Yunnan Province from where they walked to the nearby border crossing with Laiza in Burma’s Kachin State, according to a Chinese Kachin blogger named Xiao Su and other Facebook posts, which showed photos of the protest.
The demonstrators expressed solidarity with their fellow Kachin in Burma and in the photos they could be seen holding up placards that said, “Don’t be upset! We are one!” and “Support our brother and sisters!”
A cease-fire between the Burmese government and Kachin rebels broke down 18 months ago and 100,000 Kachin villagers in Burma have been displaced by the fighting since. China has sealed off its border with Burma to prevent Kachin refugees from crossing into its territory.
Last month, fighting between the government and ethnic rebels greatly intensified, as Burma’s military launched airstrikes at Kachin rebel positions near their headquarters in Laiza.
The Kachin in Yunnan Province had come out to protests on the day of the annual Manua cultural festival, which this year has reportedly been cancelled because of the conflict in Kachin State.
The Kachin blogs claimed that as many as 1,000 protesters had gathered in Nanbang City and noted that overseas Kachin across the world were protesting against the war. The Chinese Kachin protesters demand that China pressures the Burmese government into ending its offensive against the ethnic rebels, according to the blogs
Chinese officials confirmed that the protests in Nanbang City had taken placed but refused to provide further details. “We don’t know the exact number of protesters,” a policeman at Nanbang City police office said by telephone, before hanging up.
“We just got the information this morning. We cannot comment at this time,” said an official at the foreign affairs department of Dehong State, Yunnan Province.
The Kachin, called Jingpo in China, are among 56 ethnic groups that are officially recognized by the Chinese government. According to official statistics from 2000, 132,158 Kachin live in southern China, mostly in Yunnan Province.
In a separate development, news agency Reuters on Friday reported that China has sent soldiers to its border with Burma. It quoted Chinese newspaper The Global Times, which said Chinese troops were sent to Yunnan Province’s border with Kachin State “to understand the situation.”
“On the night of the 9th, there was shelling in Kachin, and residents of the unstable area quickly ran inside the Chinese border to pass the night in peace,” Reuters quoted from the report.
Last week, the Burmese military had fired stray mortar shells into Chinese territory, prompting a reaction from the Chinese foreign affairs ministry.