By Alagie Manneh
China has strongly denounced the March 16 assault on a Chinese fishmeal factory by youths of Sanyang as “unfortunate”, and called on the Gambia government to ensure the safety and security of Chinese nationals and businesses in the country.
Addressing members of the media on the ‘Two Sessions’ – a key event on China’s political calendar and an annual session of its national legislature, the Chinese ambassador to The Gambia said if natives of Sanyang have “some uncomfortable feeling” regarding the presence of the fishmeal in their community, they could have used dialogue mechanisms instead of launching an assault on the company.
“If foreign investors do violate local laws and regulations, the problem should be solved through the legal channels,” Ambassador Ma Jianchun told journalists Wednesday in a question-and-answer session.
Speaking further at the Chinese Embassy in Kololi, Ambassador Ma said his country “firmly opposes” any form of attacks not just on Chinese, but on all other foreign investors in the country.
“As far as the incident of March 16 is concerned, the Chinese people and their African colleagues in the Nassim Fishmeal Factory are totally innocent,” he declared.
The diplomat, who addressed the media for 15 minutes highlighting the major achievements of China, then used the occasion to appeal to the Gambia government to ensure the security of the lives and properties of all Chinese nationals and investments in The Gambia.
“The Gambia government is conducting investigation into the incident. So, I believe that the Gambia government will handle it properly in line with the laws and regulations [of the country],” he said.
He stressed the importance of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in any developing country, describing it as an important drive for economic development of any country.
“It benefits socio-economic developments in many ways,” he said. “Since FDI is part of the country’s economic cooperation with partners, it should benefit all stakeholders. I believe that if a foreign investment does not conform to a host country’s industrial policies or if it only brings profit to the investor without benefiting the local economies at all, it will not be approved by the local authorities.”
He added that when a foreign factory is legally registered in a host country, it is recognised as a local economic entity under the supervision and protection of the local laws and regulations.
Factory not harmful to environment
The Ambassador said like The Gambia, the Chinese government also attaches high importance to environmental protection.
“The Chinese Embassy conducted some investigations and we learnt that those factories do not use any harmful chemical or heavy metal substance during the processing of the fish. The so-called pollution actually comes from the water which remains of the processed fish. Such water contains organic substances. A proper solution to this waste water problem is to build a long pipe to lead the water to the sea. Such water actually provides abundant nutrition. In some parts of China, some farmers buy this waste water to fish in ponds. If they release this water into the sea, it will do no harm to the environment,” the Ambassador said.
According to him, the NEA required the fishmeal to operate as it used to before the riot. “The factory follows that requirement. This is what we learnt from our investigations,” he said.
The diplomat said his country has always prevailed on Chinese investors to pay more attention to environmental protection and to abide by laws and regulations of The Gambia.
“We ask our investors to work together with Gambian people, [and] make contribution to The Gambia’s social and economic development.”
Turning to China, he gave a detailed breakdown on some of the achievements of the communist government.
“GDP increased by 3.2 percent. [China] is the only major economy in the world that achieved that major growth in this Covid-19 ravaged year. A total of 11.86 million new urban jobs were created in the year. Such programs were translated into a tangible improvement of the people’s livelihood, especially people of the poor. China attained a complete victory in the fight against absolute poverty. We are meeting the poverty reduction target ten years ahead of the guidelines set in the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development,” Ambassador Ma commented.