China 'Watching' Kyrgyzstan

Beijing keeps a close eye on a neighboring republic in chaos.
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Kyrgyz opposition supporters protest against the government in Bishkek, April 7, 2010.
Kyrgyz opposition supporters protest against the government in Bishkek, April 7, 2010.

HONG KONG—China voiced concern Thursday about events in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, where opponents of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev took control of the government after a wave of deadly violence around the country.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Beijing was "deeply concerned" about the situation in Kyrgyzstan, which borders its troubled Muslim region of Xinjiang in the northwest.

"China ... hopes the country will restore peace soon and maintain stability," Jiang told reporters at a regular news briefing.

"China hopes that relevant issues will be settled in a lawful way."

China's official news agency Xinhua gave full coverage to the unrest, which ended with the leader fleeing the capital of the strategic Central Asian state.

Opposition protesters seized the presidential administration late Wednesday and announced on state radio that they had formed a provisional government with former foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva at its head.

Media coverage

Jiang said her ministry was following developments in the country closely, after the 60-year-old Bakiyev fled the capital aboard a small plane.

She said there had been no reports of Chinese casualties from the unrest, in which scores of people are reported to have been killed in ferocious clashes in Bishkek and other cities.

As unrest swept the country, Chinese netizens passed around messages via the microblogging service Twitter that linked to video footage of the violence and news reports that the country's interior minister had been killed by rioters.

Many of China's largest online news providers, including Sina, Sohu, and Baidu ran coverage and carried netizens' comments on the riots, which were the culmination of spiralling protests in the Central Asian republic.

"I support this," wrote Sohu user "It is nearly destroyed."

"The new revolution has triumphed ... Down with corrupt governments ... Down with social injustice," the user wrote, in the comment most highly rated by readers.

"If a government gets corrupt it doesn't need to be overthrown by others. It has become so rotten that a gust of wind will blow it over," wrote a user from the northern province of Shaanxi whose comment was in the top five as rated by readers.

And a user from Beijing said that democracy is a strong force in the world.

"Those who support it will flourish, while those who oppose it will perish," the comment said.

Blame for U.S.

Meanwhile, official media carried a commentary saying that Washington was likely behind the uprising against Bakiyev.

"There are likely to be foreign forces at work behind these events," wrote Ma Fengshu, a Russian affairs expert at Shanghai Jiaotong University, in an analysis that was widely available to Chinese netizens.

"I would guess that the most likely candidate would be the United States, because ... President Bakiyev came to power with U.S. support during the Tulip Revolution ... but [later] asked the U.S. to close its military airbase."

"Kyrgyzstan is beginning to move closer to Russia, in the face of a number of social and economic pressures," Ma wrote.

"The U.S. didn't get what it was hoping for from its support of Bakyev, so it is understandable that it has now thrown its support behind the opposition."

He said the country has scant natural resources and has been hit hard by the global economic recession.

But he added, perhaps echoing sentiment in Beijing about Communist Party rule in the troubled Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region: "Kyrgyzstan's ethnic make-up is complicated, and failure to manage conflict between different ethnic groups could also induce unrest."

Xinhua news agency quoted the health minister of the interim government as saying that 74 people had been killed and 530 others injured in the unrest.

Official Chinese media also reported that Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin has "recognized" Otunbayeva's government.

Kyrgyzstan, which shares a 533-mile (858-km) border with China, is also a gateway to other energy-rich Central Asian countries where China, Russia, and the U.S. are competing fiercely for dominance.

It is a predominantly Muslim country, but has remained secular.

The U.S. Embassy denied reports in the Kyrgyz media that U.S. citizens were being evacuated to the Manas air force base, where about 1,200 U.S. troops are stationed.

Americans in civilian clothing were seen entering the base early Thursday.

Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.





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