Reports by The Guardian and some other media outlets about protests against the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Gwadar, Pakistan, are untrue, and behind the fake news are some foreign media organizations' deliberate smears of China-Pakistan cooperation, an investigation by the Global Times has found.
Refuting a report on Friday by The Guardian, Gwadar authorities said in a statement sent to the Global Times on Wednesday that the report is "full of misleading, malicious and misrepresented information."
The statement, which was issued by the Chief of the Municipal Committee of Gwadar, said that shortages of water and electricity in Gwadar "are not the responsibility of the Chinese at all," instead, they are due to historical reasons and still remain a problem for Gwadar.
In The Guardian's report about protests against water and electricity shortages in Gwadar, where a flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is located, the newspaper said local people blamed China for the problem and the protests were "part of a growing backlash" against the BRI in Pakistan.
On Sunday, another report -- this time by ANI -- said that the protests were against "illegal fishing by Chinese trawlers."
China Overseas Ports Holding Co (COPHC) Pakistan, the enterprise that operates the Gwadar Port, also refuted reports of protests against Chinese trawlers in a reply to the Global Times on Thursday, saying the reports are "not true."
Tahir Murtaza, a Pakistani reporter who has been following the situation in Gwadar, told the Global Times that protests have occurred for a long time. The issues are about the lack of electricity and water, but China is not related. However, some media outlets deliberately linked the protests with fishing by Chinese trawlers.
Gwadar's electricity supply is not connected with the Pakistani electricity grid and relies on electricity imported from Iran, which has also faced a supply shortage recently, Murtaza said. "Pakistan has talked with Iran about providing extra energy to meet local demand but local people are demanding an uninterrupted supply of electricity. The same is the case with water," he said, noting that "China is not the reason for the lack of electricity and water" there.
A statement by the Municipal Committee of Gwadar noted that Chinese companies have managed to supply 100,000 to 200,000 gallons of water to the local community with their own water plant.
According to Tahir, it was Indian media and certain nationalist parties in Balochistan, such as the Baluch National Party, that have deliberately linked the local water and electricity shortages with the BRI Initiative.
“They are trying to instigate an anti-China sentiment in Gwadar by telling local people that all problems are caused by China. By doing this, they hope to push their political agenda,” Tahir said.
Tahir added that some of them have contacts with reporters who support nationalism, while providing news for some Indian media and the Guardian.
The Guardian said that the protests are part of local people's increasing "discontent with China's presence in Gwadar," and the newspaper even alleged the deadly attack on a bus carrying Chinese engineers and workers that killed nine Chinese nationals in July as a sign of Pakistani's growing resentment against the BRI.
The Municipal Committee of Gwadar refuted the claims, saying that the people of Gwadar are "grateful for the assistance provided by the Chinese government and companies," and China's projects have boosted employment for the local community and would improve the infrastructure in the city.
Li Chao, a Chinese business insider in Pakistan, told the Global Times that most local Pakistanis he knows support the construction of the CPEC and believe that cooperation between the two countries is good for Pakistan.
There were shortages of electricity for six hours a day even in Islamabad in 2016, but with the energy projects under the CPEC coming into operation, electricity supply in the capital area has been relatively sufficient since 2017, he noted.
"Such improvements are real and are often highly recognized by many locals," he said.
According to reports by Pakistani media, Chinese companies have helped build hospitals, schools, breeding farms and other facilities in Gwadar, and provided a large number of local jobs. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Chinese companies have donated medical supplies to Gwadar hospitals.
In addition to blaming China for electricity and water shortages, The Guardian also mentioned that five Chinese trawlers were "detained" in Pakistan on suspicion of illegal fishing not far from Gwadar Port, and that "Chinese trawlers illegally fishing in the nearby waters" was another factor behind local fishers and workers' protests.
However, the Global Times reporters learned from the staff of COPHC Pakistan on Thursday that the so-called "detention" of the five Chinese trawlers is completely fake news.
According to a document from Xiamen Haixintian Pelagic Fishery the Global Times obtained, the company that owns the five trawlers, on May 27, the vessels were docked at Gwadar Port for shelter due to the Indian monsoon, and could not get home in time. The ships' equipment was damaged and in need of repair.
With the coordination and help of the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan and the COPHC Pakistan, the vessels successfully left the waters of Gwadar Port for the high seas of the Indian Ocean on Wednesday, said the document.
The Gwadar Port, as the flagship project of the CPEC, has seen a huge transformation in recent years. Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan said during a visit to Gwadar Port on July 5 that Gwadar's development has long been limited by the lack of electricity and water, but with the help from China, the port is making significant progresses.
Kaudar Babar, Senator from Gwadar also told Global Times that in the past few years, Gwadar port has showed a tremendous development momentum.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gwadar port has accelerated its pace on commercial operation. The success has been fully recognized by the Pakistani and Chinese governments, as well as the world, as in July, PM Imran Khan visited Gwadar port along with Chinese ambassador Nong Rong and ambassadors from major Middle East countries.
“Gwadar port will also play an important role in the development of the second phase of the CPEC, as long as Chinese sea farming and drip irrigation technologies are used in Gwadar. There is great potential and possibility to build this port first with larger throughput volume, then with higher quality good production,” said Kaudar Babar.
Nong Rong, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan said during his meeting with Pakistani officials recently that China attaches great importance to friendly cooperation with Balochistan, and that a number of projects under the CPEC, including the Gwadar project, have pushed forward local economic and social development.
He also said that China hoped Pakistan to enhance its safety mechanism and improve the public opinion environment, so as to defeat any plots to harm the CPEC’s construction and sever China-Pakistan relations.