It was not that long ago that you would find signs in many social clubs of the subcontinent saying dogs and natives are not allowed. This was when this country and the subcontinent were ruled by the British Raj. It was their way of asserting dominance over the natives and assuring them of their superiority. I thought this was all in the past but imagine my surprise when I found a Chinese owned restaurant in Uttara that does not allow Bangladeshis. The gall of them to open a restaurant in Bangladesh and put up a sign that says Bangladeshis are not allowed.
China is expanding its influence internationally and we stand to benefit but we must remain cautious as it brings with it old threats. The threat of old and familiar imperialism disguised as economic support, and also the threat of loan traps and economic blackmail. We do not have to look far to find examples of countries trapped by China debt bait. Sri Lanka was offered cheap and easy loans with no viable plans for the country to pay it back. Due to its failure to pay back the unfeasible loan, China took over the Hambantota port for 99 years.
Many Chinese owned hotels, supermarkets, and restaurants have opened all over Bangladesh and good deals of them are located in Uttara. Some of these establishments are cash only. The VAT authorities have a responsibility to ensure that these restaurants are following all legal requirements and pay their required taxes. The Bangladesh Food Safety Authorities have a duty to ensure that foods prepared in such restaurants are adhering to our quality standards mandated by our laws.
The official policy of Bangladesh is friendship towards all and malice towards none. In keeping with that policy, it makes sense for us to develop and maintain ties with China. We stand to gain enormous benefits and we have gained much from our friendship. We have built bridges and vital infrastructure projects with their support. At the same time we need to make it clear to our friends that our relationship is based on equality and mutual respect. China has also benefitted from their trade relation with us; their companies with surplus construction equipment have received billions in contract.
We have earned our freedom from the chains of servitude under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and we have the duty to remain vigilant in protecting the hard-earned freedom. We cannot allow citizens of a foreign country to run roughshod over us and operate a business in our country that discriminate against our citizens. If we allow that then we have no independence. We need to have a law that criminalizes discrimination on the basis of nationality, race, religion, and ethnicity. We should not stand for discrimination against our citizens on our own soil as a sovereign nation.
The writer is a Senior Lecturer,