Chinese arrest warrants add to pressure on Myanmar junta

The warrants, against four individuals with ties to the regime, are the latest sign of Beijing’s growing impatience with lawlessness along the two countries’ shared border

China’s government issued four arrest warrants on Sunday targeting senior junta-linked figures in Myanmar’s Kokang Self-Administered Zone, in the latest sign of the regime’s strained relationship with Beijing.

The warrants, for suspected involvement in illegal gambling operations in the autonomous region in northern Shan State, were issued for Ming Xuechang, a 69-year-old former state assembly member from the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and three members of his family.

Ming Xuechang’s 42-year-old son Ming Guoping, who is among those being sought by the Chinese government, is a leader of the Kokang Border Guard Force (BGF), which operates under the command of the Myanmar military.

His daughter Ming Julan, 42, and granddaughter, Ming Zhenzhen, 27, are also wanted by the Chinese authorities for their alleged role in crimes committed in Kokang territory bordering China.

Bounties of 100,000-500,000 yuan (US$13,700-$68,600) have been offered for information leading to the arrest of the four wanted individuals. The warrants also threaten prosecution against anyone who helps them to evade arrest.

The move has intensified pressure on junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, who as head of Myanmar’s military has control over the USDP and final authority over the activities of BGF commanders. 

It also comes six weeks after China’s arrest of another Kokang lawmaker, Maung Maung, who was elected as a USDP candidate in 2020. Ming Xuechang’s son-in-law (the husband of Ming Julan) was also taken into custody at the same time.

Ming Xuechang—who is also known as Myin Shaw Chang or Myin Shwe Chang—was elected in 2010 to represent Laukkai Township’s Constituency (2) in the Shan State assembly.

At the time, he was regarded as the right-hand man of Pei Xiaochen, commander of the Kokang BGF, which was formed in December 2009 and has fought alongside Myanmar’s military against the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Kokang armed group currently taking part in a major offensive against the regime in northern Shan State.

After retiring from politics, Ming Xuechang installed his son, Ming Guoping, in a senior BGF position. Another son, Ming Ko’an (or Min Ko An), is a sub-inspector in Kokang under the regime’s ministry of home affairs. He is also reportedly being sought by the Chinese authorities.

While China has been pressing Min Aung Hlaing for months to address its concerns about illegal activities in Myanmar’s border regions, Chinese news outlets have suggested that an incident on October 20 may have pushed Beijing’s patience to the limit.

According to Chinese news reports, several Chinese undercover agents posing as victims of human trafficking were killed on that day while investigating cyber crimes allegedly being committed by groups based in Kokang territory.

A junta-backed news outlet later confirmed that at least one Chinese government agent had been killed in Laukkai, along with several other Chinese citizens.

Myanmar Now has also seen a letter sent by local authorities in China’s Yunnan Province to regime administrators in the Kokang Self-Administered Zone on October 21 demanding an explanation for the incident.

It was also at this time that the Chinese government called on the Myanmar regime to investigate Ming Xuechang.

Some analysts have noted that Operation 1027, the offensive launched by the MNDAA and its allies on October 27, likely had the tacit support of the Chinese government, which has long played a major role in managing conflicting forces in areas along its border with Myanmar.

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