This Exclusive Report Of TV9 Bharatvarsh On Srilanka's Hambantota Port Is Fictitious And Fabricated; Know Why!

TV9 Bharatvarsh reported on Hambantota port, Sri Lanka and to sensationalise the report, made a lot of false claims. They said that Uyghur Muslims are forced into slave labour by the Chinese there and that filming and doing reports was risky in the village. The Logical Indian Fact Check team verifies the claim made by TV9 Bharatvarsh.

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A TV9 report showing footage of Hambantota, Sri Lanka, has been widely circulated across social media. The report claims restrictive Chinese control in the strategic port, and Uyghur Muslims are forced into slave labour there.

The report has gone viral in the context of greater control exerted by the Chinese across India and its neighbours.

Claim:

A report by TV9 has been making the rounds of social media. The video has over 25 thousand views and, as per CrowdTangle data, has been shared widely across Facebook.

Image Credit: Crowd Tangle

The video makes several claims, such as the Chinese government's presence in Hambantota has made life torturous for the Uyghur Muslims living in the area.

Image Credit: TV9 Bharatvarsh

The report by TV9 claims that Uyghurs have been enslaved in Hambantota that have been brought there by the Chinese government.

Image Credit: TV9 Bharatvarsh

The translated claim reads that Uyghur Muslims have been forced to work in the Hambantota port under the leadership of Xi Jinping. TV-9 claimed that the village, which is named Tzu Chi, was built by the Chinese government, where Uyghur enslaved people work there.

Image Credit: TV9 Bharatvarsh

TV9, while showing some visuals of the wall, allegedly claimed that it was built by the Chinese government. The text on the wall reads, "TZU CHI GREAT LOVE VILLAGE, Hambantota. In other visuals, the text on the wall was written in Chinese and Tamil.

Image Credit: TV9 Bharatvarsh


Image Credit: TV9 Bharatvarsh

During the entire coverage, the reporter repeatedly said that it is challenging to reach here, with 500 check posts on the way. Soldiers guard the port, and there is a danger to life too. The reporter repeatedly states that the camera has to be hidden and recorded, and the TV9 crew took a significant risk in recording the place

Fact Check:

The Logical Indian Fact Check team verified the viral claim and found it to be false.

We conducted a keyword search on Twitter with the relevant keywords 'Hambantota' and came across this report by Dainik Bhaskar uploaded on their Twitter page. The report talked about the struggles of the residents of Hambantota who are facing difficulties due to rising unemployment and how the Chinese authorities have not provided any job opportunities to the locals.

In the video, the reporter Poonam Kaushal can be seen doing PTC in front of the same wall shown in the TV9 report. Poonam says, "I am here at TZU CHI village. After the devastating Tsunami in 2007, Taiwan built this village. This village, situated near Hambantota Port controlled by China, is currently in a dilapidated condition." Later in the video, the complete wall can be seen. TV9, in their report, claimed that filming and doing reports was risky in this village, and interacting with media was prohibited for villagers. However, we can see people giving interviews in the footage of Dainik Bhaskar. Below you can see the comparison.

Image Credit: Dainik Bhaskar

We then came across a Facebook post by the same journalist Poonam Kaushal, Dainik Bhaskar, who wrote the report. In her post, she stated that TV9's report on Hambantota is not factual. "After seeing the report by TV9, I was also afraid to go there. But when I reached there and saw the truth closely, I felt very sorry for the state of TV journalism in India," the translated caption of the image states.

The Logical Indian Fact Check team reached out to Poonam Kaushal to understand the reality of the situation at the port.

She confirmed that the village shown in the TV9 report is a village built by Taiwan and not China. The TV9 report also states that if someone enters the port, they are shot by the Chinese.

"Outsiders are not permitted to enter the port as even I was not allowed. Indian media is prohibited from entering the port and shooting the visuals inside. However, there is no risk of such an injury while travelling around the village," she said.

She also gave details about the wall, which had Chinese texts on it, as depicted in TV9's report. The wall is located at the very start of the village. After inquiring amongst the locals, she learnt that Taiwan actually constructed the wall following the devastating tsunami that occurred in 2004 and the subsequent rehabilitation efforts.

We translated the text with the help of Google lens and found that the name of the village (Tzu Chi Great Love Village, Srilanka) was written in both Chinese and Tamil language. It is to be noted that the official language of Taiwan is Mandarin Chinese.

Image Credit: Facebook

We received the original image of the location from the Dainik Bhaskar journalist. The image's EXIF data shows that the photo was taken on 21st April 2022, which is after the report published by TV9 on April 10, 2022. The wall location is also visible in the image, located in the Tzu Chi village. She also shared the image details with us.

Image Credit: Exif Data of Poonam's image

Poonam also shared the image of the plaque, which commemorated the foundation of the Tzu Chi Great Love Village in Hambantota.

Tablet mentions information of Tzu Chi village built by Taiwan

On December 26, 2004, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake led to the deaths of more than 35,000 people in Sri Lanks. With the assistance of the Sri Lankan government and local business people, the Tzu Chi Foundation team arrived in Hambantota, Sri Lanka and helped villagers to settle there.

The plaque reads:

"Eight shifts of Tzu Chi volunteers from Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, U.S.A. and Canada rotated to carry out aid work. Volunteers distributed daily necessities to 70,000 survivors and provided free medical services to more than 27,000 patients. They also built tents for 300 families. Their Great Love comforted the locals in their time of great need. Sixteen months after the disaster, 649 local families happily moved into their new homes completed by Tzu Chi in the Great Love Village located on 96 hectares of land. These survivors finally were able to settle down both mentally and physically to have a new beginning. The second-phase of construction for the Tzu Chi Great Love Village gave it a community center, medical clinic, high school, job-training center and assembly hall. Thanks to the love and professional advice of Tzu Chi construction committee members who travelled tirelessly between Taiwan and Sri Lanka more than 37 times, this project was completed within three and a half years of the earthquake and tsunami. The Great Love Village is now fully functional and conveniently located next to the new Hambantota town hall and various government offices. Moreover, the Tzu Chi Sri Lanka National High School has attracted many excellent teachers because of its beautiful building and well-equipped facilities. Today, thanks to the school, more and more students are well-educated."

We came across this report by the Tzu Chi Foundation, a Taiwanese humanitarian organisation. The report details how the Tzu Chi Great Love Village was established in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, following the devastating tsunami in 2004, which adversely affected Hambantota.

This conveys that the Tzu Chi village was not built by the Chinese as claimed in the TV9 report but rather by a Taiwanese organisation.

Image Credit: TZU Chi

On the issue of the alleged presence of Uyghurs in the village, the reporter stated that the Muslims residing in the area were not Uyghur Muslims but residents.

"There is no issue of forced labour by the Chinese government on Uyghur immigrants. The residents are actually concerned about the lack of work in the port region. They had expected more employment opportunities to be generated, which has not materialised. Nobody has approached the people for job opportunities in the port," said Poonam.

The TV9 report illustrates that the distance between the port and the shown location is a difficult journey and takes significant risks. "The distance between the port and the village is barely 5 kilometres, and the route is accessible from both land and sea," Poonam added.

"There are no 500 checkpoints or snipers. There is no heavy presence of the Chinese army in the village, nor is there any restriction of movement levied by any Chinese troops. It's not realistic that China will conquer this village, and the residents are already suffering from poverty."

We also tried getting in touch with Vivek Bajpai, the reporter of TV9, regarding this coverage. We haven't received any response to the emails, and we will update this story once we get any response from their side.

Details of 2017 Handover of Hambantota port to China:

Sri Lanka handed over its Hambantota port to China in 2017 in a 99-year lease. The port was transferred to China Merchants Port Holdings with a US $1.12 billion payment as Sri Lanka couldn't pay back the funding capital debt to China.

As per the Finance Minister of Sri Lanka, Ravi Karunanayake, the island nation owed $8 billion to China.

India had raised security concerns over the Chinese navy's presence in Sri Lanka. As per a The Hindu report, Ranil Wickremesinghe had stated that the strategic port would not be used as a military base by China.

In a press release, the Chinese government stressed that the security and control of the port are in the hands of the Sri Lanka government. However, the $1.12 billion received by the Sri Lankan government was not used to pay off the debt obtained to construct the port. According to The Diplomat article dated January 2020, the significant dollar inflow reinforced the country's foreign reserves and made some short-term foreign debt repayments.

Unemployment Scenario in Hambantota:

The Hindu report provides details into the employment scenario of Hambantota in 2017, during which the port was being handed over to the Chinese government. The report stated that the district's unemployment rate was 5.2%, higher than the national average of 4.4% in 2017.

The report details how people were protesting against the government regarding foreign interference in their lands. As per Sri Lankan government figures in 2020, the unemployment rate in Hambantota was one of the highest across the country at 7.9%. The Sri Lankan government figures show that the unemployment rate in the region has increased significantly since 2017.

The Dainik Bhaskar report also details how the only recourse for people to work is in the nearby salt factory. Depending on the number of hours worked in a day, they may earn from 700 to 1000 rupees, but the rising inflation and the depreciating value of the Sri Lankan rupee have put many necessities out of their reach. Fuel and daily necessities have gotten unaffordable for the people of the Tzu Chi village in Hambantota.

Conclusion:

TV9 has claimed that the village is in control of China, where Uyghur enslaved people work. The reporter repeatedly said that it is challenging to reach here, with 500 check posts on the way. Soldiers guard the port, and there is a danger to life if spotted. The TV9 report repeatedly states that the camera must be hidden for recording, and the TV9 crew took a significant risk in reporting.

In actuality, the unemployment rate in Hambantota has worsened across the years since the port was handed over to the Chinese government. The port authorities have not approached the locals regarding employment opportunities either. The commemorative plaque and the wall conveys that the Great Love Village in Hambantota was not built by the Chinese but by the Taiwanese foundation Tzu Chi. The claim that there are 500 checkpoints or snipers with a heavy presence of the Chinese army in the village is false. As the on-ground reporter from Dainik Bhaskar states, there is no restriction of movement imposed by any Chinese troops. The report is based on misinformation and attempts to sensationalise on-ground realities in Sri Lanka.

If you have any news that you believe needs to be fact-checked, please email us at factcheck@thelogicalindian.com or WhatsApp at 6364000343.

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