Radio Free Europe (RFE) on April 16 reported that a major Chinese investor in Russia has closed its office, with its signboard removed, after years of stalled projects.

The firm, Sichuan Junhe Environmental Protection Company (SJEPC), 2017 promised to pour 154 million dollars worth of investment into a cement plant in Sibay, a town of 62,000 residents in the Russian republic Bashkortostan.

But as an RFE correspondent visited SJEPC’s office in the town, they found that the place was not open, and its signage was taken away.

SJEPC had promised to create about 200 new jobs.

Airat Murzagaleev, Bashkortostan Deputy Minister of Information Services and Information, admitted that the Chinese investment project has been stalled, attributing the reason to the pandemic.

But there is one other reason why SJEPC has not been able to have its multi-million dollars project materialize, a stream of public objections since 2017.

According to RFE, the project faced strong criticisms from locals who were concerned about its environmental impact.

Nasip Sakmarov, a longtime activist from Sibay, said that the proposal for a Chinese cement plant drew people together over mutual pollution concerns.

He noted that many people in the region are hoping for higher-level investment that will help the region flourish, rather than firms that produce materials like cement.

Sakmarov said, “They wanted to bring a Chinese cement plant to us, which is normally outsourced [from China] to developing countries. But they wanted to build it here in Russia, so you can gather to what level we have sunk.”

RFE said SJEPC’s cement plant is just one example of other inciting Chinese projects that only exist on paper for years but have never been moved forward.

It has not been clear when the Chinese investor closed its office in Sibay, but RFE’s discovery came amid a growing pressure for Chinese companies to shy away from Russian dealings or face secondary sanctions.

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