Police on Thursday arrested 21 protesters in the capital of the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan at a demonstration against the growing influence of China, the ex-Soviet country’s neighbour.

Kyrgyz police officers detain supporters of opposition politician Amanbol Babakulov during a rally against so-called Chinese expansion at the Ala-Too square in Bishkek on January 17, 2019. Photo: Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP.

Police said they made the arrests at the rally opposing migration from China and its growing economic clout after demonstrators attempted to block the road and committed other public order violations.

An AFP correspondent said between 200 and 300 people attended the rally.

China is a key partner for impoverished Kyrgyzstan which looks to Chinese state banks to fund infrastructure projects and Chinese companies to carry them out.

But fears of out-of-control migration have grown alongside Beijing’s economic influence in the country.

Protesters called for a blanket ban on granting Kyrgyz citizenship to Chinese nationals except for members of a small ethnic Kyrgyz diaspora.

They also demanded checks into how Chinese loans were spent after a power plant upgraded with nearly US$400 million borrowed from China collapsed amid freezing temperatures last year.

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