China's high-profile envoy ends Malaysia stint

China's outgoing ambassador to Malaysia Huang Huikang meeting Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Oct 13, during his farewell visit. The meeting took place in Datuk Seri Najib's office in Putrajaya.
China's outgoing ambassador to Malaysia Huang Huikang meeting Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Oct 13, during his farewell visit. The meeting took place in Datuk Seri Najib's office in Putrajaya.PHOTO: BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR • One of the most high-profile foreign ambassadors in Malaysia, China's Mr Huang Huikang is bidding farewell today after nearly four years.

He attracted brickbats and praise over a string of issues, including seemingly wading into Malaysian politics by saying pro-Umno protesters should not demonstrate in Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown in 2015, and donating cash to Chinese schools in the constituency of Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.

During his time in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur became decidedly closer to China with huge Chinese fund inflows into Malaysia, including through the buying of distressed power assets in state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the taking over of Malaysian carmaker Proton.

Prime Minister Najib Razak also agreed to take a RM55 billion (S$18 billion) soft loan from Beijing to build the East Coast Rail Line, which will link Port Klang to Kuantan Port.

"I am lucky to witness a great leap forward of China-Malaysia relations in the past four years. I have travelled through all the 13 states of Malaysia and met many friends from all walks of life, feeling the strong will among the people to strengthen cooperation between China and Malaysia," Mr Huang, 62, said at a farewell dinner he hosted on Friday, as quoted by Free Malaysia Today online news.

He came to Malaysia as China's top envoy in January 2014.

There were ups and down in bilateral ties, with the arrival of China's iconic giant pair of pandas in Malaysia in May 2014, and the frustrating effort to locate Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that went down in March 2014. Most of the 239 people on board were Chinese nationals.

He courted controversy in September 2015 when he said the pro-Umno Red Shirts group should not protest in Petaling Street - known as Malaysia's Chinatown.

"I see the Chinese getting along in harmony with other races. I am very pleased," he said, as quoted by Malaysiakini then.

"We do not want to see such a good situation destroyed by any people with ulterior motives."

In February last year, Mr Huang raised eyebrows when he donated RM40,000 to eight Chinese primary schools in Datuk Seri Hishammuddin's Sembrong ward in Johor.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2017, with the headline 'China's high-profile envoy ends Malaysia stint'. Print Edition | Subscribe