China on Tuesday said it is following the situation in Sri Lanka as violent anti-government protests erupted in the island nation following economic turmoil.
China which has substantial investments has asked the Chinese nationals working in the island nation to be alert and on guard against risks. “The bloodshed and conflict took place in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo and other places, causing relatively large casualties,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at daily press briefing in Beijing on Tuesday while commenting on the dire situation in the island nation. “Sri Lanka’s police have enforced curfew so far. The
Chinese side is closely following the development of the situation. We believe that with the joint efforts of all sectors of Sri Lanka, the country will regain peace and stability as soon as possible,” Zhao said.
Beijing has not yet commented on the resignation of prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is considered a big supporter for large-scale Chinese investments, including Hambantota port in his hometown, which China took over on a 99-year lease as a debt swap.
Rajapaksa’s resignation was seen as a setback for China. Despite its huge investments of over USD 8 billion in the last few years, China conspicuously kept silent on Sri Lanka’s economic crisis. Sri Lanka last month unilaterally suspended external debt repayments before approaching the IMF for help. China is one of Sri Lanka’s largest bilateral lenders with about $6.5 billion in loans.
Beijing announced about USD 33 million (200 million yuan) assistance to Sri Lanka but is so far silent about its Ambassador to Colombo Qi Zhenhong’s statement that China is considering a USD 2.5 billion credit facility to Sri Lanka. Last month, Sri Lankan ambassador to China, Palitha Kohona also said that China is ready to support the island nation with almost $2.5 billion in finances but nothing came so far.
Last month, Mahinda Rajapaksa spoke to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang for assistance and his younger brother and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa wrote to Chinese President Xi Jinping to bail out the country. Sri Lankan President also urged
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his visit last December to reschedule Sri Lanka’s debt owed to China.
Under the current uncertainty in Sri Lanka, Chinese enterprises will be more cautious in the long run when considering investment and expansion in projects, Chinese media quoting experts said. Meanwhile, Beijing’s ambassador Qi Zhenhong told Sri Lankan Finance Minister Ali Sabry on Monday that China supports crisis-hit Sri Lanka’s decision to work with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to restructure its debt according to a statement from Sri Lanka’s finance ministry.