Don’t take part in protests, China’s Embassy in Sri Lanka warns its nationals

China, which has invested billions of dollars in Sri Lanka, has warned hundreds of its nationals in the country not to participate in any protests there, as it watched warily the fast unfolding crisis in the island nation where large masses of people raided the President’s palace and burnt the Prime Minister’s residence.

The Chinese Embassy in Colombo issued a notice on Saturday, reminding Chinese nationals in Sri Lanka to pay close attention to the local security situation and abide by local laws and regulations after the protests spread, the state-run Global Times reported.

It asked Chinese nationals not to participate in any protests, the report said.

The embassy reminded Chinese nationals not to participate in or watch any protests after hundreds of thousands of protesters stormed and occupied the presidential palace and set the Sri Lankan prime minister’s private residence on fire in Colombo to demand the government take responsibility for mismanaging the nation’s finances and for the crippling food and fuel shortages faced by the country, the report added.

The embassy also suggested that Chinese nationals be vigilant, stay safe, avoid going out, keep communication open and keep updated with the embassy’s notices and reminders, it said.

READ | ‘Stand with people of Sri Lanka’: India as protests grip island nation

Hundreds of Chinese nationals reportedly work on various Chinese projects being built with billions of dollars of investment.

These projects include Hambantota port, which China has acquired for a 99-year lease as a debt swap, and the Colombo port city project, which is being built on reclaimed land from the sea.

Both the Sri Lankan President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, offered to quit on Saturday after protesters stormed the government district in Colombo over the worst economic crisis that hit Sri Lanka.

For its part, China has provided a few million dollars of aid and recently sent a large shipment of rice, but for inexplicable reasons, did not provide the large-scale monetary assistance sought by President Rajapaksa or his brother, former Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and their pleas to defer repayment of Chinese loans.

Following the economic crisis, Sri Lanka also defaulted on USD 51 billion in foreign debt, which included Chinese loans.

Also, in a rare gesture, China last month “commended” India’s efforts to assist Sri Lanka to deal with the worst financial crisis by providing over USD 3.5 billion in fuel and food assistance.

“We have taken note that the Indian government has also done a lot in this regard. We commend those efforts,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here on June 8.

The Global Times report said on Saturday the Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Qi Zhenhong, attended a ceremony to hand over the donation of 7,060 food packs worth USD 150,000 by the Red Cross Society of China to Nuwara Eliya city in Sri Lanka’s Central Province.

During the ceremony, Qi stated that China sympathizes with Sri Lanka, which is facing multiple difficulties and challenges at the present time.

READ | Protesters camp, cook inside Sri Lanka PM’s Colombo home

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