Q: Earlier this month, there were protests in Hambantota in southern Sri Lanka against Chinese-invested project. How concerned is China by these protests? Did China force Sri Lanka to offer concessions over the port project because Sri Lanka owes so much money to China in the form of loans? Did China ask Sri Lanka to ensure the industrial zone around the port is only for Chinese companies to use?
A: Let me be very clear, China has never asked Sri Lanka to allow only Chinese enterprises to operate in the Hambantota industrial zone. It is learned that small-scale protests occurred mainly because the local people misconstrued relevant policies on the projects. The Sri Lankan side has made an official clarification on this.
As the two countries are traditional friendly neighbors, China is willing to provide the best assistance it can to help Sri Lanka with its economic development so as to achieve common development. This is in the interests of both countries. The Chinese enterprises always discuss the Hambantota Port project with the Sri Lankan side on a voluntary basis, in the spirit of equality and mutual benefit, and following market rules. Relevant cooperation projects are expected to play a constructive role in the long-term development of Hambantota Port and other parts of Sri Lanka.