China’s plan to pump billions of dollars into Sri Lanka isn’t going over well.
Violent protests erupted over the weekend at the opening of an industrial zone that will benefit Chinese companies, with police using tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds.
At least 22 people were injured at the protests, police said, and more than 50 others were arrested.
At issue is a massive industrial zone near the southern city of Hambantota that aims to attract $5 billion in investment from Chinese firms over the next five years.
China’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka Yi Xianliang said at Saturday’s launch event that more than 50 Chinese investors are exploring projects in the industrial zone, which is situated near a major port financed by Chinese banks.
“No negative force can stop the cooperation between China and Sri Lanka, and no one can stop the strong friendship between our two peoples,” Yi said according to Chinese state-run media.
Local residents, however, fear that they could lose their land because of the project.
China has been pouring money into the South Asian nation as part of its “One Belt One Road” plan, which seeks to link countries from as far away as East Africa to Beijing through trade.
In Sri Lanka, Chinese firms have won lucrative contracts to build roads, bridges and other large projects. Some of the initiatives have been dogged by allegations of corruption under the country’s previous government.
— Iqbal Athas contributed to this report.