Sri Lanka launches China-led investment zone amid protests

Two car-shipping carriers berthed at Sri Lanka’s Chinese-built Hambantota Port. The first phase of the development cost $360 million and was 85 percent funded by the Export Import Bank of China

The inauguration for Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka's Prime Minister, is at the seaport where police officials anticipate the protest on January 8, as the deal with China commences.

President Sirisena's government is already in the final phase of discussion with China Merchants Port Holdings Company to develop the China-built port, granting it an 80 per cent stake on a 99-year lease for US$1.12 billion.

Former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, Ministers Sajith Premadasa, Mahinda Amaraweera and Dilip Vedaarachchi were entrusted with the task of identifying land for Chinese investments in Hambantota, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe disclosed.

At Saturday's opening of the investment zone, Chinese Ambassador Yi Xianliang struck an upbeat note.

"We are farmers; we can't move out of our lands", he said. Although the project made losses since 2010, Sri Lanka's government approached China seeking help to make it viable.

This will generate about 100, 000 job opportunities for youth of the area. With that to give a bright future to the young people of this country, ' Mr Wickremsinghe said. Historically, kings in predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka are said to have abided by decrees issued by Buddhist monks.

"Sri Lanka is the number two to get the most support from China in the world". Whatever the changes or the government, the ambassador said he believes the Sri Lankan people and the Sri Lankan government will welcome the Chinese investment. Because of the pressure exerted on it by the people, the government took a step back and postponed the signing of the agreement which was scheduled to take place today (7).

The demonstrators were protesting against a new agreement with Beijing that Sri Lanka is hoping will attract billions of dollars in investment over the coming decades.

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