Sri Lanka had plunged into political crisis since President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinge and appointed pro-China former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as his successor.
China on Monday said it is closely monitoring “the political turmoil” in Sri Lanka but maintained that it is the internal affairs of the country and hoped that the relevant political parties can resolve their differences through dialogue and consultations. Sri Lanka had plunged into political crisis since President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinge and appointed pro-China former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as his successor.
Asked about China’s stand on the current political crisis in Sri Lanka considering that Beijing has made huge investments in the island nation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told media here that China is following the crisis closely. “China and Sri Lanka are friendly neighbours. We are closely following the changes in the situation in Sri Lanka,” he said. China, he said will always follow the principle of non-interference in internal affairs of other countries.
“The changes in Sri Lankan situation belongs to its internal affairs. We believe the Sri Lankan government political parties and people have enough wisdom to deal with the internal situation,” he said.
“China sincerely hopes that the relevant parties in Sri Lanka can properly resolve differences through dialogue and consultations and safeguard the national stability and development,” he said.
On question about the Chinese Ambassador in Sri Lanka Cheng Xueyuan meeting both Rajapaksa and Wickramasinghe, Lu said, “We have maintained communication with relevant political parties in Sri Lanka. Chinese Ambassador met respectively Wickramasinghe and the new Prime Minister and exchanged views on bilateral relations with the two”. The reference Rajapaksa as “new Prime Minister” by the spokesman was seen as significant by the observers here considering that Wickramasinghe maintains that he is still the Prime Minister.
Reports from Colombo said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang greeted Rajapaksa, though Lu did not respond to the question. China has developed high stakes in Sri Lanka since it made over USD eight billion Chinese investments, including the Hambantota port and the Colombo port project during the tenure of Rajapaksa who is widely regarded as pro-China.
China is investing billions of dollars in infrastructure and developments in Sri Lanka since Rajapaksa’s rule. The government led by Wickremesinghe has tried to re-balance Sri Lanka’s foreign relations away from China and towards India and Japan. The Hambantota port in Rajapaksa’s hometown was built by a Chinese company and funded by Chinese loans.
Sirisena government subsequently gave Hambantota port on a 99-year lease to China for USD 1.1 billion debt swap deal raising concerns in India as Beijing stepped its presence in the Indian Ocean region.