Diplomatic faux pas
Yi Xianliang made the comments at a meeting with a group of local and Chinese journalists and newspaper editors last week at the Chinese Embassy.
The meeting was held to discuss the role the Sri Lankan and Chinese media can play on China related matters.
However the meeting ended up as a press conference which saw local journalists throwing questions at the envoy on allegations of corrupt deals and loans given to Sri Lanka for a high interest.
A visibly irate Ambassador hit out at the allegations and went on to be critical of the media, the Sri Lankan public and even the government.
Responding to the questions raised by the media, Xianliang insisted that the Chinese Government has no hidden agenda in Sri Lanka.
He also insisted that the Chinese companies involved in several projects in Sri Lanka had not offered bribes for any projects.
Xianliang said that at the same time some NGOs send letters to the Embassy seeking financial ‘donations’ and when the Embassy makes a donation it is seen as a bribe.
He said that the Sri Lankan public and the media have the wrong image about China and its role in Sri Lanka.
The Ambassador said that China came forward to assist Sri Lanka in its development drive and during natural disasters.
However he accused the local media and even the public of not showing gratitude or offering sympathy to the Chinese nationals killed during disasters in that country.
Xianliang also said that China does not get involved with the internal politics of any country and will work with the Government in power.
As part of this policy, he said China is now working with Sri Lanka to strengthen its economy and to develop the country.
He also said any country can work with the Chinese company involved in the port city project and he dismissed fresh concerns raised on the impact to the environment as a result of the project.
The Ambassador said the Chinese company suffered a total of approximately USD 140 million from the time the project was suspended by the new Government and till it resumed.
The new Government suspended the port city project after it took office in January last year saying it had concerns over the deal the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government signed with China.
“We should not politicise economic cooperation,” the Chinese Ambassador said.
He also said that Sri Lanka should have a consistent policy and not change its policy every time a new Government takes office.
Xianliang warned that Sri Lanka faces the risk of losing foreign direct investments if it fails to maintain a consistent policy.
The Ambassador also denied claims that China was giving loans to Sri Lanka at a higher interest rate.
He said he had even discussed those claims with Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, adding that if Sri Lanka was not happy then it did not need to turn to China for money.
“We give loans to developing countries like Sri Lanka at 2 percent interest and not 5 like most other countries,” he said.
The Ambassador also said that several social groups in Sri Lanka have sought financial support from the Chinese Embassy and when money is given it is seen as a bribe by others.
Xianliang asserted China has done nothing wrong in Sri Lanka and he urged Sri Lanka to respect the friendship shown by China towards the island.
Responding to his comments, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake told reporters in Kandy that if China claims it had given Sri Lanka loans at 2 percent interest, then the government will be happy to repay those loans at 2 percent interest and nothing more.
Government sources said that the Chinese envoy had violated diplomatic protocol through the tone he used on the Government and he is likely to be called before the Foreign Ministry to seek an explanation.
Sources also said that Karunanayake had spoken to the Chinese envoy and the envoy had denied making comments critical of the Government. (Courtesy The Sunday Leader)