During his two-day visit to Sri Lanka which ended on Saturday, Chairman of the Chinese Peopleâ€™s Political Consultative Conference and the fourth most important leader in China, Yu Zhengsheng, engaged in discussions with President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on China-funded projects including the controversial Hambantota port lease.
Yu visited the China-built Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) andÂ the Colombo Port City which is being constructed by the China Harbor Engineering Company. The visiting Chinese leader was briefed about the on-going work of these projects as well as the status of the Hambantota port.
Yu participated in a ceremony at the Colombo National Hospital in which Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena laid the foundation stone of an Out Patients Department which is being built by China.
Speaking at a reception given by the Speaker of the Sri Lankan parliament, Karu Jayasuriya, at whose invitation he had come to Sri Lanka, Yu emphasized on the â€˜trustâ€™ between China and Sri Lanka and stated that this trust has takenÂ relations between China and Sri Lanka to a â€œnew level.â€
Yu also referred to Chinese President Xi Jinpingâ€™s dream to build a â€œworld communityâ€ where global projects â€œwill bring people together.â€
Meanwhile Chinaâ€™s Ambassador in Sri Lanka Yi Xianliang noted that Yuâ€™s visit coincides with the 60 th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and maintained that Sino-Sri Lankan relations have â€œstood the test of time.â€ He pointed out that the future is filled with â€œexpectations.â€
The visit of Yu Zhengsheng and his eighty member delegation comes in the backdrop of Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe stating last week that the government has not got into an agreement with the Chinese company, China Merchant Company on the 99 year lease of the Hambantota port and that there was no MoU finalized. Although wide-scale discussions were held between the visiting Chinese delegation and the Sri Lankan government, it is not yet clear if the Chinese had agreed to the latest proposal made by Sri Lanka for Chinaâ€™s stake in the Hambantota port deal to initially be 80% but to come down to 60% after ten years. The Lankan government wants the stake of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) which will initially be at 20% at the initial stage to rise to 40% after ten years and for all security related matters such as the carrying out of military training at the site to be decided solely by the Lanka.
Meanwhile the Speaker of the Lankan parliament, Karu Jayasuriya said that Chairman Yuâ€™s visit will â€œopen new vistasâ€ in Sinoâ€”Sri Lankan relations but did not specify what these would be. He treaded history, reminding that 2017 marks the 65th anniversary of the Rubber-Rice barter pact between China and Sri Lanka when Sri Lanka had a dire need for rice and got rice from China in exchange for Sri Lankan rubber in a backdrop where the US was trying to stop the export of rubber to communist China, classifying it as â€œstrategic material.â€