The plan for a large-scale Chinese settlement near the capital is creating unrest in ancient Ceylon. The leader of the Catholic Church sees it as a risk of “Colonization” that he has just publicly denounced.
As part of the “New Silk Road” project – the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), supposed to establish Chinese economic and geostrategic supremacy by 2049 – Port City, near Colombo, Sri Lanka, has symbolic value.
The Middle Kingdom has decided to invest more than 800 million euros there in a real estate and port complex to be built on an artificial peninsula of 269 hectares reclaimed from the Indian Ocean.
A project that should double the size of the current financial district of the island's capital. Led by the Chinese state-owned Communications Construction Company (CCCC), it is currently the largest foreign investment on the island.
The government hopes the new complex will attract investors: a welcome financial windfall as the coronavirus epidemic has crippled the economy. To do this, the executive intends to ram through a bill giving the Chinese carte blanche.
But the government plan is not to the liking of the Sri Lankan opposition, which has found a choice ally in the person of Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo.
The leader of the Catholic Church on the island, whose political aura has grown considerably since the Islamist attacks of Easter 2019, held a press conference on May 19, 2021, to denounce Chinese ambitions.
“The danger is that Sri Lanka will become a Chinese colony,” warned the high prelate, who has joined a move to get the country’s Supreme Court to block the government bill.
“Due to the Covid-19 epidemic, working as a laborer is at high risk at the moment. In such a situation, how urgent is it to pass the bill so quickly? This creates a problem of transparency on the government side,” insists Cardinal Ranjith.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is reassuring: he will respect the opinion of the Supreme Court, but many doubt it, given the immensity of the sums at stake.
What must be considered is the tenacity of Beijing, which intends to expand its area of economic, military, and political influence, in order to fulfill President Xi Jinping's prophecy: to become the greatest world power, a hundred years after the advent of socialism in China, and thus repair the humiliation caused by the “unjust treaties” of the nineteenth century, by which the West had then carved up the empire.