China has pledged support to debt-ridden Sri Lanka during its tumultuous political transition.
State broadcaster CCTV reported that leader Xi Jinping had offered backing to the island’s new president as protests continued to roil the country, which is grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades.
Ranil Wickremesinghe, a lawyer who served as prime minister a record six times, was sworn in on Thursday in the face of fierce public opposition.
Xi believes the country will be able to move towards economic and social recovery and he is “ready to provide support and assistance to the best of my ability to President Wickremesinghe and the people of Sri Lanka in their efforts”, CCTV reported.
Sri Lanka owes at least $5 billion to China although some estimates put it at almost twice that amount.
India has also lent $3.8 billion and Japan is owed at least $3.5 billion, according to the International Monetary Fund, with another $1 billion due to other rich countries.
Security forces raided and partially cleared a protest camp occupying government grounds in Colombo on Friday, fuelling fears that Wickremesinghe had launched a crackdown a day after being sworn in.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell