Weeks ahead of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in Geneva, where a resolution on Sri Lanka is expected to be tabled, China has said it will “continue to support” Sri Lanka in international fora while slamming countries “far or near” for “bullying” the island nation.  

“China has always been supporting Sri Lanka in the international fora for protecting its sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. We will continue to do that. In contrast, some countries, far or near, always make various groundless excuses to bully Sri Lanka and trample on Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and independence repeatedly,” Ambassador Qi Zhenhong said in an article for the local portal Sri Lanka Guardian, published subsequently on the Chinese Embassy’s website on Friday. 

His remarks come even as Sri Lanka awaits China’s response to its request for bridge loans to tide over the country’s enduring economic crisis. While Beijing announced a $74 million grant in May, it is yet to respond to Colombo’s appeal for urgent help reportedly to the tune of $4 billion. Further, Colombo is anxiously seeking China’s cooperation to restructure its foreign debt, a process that could impact its chances of securing crucial assistance from the International Monetary Fund.  

Drawing attention to two recent China-related news developments, the top Chinese diplomat referenced US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “sneaky visit” to China’s Taiwan region, and the support “from over 170 countries”, including Sri Lanka, to the ‘One-China Principle’.

He also highlighted the “successful” docking of the Chinese military vessel Yuan Wang 5 at Sri Lanka’s southern Hambantota Port after China and Sri Lanka “altogether resisted the rude and unreasonable interference from third parties”. The ship deferred its arrival by a few days on Sri Lanka’s request, after India and US raised concern over its visit, and left on August 22 after a week in Hambantota. 

Linking developments in Taiwan with the Chinese vessel’s visit to Sri Lanka, the Ambassador said though they may seem “irrelevant and thousands of miles apart”, both “share a same great significance” between China and Sri Lanka, that is to “jointly safeguard each other’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity”.  

Human rights 

Referring to the coming session — the 51st — of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Qi said human rights issues in Sri Lanka “might probably be stirred up again”. Pointing to Sri Lankans grappling with “severe economic and humanitarian difficulties”, many might wonder what those countries who have been always “preaching” about human rights will actually do.

“Will they help Sri Lanka to ease its human rights crisis by providing concrete support? Or will they again use human rights as a cover-up tool to interfere into the island nation’s internal affairs and continue to rub salt into the wound of the Sri Lankan people? Just let’s wait and see,” he said. 

In March 2021, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution titled ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’ with 22 of its 47 members voting for the resolution. China voted against it, backing Sri Lanka, while India abstained.  

In the March 2022 session, the ‘Core Group’ on Sri Lanka, comprising the UK, the US, Canada, Germany, North Macedonia, Malawi, and Montenegro, noted in a statement that “surveillance and intimidation of civil society persist, and detentions, threats, and intimidation of journalists and human rights defenders continue”.