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China looks North as ambassador visits Tamil homeland

China’s ambassador to Sri Lanka continued his tour of the Tamil homeland today, visiting the historic Jaffna Library and Nallur Kandaswamy Temple, as well as meeting with fishing communities in the peninsula and in Mannar.

The visit comes as Beijing looks to “to maintain contacts between Jaffna and China in the near future,” according to Ambassador Qi Zhenhong who addressed reporters whilst visiting the Jaffna library earlier today.

“This is my first visit to Jaffna,” he said, speaking alongside Jaffna’s mayor V Mannivannan. “Today I am delighted to pay a visit to the Jaffna Public Library which has a long history.”

After presenting donations to the library, Zhenhong was taken on a tour of the historic institution, which was burned down by a Sri Lankan state-backed mob in 1981. The ambassador, reportedly spoke of how China would look at introducing an e-library section to the library to help modernise its facilities.

One of the more notable sections of the building Zhenhong visited was "Indian Corner" of the library, which was launched in 2015.

His visit comes amidst brewing tensions between Beijing and New Delhi, following the Sri Lankan government’s announcement that a Chinese project to develop three hybrid power plants in Delft Island, Analativu and Nainativu, worth an estimated USD$12 million, has been cancelled and reportedly given to India instead.

The ambassador’s visit also follows a trip by a Tamil National Alliance-led delegation to Washington, where various Tamil representatives held high-level discussions with the United States administration.

During his time in Jaffna, the ambassador also visited the famous Nallur temple, where he donned traditional clothing and prayed inside the temple.

“Ambassador Qi Zhenhong paid homage to the historic Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil at #Jaffna with full respect to the Hindu religious and cultural tradition,” said the Chinese embassy’s Twitter account, which posted photographs of his visit. “Amb. Qi also made a donation to the Kovil and shared pooja with the needy citizens outside after his visit.”

Whilst in Jaffna, Zhenhong also met with Tamil fishing communities. Accompanied by Sri Lanka’s fisheries minister and war crimes accused EPDP leader Douglas Devananda, the Chinese envoy attended an event held at the District Fishermen's Association and presented assistance schemes to beneficiaries in the region.

He also made a similar visit to Mannar, where he distributed food parcels and other items to fishermen. A total of approximately Rs. 20 million was distributed across the North.

A heavy Sri Lankan security presence was also seen across the region, as the ambassador undertook his first trip to the North.

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