At least 25 people were injured during a protest in Sri Lanka January 7 over the launch of a special industrial zone intended to attract Chinese investment, APA reports quoting Sputnik.
Sri Lankan police fired tear gas and turned water cannons on crowds after rock throwing between pro-government and opposition groups escalated to government supporters attacking opponents with poles.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Yi Xianliang both attended the opening ceremony of the Hambantota-Southern Development Zone, located near the port city of Hambantota, 150 miles from the capital, Colombo.
A court had issued a restraining order on the protest, fearing violence, but the protesters defied it. The launch was carried out despite the protests. The violence apparently started when supporters of the zone started throwing rocks at villagers marching toward the launch ceremony.
The opposition protesters, led by Buddhist monks, chucked stones at government supporters in response. A group that appeared to have been brought to the ceremony by the government then reacted by attacking the opposition protesters with poles, according to AP. Opposition members of Sri Lanka's Parliament were among the protesters, local media report.
"We are against leasing the lands where people live and do their farming, while there are identified lands for an industrial zone," said DV Chanaka, a district politician, Al Jazeera reports.
"When you give away such a vast area of land, you can't stop the area becoming a Chinese colony."