Police clash with demonstrators during a protest against the launching of a Chinese industrial zone by China Merchants Port Holdings Company, in Mirijjawila, Sri Lanka January 7, 2017. Photo: Reuters

Sri Lankan police used tear gas and water cannons on Saturday to disperse hundreds of stone-throwing demonstrators protesting against a planned investment zone supported by China.

Hospital authorities said at least 21 people were injured. Fifty-two demonstrators were arrested, police said.

Protesters say President Maithripala Sirisena’s government is trying to evict thousands of families to provide 6,070 hectares of land in the industrial zone, near to the US$1.5 billion Chinese-built port and airport. The government is already in the final phase of discussions with China Merchants Port Holdings to develop the port, granting the company an 80%percent stake on a 99-year lease for US$1.12 billion.

At Saturday’s opening of the investment zone, Chinese ambassador Yi Xianlang said “if everything goes well,” China would invest US$5 billion within five years and create 100,000 jobs.

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