Asia

Police brace for Sri Lanka rally against port lease to China

Sri Lanka police are bracing for a big protest by thousands of Buddhist monks and opposition supporters against a government decision to lease a major seaport to a Chinese-controlled venture.

The government is holding an inauguration ceremony Saturday for the 99-year lease of Hambantota port to a company in which China will have 80-percent ownership.

China invested over $1.2 billion in the port in what some analysts call its "string of pearls" strategy in countries surrounding its rival India. Although the project made losses since 2010, Sri Lanka's government approached China seeking help to make it viable.

Lawmaker D.V. Chanaka, one of protest organizers, says he fears the port area will become a "Chinese colony." He says more than 10,000 people including 3,000 monks are expected to turn out.