Displayed with permission from China Daily
China decides to forgive Sierra Leone’s debt, and the two countries agree to require no visas from holders of each other’s diplomatic passports.
President Xi Jinping welcomes visiting Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing before their meeting on Thursday. FENG YONGBIN / CHINA DAILY
When the deadly Ebola epidemic was raging in Sierra Leone and other West African countries, China stepped up to provide medical personnel, drugs and other assistance.Now that the epidemic is over, China is continuing to lend a hand to Sierra Leone, as shown by the hospital assistance partnership that the two countries signed on Thursday.
The agreement, between China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission and Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health, was among the six cooperative documents whose signing in Beijing was overseen by President Xi Jinping and Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma. Koroma is on a six-day visit to China.
China also agreed to forgive the hard-hit African country’s debt, and the two countries agreed to require no visas from holders of each other’s diplomatic and other government passports.
During their talks, Xi said that when the Ebola epidemic was devastating parts of West Africa in 2014, China provided more medical assistance to Sierra Leone than it had to any African country.
The epidemic hit not only Sierra Leone, but also Guinea and Liberia, which also received assistance. In March 2016, the World Health Organization announced the end of Ebola flare-ups in Sierra Leone. The latest flare-up brings to 3,590 the number of dead in Sierra Leone, according to the WHO.
Wu Peng, China’s ambassador to Sierra Leone, said that China is helping the country build a West African tropical disease research center, which will help strengthen its health and medical services.
“When the Sierra Leoneans were in difficulties, China did not let them down. We not only transported drugs and equipment in a timely way, but also dispatched medical teams and established a biological laboratory,” Wu said.
China provided “all of what was required in terms of personnel, drugs and medical supplies”, Koroma said.
On Thursday, Koroma visited the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing’s Changping district, where he expressed gratitude for China’s assistance.
Zhang Ming, vice-foreign minister, said that the two countries have agreed to upgrade bilateral ties to the new level of comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership, which he said is the most important fruit of Koroma’s visit.
Sierra Leone has firmly supported China in its core interests, including the South China Sea issue and the Taiwan question, showing the high level of two-way political trust, he said.
Koroma’s visit to China started Wednesday. He will travel to Shandong province on Saturday and visit a steel company there.
Jin Yong, deputy head of the School of Foreign Studies at the Communication University of China, said that China-Sierra Leone cooperation will benefit both sides, given that China is seeking investment opportunities overseas while Sierra Leone is still in a post-Ebola period and in great need of infrastructure construction.
Chen Qiqi contributed to this story.