BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Waving Chinese flags, several dozen people gathered Saturday in Serbia’s capital to show support for China as it struggles to contain a new virus that started in the Asian country but has spread globally.
Serbian officials and China’s ambassador attended a concert and gave speeches at the event held among light installations that were set up for Chinese New Year last month in a park in central Belgrade.
Globally, nearly 78,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus in 29 countries, and more than 2,300 have died. This has fueled some anti-Chinese sentiments around the globe amid fears of further spread of the disease.
“Belgrade is thinking about China,” Deputy Mayor Goran Vesic said. “We will be by your side so you can overcome these difficulties. When China is well, Serbia will be well also.”
Chinese Ambassador Chen Bo thanked the Balkan country for the support. ”Chinese people will not be defeated,” she said. “China will be stronger after it overcomes the epidemic.”
No Serbian citizens so far have been confirmed infected with the virus, which has led to an effective lockdown of about a dozen towns in northern Italy.
Serbia’s government has close political and economic links with China. China has sided with Serbia in its refusal to accept the Western-backed independence of the former province of Kosovo, while Serbia is part of China’s ambitious ‘Belt and Road’ investment initiative designed to boost its economic clout.