China says ascertaining damage after Venezuela unrest

Riot police clash with protesters during a rally demanding a referendum to remove Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in San Cristobal, Venezuela November 3, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez

BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Monday it was trying to ascertain what damage may have been caused to Chinese-owned businesses in Venezuela during protests and looting over the elimination of Venezuela’s largest currency bill.

The worst looting was on Friday and Saturday, especially in El Callao and Ciudad Bolivar in the southern state of Bolivar, and police have used teargas to control crowds in some places. Security forces have arrested more than 300 people

Chinese-run shops have been particularly targeted, witnesses say, and a 14-year-old boy was shot dead in El Callao on Friday

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that after the unrest began, its embassy in Venezuela activated an emergency consular protection system, and began looking at Chinese casualties and damage to Chinese-run businesses.

China has asked the Venezuelan government to take measures to protect Chinese people and their property, she added.

“As we understand it, the situation in Venezuela has basically calmed down, and the Chinese embassy has not received any reports of injuries or deaths amongst Chinese citizens,” Hua told a daily news briefing.

China and Venezuela have a close diplomatic and business relationship.

President Nicolas Maduro pulled the 100 bolivar note last week before new bills were in circulation, creating a national cash shortage on top of the brutal economic crisis overshadowing Venezuelans’ Christmas and New Year holidays.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel