While Speaker and former President, Mohamed Nasheed, has said that the previous administration had awarded 12 islands to Chinese state-run entities, China’s Ambassador to the Maldives has denied this.
Nasheed made the claim in an open letter as the president of the main ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), in response to an op-ed by journalist Seema Sengupta in the Arab News Pakistan.
The letter noted that incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih won a landslide election in late 2018 “after the Maldivian people threw out the corrupt autocrat, Abdulla Yameen, who was universally lambasted by international human rights groups and western democracies for his endless assault on democratic institutions, as well as being embroiled in countless corruption scandals and a plot to launder USD one billion of dirty money through the nation’s central bank”.
“President Yameen also sold Maldivian sovereignty to the Chinese Communist Party: awarding 12 of our islands to Chinese state run entities, and wracking up so much debt as to leave us unable to repay the bills. This undermined Maldivian independence, and threatened Indian Ocean stability”
~ Speaker and former President, Mohamed Nasheed
Responding to this in series of tweets, Ambassador Zhang Lizhong said that the former president’s claims “are simply untrue”.
Noting disappointment that the head of a governing party did not take the time to “sort out some basic figures”, Lizhong stressed that “there is simply no such thing as 12 islands”.
He said that the cooperation between China and Maldives is based “on equality, respect of sovereignty and mutual benefits”.
Furthermore, the ambassador emphasized that the government of China has even decided to support and implement debt suspension to the Maldives under the G20 debt service suspension initiative.
Lizhong also noted that China is working closely with the Maldivian government in its Covid-19 response efforts as well other projects, and added that discussions are underway to provide further support to the Maldives “to cope with current difficulties”.
The ambassador added that they hope that “most people” will be welcoming of an even stronger relationship between the two nations.