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Politics

Beijing hits back at criticism of its Maldives policy

Foreign ministry blasts 'land grab' allegations as 'absurd'

An aerial view of Male, the Maldives' capital.   © Reuters

BEIJING China has blasted claims by former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed that Beijing is trying to take over the island nation as "absolutely false."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, speaking to reporters on Feb. 13, said Nasheed's allegations are "groundless and absurd."

Nasheed, who served as president between 2008 and 2012, fled to Britain in 2016 following his arrest and conviction under anti-terrorism laws for ordering the arrest of a judge. He is a fierce opponent of the Maldives' current president, the pro-China Abdulla Yameen.

In an interview with the Nikkei Asian Review, Nasheed claimed that China has already bought more than 16 islands from the Maldives under the Yameen administration. He warned that the country will be forced to cede even more territory because it will not be able to pay back what he described as its massive debt to China.

In early February, Yameen dispatched Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed as special envoy to China.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who met with Saeed, said his country believes "the Maldives' government and its people have the ability and wisdom to resolve issues facing them in an appropriate manner."

Wang added that China "will not interfere in the Maldives' internal affairs."

He said China has provided assistance not to serve its own interests but for the sake of the Maldives' economy and society.

He stressed that China has no intention of ending that assistance, and expressed his hopes for the development of a friendly, wide-ranging partnership between China and the Maldives.

Ministry spokesman Geng, speaking at the Feb. 13 news conference, said, "The important thing is that cooperation between China and the Maldives match the interests of both countries or bring well-being to their people."

The ones to judge that, he said, are "the people of the two countries."

He also criticized Nasheed, saying the exiled former president is in no position to comment on the bilateral relationship.

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