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Envoy denies Maldivian Speaker’s allegation 12 islands awarded to Chinese companies

REPORT-4-ENG-14-07-2020-Maldives
Chinese Ambassador Mr. Zhang Lizhong with Parliament Speaker, former President Mohamed Nasheed (R)

Chinese Ambassador to Maldives, Zhang Lizhong has denied allegations made the Speaker of Maldivian Parliament, former President Mohamed Nasheed that the former Maldivian administration awarded 12 Maldivian islands to Chinese state-run companies.

Nasheed made the allegation in an open letter he penned as the leader of ruling MDP on Sunday, in response to an op-ed written by Indian journalist Seema Sengupta recently published on Arab News Pakistan, which is critical of the current Maldivian administration.

In his open letter, Nasheed said the former administration “sold” Maldivian sovereignty to the Chinese Communist Party.

“President Yameen also sold Maldivian sovereignty to the Chinese Communist Party: awarding 12 of our islands to Chinese state run entities, and wracaking up so much debt as to leave us unable to repay the bills. This undermined Maldivian independence, and threatened Indian Ocean stability,” wrote Nasheed.

In a tweet later on Sunday, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Lizhong said that Nasheed’s claims regarding China are “simply not true”.

He said that there was “simply no such this as 12 islands” and asked Nasheed to check the facts.

“It is truly sad to see the head of a governing party doesn't find a bit of time to sort out some basic figures,” said the Chinese Ambassador.

He also said that all cooperation between Maldives and Chine is based on equality, respect for sovereignty and mutual benefits.

The Chinese Ambassador noted the decision to waive off USD 40 million out of the USD 100 million annual debt repayment due to China.

“As a responsible major nation, China supports and implements the debt service suspension initiative under G20 to the Maldives and is in discussion for further support to cope with current difficulties faced by the Maldives,” he said.

The Chinese Ambassador said that China is also working closely with the Maldives in COVID-19 response, tourism and major projects.

“We trust most people are welcoming an even stronger relationship,” he said.