China has called for “national stability and social development” to be maintained in the Maldives, in a rare official statement on the country from its Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The presidential election is the internal affairs of the Maldives. China respects the choice of the Maldivian people and hopes all relevant parties could settle the disputes properly through friendly negotiations. The Chinese side believes that the Maldivian government and people have the wisdom and capacity to resolve relevant issues,” read the statement.
“As a friendly neighbour of the Maldives, China is closely observing the developments in the Maldives and sincerely wishes that national stability and social development can be maintained,” the statement added.
While India has historically been the Maldives’ strongest regional ally, relations have been strained between the two governments partly due to the consistently poor treatment of expatriate Indian workers, and the government’s extra-contractual expropriation of the Maldives’ single largest foreign investment, GMR’s renovation of Male airport.
This has led some overseas observers to speculate that China may seek to increase its own diplomatic efforts in the country, after it recently opened an embassy in the capital Male.
China is also now the single largest tourism market for the Maldives, responsible for almost a quarter of all tourism arrivals as of 2011.
Recent protests and political turmoil over the delayed, cancelled and obstructed elections have been extensively covered by Chinese state media, Xinhua.
A Chinese travel advisory, updated on September 27, noted that while the Maldivian social order “is generally stable”, “partisan conflicts around the presidential elections are intensifying.”
The Chinese Embassy in the Maldives urged Chinese visitors to monitor the local security situation, contact and confirm the hotel booking before departure, and avoid non-essential travel to Male’.
Friday’s protests were also extensively reported by Chinese state-run press agency, Xinhua.
The Chinese statement follows those from the Commonwealth, UK, EU, India, US, UN, Canada and Australia expressing concern over the delayed presidential election and calling for free, fair and inclusive polls.
“The international community has been watching developments in the Maldives with concern ever since the Supreme Court annulled the first round of Presidential Elections on October 7,” read the latest statement from the Australian government, noting the rescheduling of polls for November 9.
“The first round of Presidential Elections on 7 September was judged free and fair by international and domestic observers. Following the annulment, a new first round of Presidential elections was scheduled to be held on 19 October but did not proceed. The Election Commission has now announced that elections will be held on 9 November.
“It is imperative that the elections now be held as scheduled with no further delays. Maldives voters have engaged actively and in good faith with the electoral process and this commitment needs to be honoured,” the statement read.
“As a fellow Indian Ocean country and Commonwealth member Australia stresses the importance of abiding by democratic values and processes, good governance and strong resilient institutions. Australia looks to all state bodies and presidential candidates in the Maldives to work together collaboratively to ensure that the election can take place in a manner that is free, fair and inclusive,” it concluded.