The government has issued a statement denouncing Male’ City Council’s decision to become sister cities with Kaosiung City in Taiwan, and pledging the Maldives’ support for the “one-China policy”.
“The Government of Maldives reaffirms its commitment and support to China’s national unity and to the one-China Policy,” said the Foreign Ministry in a statement, shortly after the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) dominated Male City Council signed the sister city agreement with a Taiwanese delegation on Sunday.
“The Maldives’ firm conviction of one-China policy is guided by the principles of respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of states and considers Taiwan as an integral part of the People’s Republic of China,” the government stated.
An official from Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Taipei Times this was “the first time a local government’s efforts to establish sister-city ties with a foreign city had been thwarted due to apparent pressure from China.”
Mayor of Male City Council Ali Manik visited Kaohsiung in November 2012 after the city was assigned to mentor Male’ in sustainability by the international organisation of which both are members, Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI).
A statement from the Greater Kaohsiung government revealed the delegation had shared Taiwanese experience in the management of drainage pipeline networks, waste disposal, offshore submerged breakwaters, plant diseases, pest control and solar power development.
“The delegation also conducted a field study of Male’s construction of a rainwater sewer system, erosion-prone sea embankment and how it deals with waste disposal and processes raw kitchen waste,” reported the Taipei Times.
Mayor Manik said sister city agreements were “normal” and something almost every city in the world participated in, to promote cultural development. The Male-Kaosiung agreement, Manik said, involved “training in fields such as agriculture, mariculture, education in waste management and health related fields.”
Chinese visitors now constitute 25 percent of all tourism arrivals to the Maldives, a figure that has in the past several years eclipsed the Maldives’ traditional European markets.
Resorts have had to quickly adapt to the new demographic, with resort managers noting the market heavily favours excursions and shopping over food and beverage offerings traditionally targeted towards the European audience.
Some properties have underestimated the market. In March calls for a tourism boycott of the Maldives exploded across Chinese social media networks, after allegations of discrimination against guests from China at one resort were widely circulated.
Dismissed Chinese employees of the Beach House Iruveli resort – formerly Waldorf Astoria – posted allegations on the Chinese forum Tianya that guests from the country were receiving inferior treatment to Europeans, despite paying the same prices.
The staff alleged that this discrimination extended to removing kettles from the rooms of Chinese guests, to prevent them making instant noodles in their rooms and thereby forcing them into the resort’s restaurants.