“The country I want to go most eagerly is not safe anymore”: WEIBO China

In the poll “Has the coup affected your holiday plans in the Maldives?” hosted on a Chinese website on February 12, a little more than one third of the 8,107 votes chose “it has affected them more or less”, while one third of Chinese voters indicated “it has no influence on them”. Less than one third were unaware of the political situation.

Following the abrupt resignation of former president Mohamed Nasheed early last week China’s embassy in the Maldives, which opened in November, 2011, notified Chinese agencies and media outlets in an unofficial advisory that capital Male’ is currently unsafe for tourists and advised tourists to make only necessary trips to Male’.

“We have been trying our best to ensure Chinese nationals’ personal safety. Tourists reach the international airport and then can directly go to the resort. They will be safe on the resorts,” said Sun Jianbo, Second Secretary of China’s Embassy in Male’.

“As far as I know, no harm to Chinese tourists has been caused by these political events yet,” he added.

In 2011, China rose to become the No.1 source of tourism, surpassing the Maldives’  traditional European market with over 700,000 arrivals last year. The jump in business has re-shaped the industry- local travel agencies and resort staff are now keen to hire Mandarin speakers and are working to stay current on Chinese cultural habits.

Although many have projected that China will remain a stable, even growing partner in tourism, the Chinese market was quick to respond to what Nasheed’s government has called a coup d’etat on February 7.

A few Maldivian travel agencies who work closely with the Chinese market told Minivan News that the current politics has started to influence their bookings. “Quite a lot of Chinese customers are very concerned of this situation. Some of them are hesitant to make reservations now,” said Emy Zheng, a Chinese national working at Villuxa Holidays. She noted that only a few bookings have been cancelled, while several others have tried to postpone their holiday.

Zheng suggested that most Chinese nationals responded well to explanations of the situation, and assurances that the Maldives one-island one-resort mantra guarantees vacationers distance from local events.

“I told guests about the real life in Male’, which is more reliable than news they get from media in China. Some friends in China are very worried about my life here after seeing news on TV, but personally I don’t feel threatened living in Male’ as my friends and I just stay at home after work,” Zheng explained, adding, “I don’t think many Chinese have the access to know the real life here.”

Like Zheng, many Chinese national workers in Male’ have stuck to their routines. For them, the tourism industry has only been minimally affected. In China, however, travel agencies say the market is taking a heavy hit.

Shanghai travel agent Sun Yi said she was faced with many cancellations just two days after the coup. ”It has seriously affected our business. Many guests cancelled the Maldivian holiday package which used to be very popular,” she explained.

Yi continued that her company has also decided to suspend its plan to hold a commercial event at a Maldives resort this spring.

Although a Chinese tourism industry professional on the marketing of holiday destination Maldives, Yi has not yet visited the country. She said she is very worried about the current state of affairs.

Social media suggests that the average Chinese traveler is barely informed.

Before most Chinese media outlets had reported news of the Maldives’ change of government, travelers-to-be noticed a post in WEIBO (Chinese version of Twitter) by Maldives resort-based Chinese diving instructor Jai He.

Mr. He received the news of Nasheed’s resignation while watching national television during his lunch hour on Male’. After posting the news on WEIBO he was immediately contacted by a few Chinese media.

But now, a WEIBO search for “Maldives” yields only a few incomplete statements of the actual events; most posts voice poetic concerns of a tainted dream holiday or honeymoon, or an exaggerated description of the current situation in paradise.

One forum user wrote, “Fires of war are burning through the country. The country I want to go most eagerly is not safe anymore.”

Among the posts the word “democracy”- a concept politicians on both sides of the divide are using as weapon and shield – was uncommon.

WEIBO has undoubtedly become a platform for some Chinese to enjoy a moderate amount of free speech. While the Maldives is a definite topic of conversation, WEIBO users are more concerned with the damage to their holiday dreams than the threats on Male’s streets- or the connection between the current change of government and China’s own so-called “democratic centralisation”.

But the government is more cautious.

While the US and India have recognised the Maldives’ new regime under former Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, China has not officially expressed any political leaning.

Second Secretary Jianbo told Minivan News he had no idea what would happen to the regime, but “things seem to gradually be calming down now as the new government has appointed new officers today.”

In spite of the uncertainty, the Chinese tourism board has not issued a travel alert for the Maldives.

“We are not able to release anything now towards the current situation until the Chinese
foreign affairs department speaks,” Sun said, indicating that more information would be available in a few days’ time.

“The Embassy’s most important function is to maintain and deepen the two countries’ relationship,” Sun explained. Asked whether China will continue to foster a close relationship with the new government, Sun said, “No comments”.


10 thoughts on ““The country I want to go most eagerly is not safe anymore”: WEIBO China”

  1. In the morning of tourism and trade, we would be aware of world human biology. we are one of helping moon of sun. we are so unlucky to debate the human man. So be a man of helping key of island. where the man of teeth of long life shark. why we busy of man? fizzy of women? helping the situation of moral and coral. wassalaam alaikum.

  2. Mohamed Nasheed has been so obsessed with gaining international media coverage that his statements in the international media has cost us the image of our nation. He has labelled the country as full of terrorists, sometimes saying global warming is resulting in a number of islands disappearing in the Indian Ocean.

    True, we might have some problems with religious fanaticism, environmental degradation etc. But which country on the earth does not? I have not seen heads of countries like Malaysia (which also has similar problems) coming on international media and speak about the negatives all the time. As a country dependent on tourism, the head of state has a responsibility to ensure that the country's image is projected positively, putting aside the political differences and issues.

  3. the country is not safe only for Chinese but all tourists.. until the those responsible for the coup are brought to justice and the elected government is reisntated

  4. Imram , you have been quiet for long, where you busy in destroying the country with your fellow policemen or have you been beating or rapping women? Are you happy with the result? Didn't we tell you that you were going the bad direction? But you insist in hurting the Maldivian people. Now the result of all this mess is like it was forecast. The economy of the country is being destroyed, the credibility of the Maldivian people is as low as rubbish and you made it didn't you. Now you will be free to speak to the fishes because I'm afraid there will be not much to preach to.
    You ignorant man will be punished by GOD as you attempt against HIS creatures. Is that what you want, a poor country made of ignorant people that you can slash and brain wash? You are the most perverse person in the Maldives. The Sharia should be applied to you immediately. GOD sees all and when you plant fire you pick up the burned ashes. You don't even deserve the tittle of fisherman, as you never have been one. You are a shame for our people. Move out of the Maldives before the anger of GOD goes down on your and your family.

  5. Don't blame now on Nasheed the destruction that took place and did not stop yeat. We the international comunity have ben telling you that you where acting wrong, but you think we are stupid. Prof. Glass sent a nice open letter and he was heavily critisized. The man is a schoolar that loves your country. I wrote several times just to receive bad words and terrible treats. I lost my company due to GMR but you are loosing your country. Shame on you. Get up and wake up.

  6. The USA has retracted it´s support for the new regime. Your info is out of date

  7. (from the page http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/asia-oceania/maldives)

    Still current at: 13 February 2012

    No restrictions in this travel advice Avoid all but essential travel to part(s) of country Avoid all but essential travel to whole country Avoid all travel to part(s) of country Avoid all travel to whole country

    This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Travel Summary and the Safety and Security section (violent clashes in Malé). The overall level of the advice has not changed; we advise against all but essential travel to Malé Island.

    (see travel advice legal disclaimer)
    Travel advice for this country

    Travel Summary
    Safety and security
    Local laws and customs
    Entry requirements

    Natural disasters

    Travel Summary
    (back to top)

    We advise against all but essential travel to Malé Island.

    There are political demonstrations in the capital Malé, which have resulted in violent clashes involving police, military and demonstrators. The situation remains uncertain. If you are in Malé, or choose to travel to Malé, you should exercise caution, avoid demonstrations and beware of spontaneous gatherings.

    There are currently no reports of social unrest or demonstrations at Malé International Airport (which is on the island of Hulhule), or at the tourist resorts. The airport remains open and is operating normally. There have been reports of unrest on other non-resort islands generally around municipal buildings such as police stations and courtrooms. You should exercise caution and check with your tour operator or travel company for further information.

    Our advice against all but essential travel to Malé Island does not include Malé International Airport or travel from the airport to any part of the country other than Malé Island.

    There is no British diplomatic mission in Maldives. A Consular Correspondent in the capital, Malé can liaise with the British High Commission in Sri Lanka on emergency consular matters. They can be contacted through the British High Commission in Colombo. See Contact details.

    There is a general threat from terrorism and attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates, foreign travellers including tourists.

    The main types of incident for which British nationals required consular assistance in Maldives in 2009 were for lost/stolen passports and hospitalisations. Petty crime occurs and you should take care of your valuables and other personal possessions.

    All British nationals who are resident and/or working in Maldives should register with the British High Commission in Colombo.

    You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. See General - Insurance.

    Safety and security
    (back to top)

    Safety and Security - Terrorism
    There is a general threat from terrorism and attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers including tourists. On 29 September 2007, a small bomb exploded on the capital island of Malé, injuring a number of foreigners including two British nationals. See our Terrorism Abroad page.

    Safety and Security - Crime
    Crime levels in Maldives are relatively low, but petty crime, including the theft of goods left unattended on the beach or in hotel rooms, does occur. You should take care of your valuables and other personal possessions, especially when travelling in Malé. Use safe deposit boxes on island resorts.

    See our Victims of Crime Abroad page.

    Safety and Security - Demonstrations
    There have been political demonstrations in Malé since the middle of January. These escalated on 6 February, leading to clashes between the government and opposition supporters and later between the police and defence forces. Reports of protests in Malé Island continue. No reports of disturbances on tourist resorts. Some unrest reported to have taken place on some non-resort islands, however these are generally away from areas tourists frequent. You should exercise caution and check with your tour operator or travel company for further information.

    In July 2010, following a period of political unrest within the Maldivian Parliament (Majlis), there were a number of political protests and demonstrations in Malé. They were predominantly outside government buildings and political figures’ residences.

    In October 2010, a number of political protests and demonstrations were held in Malé resulting in some injuries.

    You should exercise caution, avoid large gatherings and beware of spontaneous demonstrations.

  8. Destruction of archeological museum Buddhas pains me the most. Maldives has become an intolerant extremist Islamic nation. There is no freedom of worship here. The country that solely depends on foreign tourist's mostly from the West is shooting itself in the foot. Remember if with global warming the sea rises or if there is Indian Ocean tsunami Allah is not going to save you.


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