Chines Ambassador to the Maldives Zhang Lizhong has responded to the remarks made by former President of the Maldives and current Speaker of the Parliament Mohamed Nasheed at the Indian Ocean Conference.
Speaking at the conference held in Maldives, Nasheed heavily criticized China by stating that China was taking away the independence and sovereignty of many countries by burdening them with heavy loans that they were not capable of repaying.
Nasheed said China, in connivance with former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom has put the archipelago in deep debt.
Ambassador Zhang took to Twitter to respond to Nasheed's allegations, stating that remarks made by the former president was baseless and unacceptable.
"The cooperation between China and Maldives is in the interests of the two peoples, which cannot be denigrated by one-sided individual remarks. The so-called “land grabbing” and colonization are not in our genes," wrote Zhang.
Ambassador Zhang said while Chinese investment and cooperation projects follow international rules and Maldivian laws, the country brings in 30,000 tourists to the archipelago annually.
Speaking to the press earlier on Thursday, Nasheed stated that the cost of the projects implemented under Chinese loans were contracted for twice the actual cost price.
Assuring that he had no hostility towards Ambassador Zhang, Nasheed said remaining silent on the issue would be detrimental to Maldives and other nations, said Nasheed.
Nasheed justified his remarks at the Indian Ocean Conference by stating that the loans were structured in such a way that it would negatively impact the Maldives.
"The flats built in Hulhumale' cost MVR 1900 per sq feet. This is [the price] without doors, tiling, painting and finishing. The most beautiful flats in Male' costs MVR 1200 [per sq feet], finishing included. This is MVR 1900. Therefore, the apartments have been built at double the price", said Nasheed.
The former President added that the actual cost can be calculated by assessing the flats. Nasheed said the government should repay the loan after checking the actual cost and deducting the extra. Nasheed said he would continue to speak about the Chinese loans if the government has to pay more than the actual cost.
Nasheed said China had lent borrowings to other countries in the same manner, taking Sri Lanka, Djibouti and East Timor as examples
Nasheed and Ambassador have fired shots at each other on social media platforms in the past. Recently, the two disagreed over the total amount owed to China by the Maldivian Government.
While Nasheed had stated that Maldives owes MVR 3.4 billion in loans to China, Ambassador Zhang had clarified that the Sinamale' Bridge project cost US$ 200 million, and that the Maldivian government has to repay only 50% of the loan as large percentage of the remainder was funded under Chinese grant aid.
The former president then said the total foreign debt of Maldives includes the active sovereign guaranteed debt, in addition to government to government debt, noting that sovereign guarantees issued to Chinese banks are at alarming level.