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The Maldives is a popular spot for Chinese holidaymakers. Photo: Imaginechina

China warns tourists to postpone trips to the Maldives

Travel advisory comes as political turmoil and a state of emergency declaration destabilises the popular holiday spot ahead of Lunar New Year break


China’s foreign ministry has advised Chinese citizens to avoid visiting the Maldives until political tensions subside on the Indian Ocean archipelago.

A tropical paradise for holidaymakers, the Maldives has been beset by fractious politics for years, but concern over potential instability heightened after its attorney general warned on Sunday that the government would resist any attempt by the Supreme Court to impeach President Abdulla Yameen for disobeying its order to free jailed opposition leaders.

“China suggests that Chinese citizens who are preparing to go to the Maldives in the near term to postpone going until the situation on the ground stabilises,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Monday, noting that the upcoming Lunar New Year was a peak period for Chinese tourists to visit the Maldives.

Geng said China supported the resolution of differences between all relevant sides in the Maldives through dialogue and consultation to protect its national and social stability.

Hours after the announcement was made, a state of emergency was declared in the country.

Opposition supporters protest against the government's delay in releasing their jailed leaders, including former president Mohamed Nasheed, despite a Supreme Court order, in Male, Maldives, on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

The Chinese embassy to the Maldives on Friday issued a travel warning urging Chinese citizens to be cautious when travelling to the country, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Mohamed Anil, attorney general of the Maldives, said on Sunday that the government had received information that the Supreme Court was preparing to fire Yameen, but such a move would be illegal and the police and army had been instructed not to carry out such an order.

Yameen has fired two police chiefs since Thursday, when the Supreme Court threw out terrorism convictions against former president Mohamed Nasheed and eight other opposition figures. Police had indicated they would enforce the ruling.

In power since 2013 and facing elections in October, Yameen is under international pressure to heed the court decision, while hundreds of protesters have taken to the country’s streets to demand compliance with the order.

On Monday evening local time, he declared a state of emergency.
Maldives President Abdulla Yameen (seen in October 2015). Photo: AFP

Yameen’s government has had good relations with China and a free-trade agreement between the two countries was signed in December, despite criticism from the opposition.

China has been striking deals with countries in Asia and Africa in line with its “Belt and Road Initiative” to improve imports of key commodities, upgrade infrastructure and trade routes in the region and boost its diplomatic clout.