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China on Tuesday upgraded its travel warning for its citizens visiting the Maldives for holidays, asking them to cancel their plans after an emergency was declared by embattled President Abdulla Yameen in the island nation whose economy relies heavily on Chinese tourists.
Following up on yesterday's travel advisory, asking Chinese citizens to not to travel to the Maldives, a favourite destination for locals, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang upgraded the travel alert, saying they should cancel their plans in view of spiralling political crisis there.
Tourism is the Maldives' biggest industry. It accounts for around a fifth of the GDPand generates billions of dollars every year in revenue.
Around 1.4 million peoplevisited the Indian Ocean archipelago last year.
China is the number-one source of tourists for the Maldives. Chinese tourists constitute about 30 per cent of the Maldives tourist arrivals.
The Spring Festival holiday, which includes Chinese New Year celebrations is peak season for Chinese citizens to travel to the Maldives for tourism.
"In the light of the latest situation in Maldives Chinese Foreign Ministry adjusted the security alert level and asked the Chinese citizens to closely follow the local situation and not to travel to Maldives," he told a media briefing here.
"If they have plans to go to the Maldives we advise them to cancel it. The Chinese government attaches great importance to the security of the Chinese citizens including the outbound tourists," he said.
"We hope Chinese tourists can take the security problems seriously. I will urge the relevant country to protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese tourists. We hope the situation in the Maldives returns to normalcy as soon as possible," he said.
However, he declined to comment on Yameens move to declare national emergency and arrest Supreme Court Judges and opposition leaders which evoked strong criticism internationally.
Yameen, who is considered close to China, during his December visit clinched several deals including much criticised Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
"China has always closely followed situation in the Maldives. We hope the relevant parties can properly resolve the differences through dialogue and consultation and restore the normal order as soon as possible and maintain national and social stability," Geng said.
Without directly commenting on the UN, US and Indias criticism of the handling of situation by Yameen, Geng said, We believe the Maldives government, political parties and people has the wisdom and the capability to deal with their current situation on their own.
He reiterated that China "required Maldives to take effective measures to earnestly protect security of the Chinese people, institutions and projects in the Maldives."
India yesterday expressed concern over the political developments in the country and asked its nationals not to undertake non-essential travels to the country until further notice.
The Maldives, however, today sought to reassure tourists that they would be safe.
Government spokesman Ibrahim Hussain Shihab said no curfew had been declared and the safety of tourists in the upmarket holiday paradise was assured.
The government would "facilitate calm at a time of national difficulty", he added.
The picturesque Indian Ocean archipelago was plunged into chaos on Thursday when the Supreme Court called for the release of nine imprisoned opposition politicians, ruling that their trials were politically motivated and flawed.
The government refused to implement the ruling, prompting a wave of protests in the capital, Male, with angry clashes between police and demonstrators.
China views the Maldives as key to its Maritime Silk Road project in the Indian Ocean as it has already acquired Hambantota port in Sri Lanka and Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.