Beijing: China on Wednesday said outgoing Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe is still its "good friend" and that it respects his choice to resign, lauding the contributions made by the African leader for bilateral ties during his authoritarian rule.
"Mugabe has long been committed to the friendship between China and Zimbabwe and China-Africa and made important contributions in this regard," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Lu Kang told media.
"So, we respect his choice to resign and he is still our good friend," Lu said. Mugabe made historic contributions to the national independence and liberation cause in Zimbabwe and is an advocate of pan-Africa movement, he said.
Mugabe, 93, resigned on Tuesday, after 37-years of authoritarian rule following a military takeover and public pressure.
China last week played down the significance of the visit of General Chiwenga, commander of the Zimbabwe defence forces to Beijing ahead of his move to take control of power saying that it was part of the normal military exchanges.
After Chiwenga took control, Mugabe was put under house arrest. China also denied reports that Zimbabwe vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa visited Beijing before the military take over. Mnangagwa was widely tipped to take over power after Mugabe's resignation.
"I can only tell you that his visit is a normal military exchange mutually agreed upon by China and Zimbabwe", Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told media on 15 November.
China is the biggest investor in Zimbabwe besides sharing extensive political and military ties during the over 37-year long tenure of Mugabe.
Lu also rebuffed the calls by the US and the UK to hold free and fair elections after Mugabe's exit saying that other countries should refrain from interfering in Zimbabwe's domestic affairs.
China upholds the principle of non-interference in internal affairs in other countries and we respect the choice of Zimbabwe people.
"We also hope that other countries could refrain from interfering in its domestic affairs," he said.
About the speculation that Mnangagwa was tipped to succeed Mugabe, Lu said, "We respect the choice made by its people. We will not interfere in their domestic affairs. The friendly cooperation between China and Zimbabwe is a comprehensive one and it benefits the two sides."
"Our friendly policy towards Zimbabwe will not change. We will continue the policy of equality, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation. Strengthen cooperation and elevate our bilateral relations," he said.
Updated Date: Nov 22, 2017 16:38:12 IST