China derides "groundless" Philippine warning of election sabotage

MANILA - China rejected on Wednesday a suggestion from a Philippine election official that China might try to sabotage a presidential election in the Philippines next year, saying it was "sheer fabrication".

The suggestion of Chinese meddling in the May election appeared to stem from a dispute between the neighbours over rival claims to parts of the South China Sea.

Elections Commission official Christian Robert Lim told legislators earlier that his agency had transferred production of vote-counting machines from China after intelligence reports that China planned to sabotage the elections because of the South China Sea dispute.

The spokeswoman at China's embassy in the Philippines denied any such plan.

"The so-called 'attempt by China' to 'sabotage' the 2016 elections is totally groundless and a sheer fabrication," the embassy spokeswoman, Li Lingxiao, said in a statement.

"China has always adhered to the principle of non-interference into other countries' internal affairs."

Philippine voters will in May elect a president, vice president and more than 18,000 legislators and local government executives.

Lim did not elaborate on how he thought China might try to interfere with the votes but said the 20,000 vote-counting machines would be manufactured in Taiwan instead of China.

Philippine government spokesmen were not available to comment on Lim's suggestion of Chinese skulduggery.

The Philippines and China have over-lapping claims to parts of the South China Sea, including areas of the Spratly Islands and the Philippines has lodged a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague over the dispute.

China has declined to take part.

China claims most of the South China Sea. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei claim overlapping parts of the strategic waterway.

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