SUVA, 22 OCTOBER 2020 (ABC) — The Fiji government has been left in the middle of a geopolitical tussle between China and Taiwan, after reports surfaced of an alleged physical altercation between their diplomats and officials.
Both Beijing and Taipei accused each other initiating the incident that Taiwan claims left one of their officials concussed and in hospital, and both had asked Fijian officials to investigate.
Local police now say that the matter has been handled at the diplomatic level, while local media is reporting that Fiji’s top foreign affairs official says it’s been “amicably resolved”.
But one member of Fiji’s diplomatic community says the incident’s highly concerning and he’s worried by what he sees as China’s increasingly assertive behaviour in the Pacific.
Marshall Islands Ambassador to Fiji, Albon Ishoda, who was among those who attended the Taiwan National Day celebrations at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva on 08 October, said the incident reminded him of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in Nauru in 2018.
The then-Nauru President Baron Waqa criticised China’s envoy at the forum, describing him as “very insolent” and a “bully” for speaking out of turn after an angry exchange at the opening of the annual gathering.
“As part of a very small diplomatic community here in Suva, and a very diverse and vibrant one at that, we always want to encourage that we remain civil when we deal with these incidences,” Ambassador Ishoda told Pacific Beat.
“It would be very unfortunate if this becomes a frequent occurrence. Very, very unfortunate, not for Taiwan, but for all of us,” he said.
China claims Taiwan as a part of its territory and as such, its Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian, described the National Day celebrations in Fiji as a “provocation”.
“The Taiwanese institution in Fiji blatantly displayed the self-styled flag, and its cake was also decorated with a self-styled flag,” he said.
“On that very evening, the staff of the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji spoke and acted provocatively against the Chinese Embassy staff who were carrying out their official duties in the public area of the same hotel where the “event” was held. One Chinese diplomat was injured with the belongings also damaged.”
Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Ho-Jen Tseng told the nation’s Parliament Chinese officials tried to force their way into the event.
“Our staff immediately moved forward and asked them to leave,” he said.
“Unexpectedly, not only did the Chinese officials refuse to listen, they also beat our personnel, and were finally taken away from the scene by the Fijian police.”
Marshall Islands Ambassador Albon Ishoda said he’s often seen Chinese Embassy officials attend Taiwanese events.
“It was a normal occurrence to have Chinese nationals present at the entrance of the hotel where the events are taking place. I assume collecting information on people attending the celebration for Taiwan National Day”.
“The unfortunate events…the tussle between the two sides…took us back to…particularly how mainland China has been sort of asserting itself, in the way the region conducts its business,” he said…… PACNEWS

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