An alleged fight between a Chinese diplomat and a Taiwanese envoy in Fiji has hit a Taiwanese official in the head, and he has once again highlighted tensions between Beijing and Taipei in a battle for influence in the Pacific.
The incident took place at a reception at the Taipei Trade Office at the Suar Grand Pacific Hotel on October 8 to mark Taiwan’s National Day. Two Chinese embassy officials in Subha appeared uninvited and tried to photograph the people present, as at least two ministers from the Fiji government, diplomats from other countries, international and local NGOs and members of Fiji’s ethnic Chinese community reported the incident to the Guardian.
A member of the Taiwanese delegation called for the pair to leave, but sources said they refused to do so.
Fighting broke out outside the hotel and the Taiwanese officer was so badly injured that he needed hospital treatment for a head injury required.
Police were called to the hotel, but sources at the scene told the Guardian that Chinese officials had demanded diplomatic immunity.
Neither China nor Fiji’s foreign ministry responded immediately to requests for comment.
Several sources who came to the event confirmed a split, and the Guardian was informed that Suai Taiwan’s trade office had filed an official protest note with the Fiji Foreign and Trade Ministry.
However, a Fiji police spokesman said a complaint had been lodged against the Chinese embassy against a Taiwanese official, alleging that Chinese diplomats had been attacked while trying to enter the scene.
On Monday, Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tsang Ho-Zen confirmed the incident.
In response to a question in Taiwan’s parliament, Law Minister Yuan Tasseng said the Fiji office in Taipei had returned, saying that two Chinese diplomats had come to the event and looked around before leaving, and then returned and shouted, “Almost broke down the door.”
Foreign office staff intervened and a physical confrontation ensued. The matter has been instructed to the Fijian authorities and Taiwanese officials are assisting, Taiwanese media reported. Condemning the “unreasonable behavior” of foreign workers in Beijing, Tseng said it was “extremely unfortunate” that Chinese workers had disrupted their “peaceful” event.
Wang Ting-yu, a Taiwanese legislator and member of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said he was “shocked and outraged.”
“We cannot allow China to be intimidated into doing what it wants to do,” said Wang, vice chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. “I have the full support of our diplomats in Fiji.”
Larry Tasseng, head of the ministry’s East Asia and Pacific affairs department, said he believed the Chinese were trying to work out whether any Fijian politicians were present at the event.
He added that the “clash” between Chinese and Taiwanese diplomats had hurt both sides.
Beijing-Taipei is a microcosm of tension in the so-called protest region and around the world.
In the Pacific, Taiwan was officially a base of support, but since 2019, Beijing has been able to “flip” both the Salmon Islands and Kiribati by offering formal recognition and diplomatic relations. Taiwan has formal relations with Fiji, along with four Pacific nations – Nauru, Palau, the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu.
China considers Taiwan as one of its provinces and has no right to complete relations with any foreign country.
Deep tensions between Taipei and Beijing began earlier in the Pacific. In 2017, a meeting of the Kimberley Process, hosted by the Australian Foreign Minister in Perth, had to be postponed, when members of the Chinese delegation shouted to welcome the country to the event and let everyone know if they wanted to know. Guests were “formally invited” to the discussion.
A Taiwanese delegate invited to the meeting was then expelled from the Chinese delegation.
And in 2018, the president of Nauru, hosting the Pacific Islands Forum, said that one of the forum’s Chinese ambassadors was “incomplete” and “stupid” in demanding a twist during the leaders’ meeting.
The event was organized by Taiwanese Representative Jessica Lee this month to highlight Fijian and Taiwanese cooperation in agriculture, fisheries, education and medicine for more than five decades.
A number of opposition lawmakers and prominent businessmen, including two ministers from the Fijian government, Fisheries Minister Semi Korailavsau and Assistant Youth and Sports Minister Alipet Nagata, and opposition leader Siteni Rabuka, attended the event.
Due to Fiji’s close diplomatic relations with China, it is rare to see government ministers at Taiwanese events, with investments of দেশ 1.06 billion in the country over the past five years.
These figures undoubtedly contribute to Taiwan, although Taipei is primarily regarded as a private partner working with the country’s grassroots and private sector organizations.