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2020.04.30 14:03

Calls to support Taiwan ‘open provocation’, says China’s ambassador to Lithuania

BNS, LRT.lt 2020.04.30 14:03

The open letter to support Taiwan’s independence is “an open provocation to the principle of one China,” the Chinese ambassador to Lithuania said in an interview with Delfi.lt. 

Around 200 Lithuanian politicians and public figures sent an open letter to President Gitanas Nausėda earlier in April, asking him to support Taiwan in its dispute with the WHO and advocate for the country's international recognition.

Nausėda responded by saying Lithuania was willing to cooperate with Taiwan on a technical and practical level, but said membership at the World Health Organization (WHO) was only open to UN member states, which Taiwan is not.

Read more: Lithuanian president doesn’t back Taiwan’s WHO membership – aide

"I highly appreciate the present position of Lithuania that is very precautious, skillful in handling this and putting cooperation with Taiwan people at the technical, expert level, and practical cooperation, economic, cultural and charity, many other areas,” Ambassador Shen Zhifei said in the interview published on Wednesday.

“But, officially, the Chinese government is the only government representing the whole of China, including Taiwan people,” he said.

“As some members of the [Lithuanian parliament] Seimas [expressed support], this is a very official action and the Chinese government is firmly opposed,” said Zhifei.

“It is an open provocation to the principle of one China," he added.

China has been blocking Taiwan's membership in the WHO, while Beijing does not renounce its threats to reestablish control over the island by force, calling any support to Taiwan interference with its internal affairs.

Lithuania officially supports the so-called One China policy.

Virus origins, actions of diaspora

In the interview, Ambassador Zhifei said the novel coronavirus did not originate in the country’s Wuhan province, and has also defended the actions of the “Chinese community” during a counter protest against a pro-Hong Kong rally in Vilnius last year.

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry handed Beijing a note of protest over the involvement of Chinese embassy staff in the counter-demonstration in August 2019.

Read more: Lithuania hands note to China over incident during Hong Kong support rally in Vilnius

Ambassador Zhifei said the protest was a “spontaneous action of the [Chinese] diaspora,” but added that the diplomats were there to provide “consular protection”.

He also said that if “somebody in Beijing openly supported, let’s say for Lithuania to [return to the] Soviet Union, [...] I’m sure your diplomats in Beijing will naturally intervene and will stop this kind of event against your government”.

The ambassador also said there was no evidence as to where the coronavirus originated. “Today nobody can give the final word whether the first novel coronavirus cases were in China or not. The scientific studies continue,” said Zhifei.

Read more: China pressuring Lithuania. Vilnius needs to respond – opinion