Taiwan Diplomat in Fiji Injured in Altercation With Chinese Officials

October 19, 2020 Updated: October 19, 2020

TAIPEI, Taiwan—A Taiwanese diplomatic official in Fiji suffered a head injury after he was assaulted by Chinese officials who tried to crash a reception held by Taiwan’s diplomatic mission to the South Pacific nation.

Meanwhile, the Chinese side claimed that the incident was provoked by Taiwanese officials.

Spokeswoman for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Joanne Ou told local media on Oct. 19 that two officials at the Chinese Embassy in Fiji tried to enter the reception event. When a Taiwanese official blocked them from entering, an altercation broke out. The Taiwanese official suffered injuries and was treated at a hospital.

According to Ou, the two Chinese officials wanted to collect information on who was attending by taking photos of guests.

Such violence constituted “serious violations of rule of law and civilized behaviors,” Ou said.

Prior to the altercation, the Chinese officials were making a scene outside the reception, and they nearly forced their way into the venue, according to Taiwan’s deputy foreign minister Harry Ho-jen Tseng, while speaking at Taiwan’s parliament on Monday.

Incident

The Taipei Trade Office in Fiji, the formal name of Taiwan’s representative office in Fiji, held the reception at the Grand Pacific Hotel to celebrate Taiwan’s 109th National Day. According to the Trade Office’s website, more than 100 distinguished guests, including members of Fiji’s parliament, took part.

Taiwan celebrates its National Day every year on Oct. 10, which marks the start of the Wuchang Uprising in 1911 that overthrew the Qing Dynasty emperor and established the Republic of China (ROC)—which is Taiwan’s official name.

Beijing sees Taiwan as a part of its territory despite the fact that the island state is a de-facto independent country with its own democratically-elected officials. It routinely threatens countries and international firms that recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty.

Leading up to National Day, the Chinese regime intimidated the self-ruled island with military exercises and aggressive rhetoric.

Fiji police eventually arrived at the reception and took away the two Chinese officials. According to Ou, the two lied to the police and said they were attacked by Taiwanese officials.

Ou added that the Taipei Trade Office has collected evidence and passed them on to Fiji’s foreign ministry and police. She added that Taiwan has lodged a complaint against the Chinese embassy in Fiji.

The incident was first reported by Grubsheet Feejee, a blog run by Fiji-born journalist Graham Davis, citing multiple unnamed sources in Suva, the capital of Fiji. Prior to the altercation, two Chinese officials “gatecrashed the function and began taking photographs of the proceedings and those attending the function,” the blog reported.

Taiwan deputy foreign minister Tseng said that the Fijian government was “under a lot of political pressure” and wanted to “downplay” the incident.

Ou said that Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has asked the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji to work closely with local police for hosting events in the future, given China’s confrontational approach to diplomacy.

Background

Fiji is currently not one of Taiwan’s formal diplomatic allies. But Taiwan has established a representative office in Fiji since 1971.

In July 2019, Taiwan’s government-run Central News Agency (CNA) reported that Taiwan changed the name of its diplomatic mission from the “Trade Mission of the Republic of China to the Republic of Fiji” to the “Taipei Trade Office in Fiji” because Beijing put pressure on the Fijian government.

Taiwan was forced to drop either “Taiwan” or “ROC” from the name of its representative offices and use Taipei instead in multiple countries in recent years, including Ecuador, Dubai, Bahrain, Nigeria, and Jordan. None of these countries are Taiwan’s formal allies.

Chinese Response

The Chinese Embassy in Fiji issued a statement Monday afternoon, accusing staff of the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji of acting “provocatively” and “causing injury” to one of its diplomats. It also stated Taiwan’s National Day celebration in Fiji “violates the one-China principle,” by which Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan.

At a Monday press briefing, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian claimed Taiwan has no diplomats in Fiji, since the island is claimed by the Chinese regime.

He also said the Taipei Trade Office “acted provocatively” by holding such an event, where a Taiwan flag and a cake with the symbol emblazoned on it were displayed.

The Chinese embassy in Fiji has also filed a complaint about the incident, claiming that its staff were assaulted by an employee of the Taipei Trade Office. Local police said they would investigate the Chinese side’s complaint, according to Fiji’s online news site Fiji Village.

Taiwan Reactions

The incident has caused an uproar in Taiwan. Several local lawmakers have publicly voiced their concerns, including Wang Ting-yu, who took to Twitter to say he was “appalled & outraged” by the violent attack.

“We can’t let China bully its way into doing whatever it wants. Our diplomats in Fiji have my full support,” Wang wrote.

A Taiwanese businessman in Fiji surnamed Lu told Taiwanese lawmaker Wen Yu-hsia via video chat on Monday that she and her younger brother were present at the reception on Oct. 8, according to local daily Liberty Times.

Lu said there were two sets of doors to enter the venue, but the Chinese officials were stopped at the first door and there were some shoving.

According to Lu, Chinese officials frequently turn up at local events held by the Taiwanese government in order to identify those who are friendly toward Taiwan.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer