Foreign Diplomats Helped Lithuania Evacuate Staff From China
(Bloomberg) -- Diplomats from European Union member states and other countries helped their Lithuanian colleagues evacuate their embassy and leave China last week in an unexpected departure after Beijing demanded the return of their passes.
Lithuania pulled out its remaining four diplomats, one technical embassy employee, their families and a cat on short notice on Dec. 15, a day after the deadline given by the Chinese Foreign Ministry demanding the return of the envoys’ diplomatic identification cards, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said.
The embassy staff was notified a week earlier about the looming expiration of their IDs along with a demand from China that the embassy’s name be changed to the Office of the Charge d‘Affaires, an effective downgrade of its diplomatic status.
Uncertain over how the new status may impact the staff, Lithuania decided to pull all of its personnel from China, leaving the embassy empty and working remotely.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday at a regular press briefing in Beijing that Lithuania had “stood on the opposite side of what is right and just.” “If certain people or forces in Lithuania insist on colluding with Taiwan independence separatist forces and going further down the dark path, they will eventually end up in the trashcan of history,” he added.
China gave assurances last week that the diplomats’ safety was not in question and the Lithuanians would have had new cards issued.
Tensions between China and Lithuania have soured since Taiwan opened a representative office in Vilnius last month, a move Beijing deems a violation of its one-China principle.
China earlier downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania, recalled its ambassador and allegedly stopped clearing Lithuanian exports, prompting the EU to raise the dispute with the World Trade Organization. The Chinese state-backed media outlet Global Times has denied there are any trade disruptions.
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