Taiwan Diplomat Hurt in Scuffle With China Officials in Fiji

Chinese diplomats injured a Taiwanese counterpart during a scuffle in the South Pacific earlier this month, a senior Taiwanese official said, highlighting tensions over Beijing’s “wolf warrior” diplomacy.

Two uninvited diplomats from the Chinese embassy in Fiji were asked to leave an event celebrating Taiwan’s national day in Suva on Oct. 8 after they were seen photographing other guests, Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Harry Tseng told lawmakers in Taipei on Monday.

When confronted by Taiwanese officials, the Chinese diplomats initiated a physical confrontation, leaving one staff member from the Taiwanese representative office in Fiji needing hospital treatment for a head injury, Tseng said.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry condemned what it called “provocative wolf warrior diplomacy,” a reference to Chinese diplomats who have taken an increasingly assertive stance on social media in advocating for Beijing’s policies. A ministry spokesperson told Bloomberg News by text the injury was a “mild concussion.”

“We strongly condemn the violence against our diplomat in Fiji by China’s uncivilized ‘wolf warriors,’” Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said on Twitter. “Taiwan is a force for good in the world & we won’t be intimidated.

Diplomatic Fight

China Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Monday that the allegations had “no facts” and that Taiwan was “playing victim here.”

“Any attempt to sow discord between China and Pacific Island countries using the Taiwan issue will not succeed,” he told a daily briefing in Beijing.

The Chinese embassy in Fiji said in an earlier statement that a Chinese diplomat had been injured when staffers from the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji “acted provocatively,” and asked local police to investigate.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry objected to China’s “untrue statement” about the incident, saying it was an attempt to “muddy the issue.”

“We can’t let China bully its way into doing whatever it wants,” Taiwanese lawmaker Wang Ting-yu tweeted. “Our diplomats in Fiji have my full support.”

Diplomatic Battleground

The incident in Fiji is particularly sensitive as the Pacific is one of the major battlegrounds for diplomatic influence between Beijing and Taipei. After the Solomon Islands and Kiribati switched ties to China in quick succession in 2019, the U.S. stepped in to shore up support for Taiwan in the region, urging Taipei’s last four remaining allies not to follow suit.

Governments around the world have expressed concern about China’s more strident approach to diplomacy. China’s Communist Party -- which claims democratically-run Taiwan as part of its territory despite never having ruled it -- has steadily increased its diplomatic and military pressure on Taipei.

Aircraft from China’s People’s Liberation Army repeatedly encroached into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone in recent months, twice crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait -- which for decades stood as a tacit border between the two sides. China has also steadily whittled away formal recognition of Taiwan in the international arena, leaving Taipei with just 15 official allies.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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