China, Taiwan spar over attendance at Aussie conference

File photo of a diamond. Australia hosted the international meeting on conflict diamonds (the Kimberley Process).
File photo of a diamond. Australia hosted the international meeting on conflict diamonds (the Kimberley Process). PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING/TAIPEI • China yesterday said it was reasonable to have a delegation from self-ruled Taiwan removed from a conference in Australia about conflict diamonds, as Taipei accused Beijing of playing politics for its own ends.

China says Taiwan is part of "one China", ruled by Beijing. It regards the island as a renegade province, ineligible for state to state relations and to be brought under Chinese control, by force if needed, especially if Taiwan moves towards formal independence.

Taiwan says China has stepped up efforts to block its international space and attendance at multilateral forums following the election last year of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party.

The Sydney Morning Herald said the Chinese government delegation shouted during the welcome ceremony and forced the suspension of proceedings at the Kimberley Process meeting in Perth on Monday, and Taiwan's delegation was later removed.

The Kimberley Process started when southern African diamond- producing states met in Kimberley, South Africa, in 2000 to discuss ways to stop the trade in conflict diamonds. Taiwan was granted observer status in 2007.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the organisers had improperly invited Taiwan to the meeting, which was in violation of the rules and something China had repeatedly complained about ahead of the event.

REGRETTABLE BEHAVIOUR

Continual disruption... was regrettable and the Australian government's concerns with respect to the behaviour of Chinese delegates have been raised with the Chinese ambassador.

A SPOKESMAN FOR AUSTRALIA'S DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE, on the Chinese delegation disrupting the conference on Monday.

"But China's reasonable concerns were not respected," Mr Geng said, adding that many others at the meeting supported China's position but there was no reaction from the organisers.

China's complaints about the issue during the meeting were in line with the rules and were "reasonable and fair" and supported by many other attendees, he said.

Taiwan denounced the Chinese interference.

"This kind of inappropriateness is a disregard for the host country and all the participants, seriously affecting cooperation on professional issues and we express regret and condemnation," Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday.

"China has for a long time used political force to limit our international participation or obstruct our attendance at various professional (meetings), particularly in recent times. The pressure is stronger than in the past."

The ministry thanked Australia for its goodwill in inviting Taiwan.

Australia, like most countries, does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, though the two have good economic and business ties.

The conference chairman withdrew the Taiwan invitation "following objections from China and several other delegations", said a spokesman for Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The spokesman added: "Continual disruption... was regrettable and the Australian government's concerns with respect to the behaviour of Chinese delegates have been raised with the Chinese ambassador."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2017, with the headline 'China, Taiwan spar over attendance at Aussie conference'. Print Edition | Subscribe