Lithuania withdrew its diplomats from China because of the deepening disputes over Taiwan relations
Lithuania has withdrawn its remaining diplomats from China, worrying about their safety, and as Beijing retaliates against the Baltic States’ efforts to strengthen relations with Taiwan, bilateral tensions have escalated sharply.
Audra Ciapiene, Lithuania’s charge d’affaires in China, the country’s Top diplomat After recalling the ambassador in Beijing in September, he returned to Vilnius on Wednesday for consultations. The Vilnius Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Financial Times that the embassy will temporarily operate remotely.
According to three people familiar with the matter, the Chinese government has asked the remaining Lithuanian diplomats in Beijing to hand in their diplomatic documents to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to lower their diplomatic status. This move has raised concerns in Vilnius that these officials may lose diplomatic immunity, and if they stay in China, their safety will be threatened.
This consequence may put the European Union into a dilemma as to how to support one of its member states in Beijing’s response without causing consequences for other member states. This may also trigger international discussions on how democracies respond to Chinese coercion.
“China is sending a message to other European countries. If you follow Lithuania, the punishment will be severe, so people want to be cautious,” said a Western diplomat in Beijing. “But at the same time, we must clearly point out that an action against a member state is an action against the EU.”
Before the diplomats left, China took a series of threats and retaliatory measures in response to Lithuania’s decision in July to allow Taiwan to open a representative office in Vilnius in its own name.
August, Beijing Recall its ambassador To Vilnius. It also asked Lithuania to “immediately correct the wrong decision, take concrete measures to eliminate the damage, and not continue on the wrong path.”
Following the establishment of a Taiwan representative office in Vilnius last month, Beijing Implement economic sanctions In Lithuania. This month, it blocked all Lithuanian exports to China by removing Lithuania from the National List of the General Administration of Customs, effectively preventing the company from submitting customs declarations.
Lithuania was restored to the list of countries a few days later, but the country and EU officials stated that the country’s exports to China were still blocked because any attempts to handle the goods failed, and customs officials refused to help resolve the problem.
In addition, the EU delegation in Beijing stated that Chinese companies have cancelled orders for Lithuanian products and Lithuanian suppliers.
The European Commission said it is seeking explanations from Beijing that these actions may violate World Trade Organization rules.EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis met Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis this week.
EU diplomats said that Lithuania is expected to raise this issue at the EU leaders summit on Thursday, but the discussion may be brief.
The quarrel with Lithuania comes from the European Union Reconsider its relationship With China, part of the reason is the group’s attempts to respond to Washington’s policies towards Beijing.
The planned investment agreement between the EU and Beijing Cheated This year, China blacklisted EU legislators and officials in response to EU sanctions on human rights violations.
Last week, Brussels proposed a “Anti-coercion instrument“This will enable it to retaliate against economic penalties. Other Central and Eastern European countries have been attracted to Beijing through a special 17+1 grouping. Indifferent to China, And public opinion in many EU member states has turned against the country.
A person familiar with the matter said that a bus carrying several Lithuanian diplomats left Beijing for the airport on Wednesday morning. Diplomats said Wednesday morning that they were flying on a plane to Paris.
The call to the Lithuanian Embassy in Beijing on Wednesday was unanswered.
The EU delegation in Beijing said it could not comment. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When asked about this issue, a senior US official stated that Washington will continue to “respect and support Lithuania’s sovereign decision to determine the outline of its one-China policy without external coercion.”
The official added: “Lithuania is an important NATO ally and partner of the United States. We reiterate our support for Lithuania.” “We will continue to expand and deepen our already solid bilateral relationship with Lithuania.”