The Foreign Minister has condemned China’s objection to Taiwanese delegates being present at an international conference held in Western Australia this week.
The delegates were forced to leave when strong objections from Chinese delegates caused proceedings to come to a halt.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was in Perth on Monday to open the Kimberley Process — an intergovernmental anti-conflict diamond meeting, being held at Crown Perth.
“In accordance with past precedent, the Australian Government invited a Chinese Taipei rough diamond trading house to the Kimberley Process meeting as a guest of the Government,” Ms Bishop said.
“It appears that the delegation from China took exception to the presence of the delegation from the Chinese Taipei trading house and interrupted proceedings.
“It was regrettable and there is a time and a place for making political statements — I didn’t believe this was the time or the place.”
The Kimberley Process was set up under a United Nations resolution in an endeavour to end the global trade in conflict, or ‘blood’, diamonds, and was being chaired by Australia for the first time.
It is understood the Chinese delegates began yelling and waving their placards during the Indigenous welcome to country, and called for a point of order, demanding to know if everyone in the room had been formally invited.
An Australian representative at the conference told the ABC he had heard the Chinese were sending WhatsApp messages to their allies in the room, asking for support.
The ABC was told the proceedings were “disgusting” and “inappropriate” and went on until midday, with delegates from Africa also joining China’s objections.
The commotion did not stop until the Taiwanese delegates were asked to leave.
Taiwanese used to this type of behaviour
J Michael Cole, a Taipei-based senior fellow with the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute, said Taiwan had joined the Kimberley Process as an observer in 2007.
Mr Cole said while it was frustrating to hear of what had happened, it was not new.
“Highly unfair not to be able to participate — even if only as an observer — in international events which they can learn from and where they can play a role,” Mr Cole said.
“But what happened on Monday is part of an intensifying trend whereby the Chinese are trying to further limit Taiwan’s international face and this is just one of the latest in a series of such incidents.”
He said Chinese pressure had made it difficult for Taiwan to attend Interpol meetings, last year’s International Civilian Aviation meeting, and, most worrying to him, put a question mark around Taiwan’s attendance at this year’s World Health Assembly in Geneva.
Mr Cole said while he understood why Australia decided to eject Taiwan, it was a shame that the Australian Government did not take a stand.
“Australia is quite exposed economically to China, and reliant on the Chinese economy for their own economical wellbeing, as are many other countries,” he said.
“So from a purely national interest standpoint I can empathise with a country’s decision to put their interests first, which oftentimes leads to getting rid of Taiwan because it is an irritant in their relationship with China.
“This is a trend that we’ve seen accelerating worldwide but it could, and probably should, be reversed.”
The former deputy news editor at the Taipei Times said it was important to remember that China could not exist alone.
“I also want to emphasise that China needs those countries as much as those countries need China,” he said.
“If Australia had decided not to give into Chinese pressure on Monday I would be mightily surprised if China stopped buying Australia’s natural resources as a result because China desperately needs them for its economical development.”
By Briana Shepherd