China downgrades its diplomatic ties with Lithuania over Taiwan embassy issue
China has downgraded its diplomatic relations with Lithuania after the tiny Baltic nation allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in its capital earlier this week. The Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement that Beijing expressed “strong dissatisfaction” over Lithuania's move allowing the self-governed island to set up a representative office in Vilnius.
Taiwan considers itself as a sovereign but Beijing claims the island under its ‘one China’ policy and has been pushing to implement the Hong Kong system there. Only a handful of countries have direct diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which Beijing calls a violation of the ‘one China’ policy.
On Friday, China warned that Lithuania will “pay for what it did”.
“Lithuania only has itself to blame, it will have to pay for what it did,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a regular news conference.
While most of the countries try to walk a diplomatic tightrope on the Taiwan issue, the United States has become increasingly vocal about the island's greater participation on international forums, especially after the beginning of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
China, meanwhile, is working to introduce legislation that would make people criminally liable for life for supporting the independence of Taiwan. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson Zhu Fenglian said in a statement earlier this month that people named in a list of supporters of Taiwan’s independence will face sanctions.
Opting for draconian measures to muzzle dissenting voices is not new for Beijing. It imposed the controversial national security law on Hong Kong last year aimed at curbing greater autonomy of the global financial hub, triggering criticism from the West.
Taiwan's Premier Su Tseng-chang, parliament Speaker You Si-kun and foreign minister Joseph Wu have been named in the list drawn up by China for being "stubbornly pro-Taiwan independence."
(With inputs from agencies)
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