China sanctions Lithuanian minister over Taiwan visit

Updated on Aug 13, 2022 04:01 PM IST

The Chinese foreign ministry also suspended cooperation with Lithuania in the transport sector in retaliation

A newspaper announcing that the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) will conduct military exercises and training activities including live-fire drills in response to US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, at a newsstand in Beijing, China. (REUTERS/ FILE)
A newspaper announcing that the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) will conduct military exercises and training activities including live-fire drills in response to US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, at a newsstand in Beijing, China. (REUTERS/ FILE)

China on Friday sanctioned Lithuanian deputy minister for transport and communication Agne Vaiciukeviciute over a her visit to Taiwan, the latest development in the ongoing diplomatic spat between Beijing and the Baltic state over its support for Taipei.

Vaiciukeviciute arrived in Taiwan with a delegation on August 7 for a five-day visit amid the intensive military drill launched by China in protest against US House Representative Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-government island, which Beijing claims as its own territory.

“The visit tramples on the one-China principle, seriously interferes in China’s internal affairs, and undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday night.

The Chinese foreign ministry also suspended cooperation with Lithuania in the transport sector in retaliation.

“In response to the egregious and provocative act of Vaiciukevičiūtė, China decides to adopt sanctions on Vaiciukevičiūtė, to suspend all forms of exchange with the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Lithuania, and to suspend exchange and cooperation with Lithuania in the field of international road transport,” the ministry said in the statement.

The Lithuanian minister’s visit to Taiwan was rare and high profile.

“Vaiciukeviciute led a delegation of 11 government officials and electric bus business representatives, to Taiwan in order to deepen bilateral exchanges related to smart and green transportation, 5G communications, and electric buses,” the Taiwan News, an online newspaper, reported adding that the group met with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, top government officials, and business representatives.

The Chinese foreign ministry had last week quoted the “communique on the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Lithuania” as saying the Baltic country recognises the mainland government as the “sole legal government of China and Taiwan as an inalienable part of the Chinese territory”, adding that, under the arrangement, Lithuania is obliged “not to establish official relations or engage in official contacts with Taiwan”.

Ties between China and Lithuania nosedived last year after the latter, a nation of around 2.8 million people, allowed Taiwan to set up a Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania – a de facto embassy -- in capital Vilnius.

China retaliated by downgrading its diplomatic ties with Lithuania.

It was the first representative office from the island to be allowed to use Taiwan - and not Taipei - in the European Union (EU) to identify itself, a move that made China furious.

In February, China stopped buying beef, dairy products and beer from Lithuania with China’s general administration of customs citing a “lack of documentation”, per reports from Lithuania, as the reason behind the suspension.

In August, 2021, China demanded that Lithuania recall its Beijing envoy and announced it was withdrawing its own ambassador from the Baltic country over the same row.

On the sanctioning of the Lithuanian minister, analysts told the state-run tabloid, Global Times, that by taking the decision, “China has once again showed the world that it won’t step back an inch on provocations that trample on the one-China principle by sanctioning the Lithuanian official, and Lithuania may face more consequences, including the severing of diplomatic ties, if it continued on the wrong path.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sutirtho Patranobis has been in Beijing since 2012, as Hindustan Times’ China correspondent. He was previously posted in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he covered the final phase of the civil war and its aftermath. Patranobis covered several beats including health and national politics in Delhi before being posted abroad.

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