China has recalled its ambassador to Lithuania in protest over Lithuania’s recent decision that it will allow the Taiwan government to set up “representative offices” in the name of “Taiwan.”
It would be the self-ruled island’s first such de facto embassy in Europe to bear the name “Taiwan”, which Beijing sees as a violation of its one-China policy. Normally only “Taipei” is used.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Chinese government expressed its categorical opposition to this move and said Beijing had decided to recall its envoy to Vilnius, Shen Zhifei, and demanded the Lithuanian government in turn recall its ambassador in Beijing, Diana Mickeviciene. Lithuania also plans to open a representative office in Taiwan by the end of the year. Many countries have de facto embassies in Taipei which are often termed ‘trade offices’, including the European Union, of which Lithuania is a member state.
Chinese Foreign Ministry in a statement said, “The decision brazenly violates the spirit of the communique on the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Lithuania and severely undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” China considers democratically ruled Taiwan to be its most sensitive territorial issue and is regularly angered by any moves which suggest the island is a separate country. Taiwan which Beijing claims as its own, said in July that it would open a diplomatic mission in Lithuania.
“We urge the Lithuanian side to immediately rectify its wrong decision, take concrete measures to undo the damage, and not to move further down the wrong path,” the statement said. “We also warn the Taiwan authorities that ‘Taiwan independence’ is a dead end and any attempt at separatist activities in the international arena is doomed to fail.”
Lithuania’s move is the latest indication of an increasingly shaky relationship between China and the European Union. In May this year, Lithuania had pulled itself out of China’s “17+1” group aimed at engaging Central and Eastern European countries, most of which are from the ex-Soviet bloc. Lithuania also urged other EU countries to leave this divisive format which does not include all the 27 member states of EU.
Around same time, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to freeze the legislative process for ratifying the EU’s investment pact with China, unless Beijing lifts sanctions against EU lawmakers that were imposed after the 27 EU countries slapped Xinjiang officials with sanctions over mass internment of the Uyghur minorities.
China has ramped up pressure on countries not to engage with Taiwan. In February, the South American country of Guyana revoked its decision to allow Taiwan to open a representative office there only a day after Taipei had announced it. Taiwan blamed China’s pressure tactics for the decision.