FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2018, file photo, a Taiwanese military officer salutes to Taiwan's flag onboard Navy's 124th fleet Lafayette frigate during military exercises off Kaohsiung, southern of Taiwan. China and Taiwan traded accusations Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, over a violent altercation that broke out between Chinese diplomats and Taiwan government employees at a recent Taiwan National Day reception in Fiji. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying, File)

Taiwanese, Chinese Staffers Injured After Clash In Fiji

October 19, 2020 - 3:11 am

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — China and Taiwan traded accusations Monday over a violent altercation that broke out between Chinese diplomats and Taiwan government employees at a recent Taiwan National Day reception in Fiji.

Both China and Taiwan confirmed the Oct. 8 incident but each disputed the other’s claim of what precipitated the fight, which resulted in one Taiwanese staffer being sent to a hospital with a head injury. One of the Chinese diplomats also was injured.

The confrontation, an extreme example of the tensions between the rival governments, erupted when Taiwanese at the gathering tried to stop Chinese diplomats from taking photos of guests at the reception marking Taiwan’s national day, a Taiwan foreign ministry spokeswoman, Joanne Ou, said in a written statement.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemns the Chinese embassy in Fiji’s staff‘s actions which severely violates rule of law and norms of civilized behavior,” said Ou. She said Taiwan had made a formal protest to the Fiji government.

China's embassy in Fiji said in a statement released Monday that Taiwan's account was “inconsistent with the facts." It said one of its staff also was injured.

“On that very evening, the staff of the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji acted provocatively against the Chinese Embassy staff who were carrying out their official duties in the public area outside the function venue, causing injuries and damage to one Chinese diplomat,” the statement said.

The Chinese side also criticized the National Day celebration, saying it “violates the one-China principle and the relevant rules and regulations of the Fijian government, with an attempt to create ‘two Chinas’ or ‘one China, one Taiwan’ internationally,” it added. The one-China principle refers to the idea that Taiwan, a self-ruled island democracy, is a part of China.

On Monday afternoon, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian, criticized the flags and cake that the Taiwanese side displayed.

“Taipei's Trade office in Fiji on October 8 flagrantly held a ‘so-called’ national celebration event. The fake flag was publicly displayed on the scene, and the cake was also marked with a fake flag pattern,” he said at a routine press briefing. Those actions “severely violate the one-China principle.”

Taiwan is recognized as an independent government by only 15 nations, most of them small and poor. But its democratically elected government has extensive commercial and informal ties with many nations.

Fiji switched its diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1975. The National Day event in Suva, the Fiji capital, was hosted by the Taipei Trade Office.

Chinese diplomats have become increasingly assertive abroad as Beijing intensifies its longstanding pressure on other governments to isolate Taiwan, which split with the mainland in 1949 following a civil war.

This year, the Chinese Embassy in Thailand accused critics of “betraying history” in a social media battle over the origin of the coronavirus outbreak and the status of Hong Kong and Taiwan.

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Associated Press news assistant Liu Zheng contributed to this report.

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