A senior Lithuanian Foreign Ministry official, who has drawn China’s anger in recent months for strengthening ties with Taiwan and aiding dissidents in Hong Kong, said Beijing’s arrest of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor was a “wake-up call” for democratic countries in their relations with the Chinese Communist Party.
Mantas Adomenas is Deputy Foreign Minister of the small Baltic country and one of the main spokespersons, along with Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, to chart a new course for Lithuania-China relations these days, from the Hong Kong Democracy Humanitarian Visa Offer. activists at the opening of a de facto embassy in Taiwan.
He said incidents such as the imprisonment of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor, as well as the heavy prison terms imposed on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, should spur democracies to work together.
Message Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig as they approach 1,000 days of detention in China
“All of these facts add up. I sincerely hope that more companies will receive this wake-up call. Democracies must unite and work together to preserve and defend the international community [rules-based] legal order, ”Adomenas said in an interview on Tuesday.
The two Michaels were jailed by Beijing at the end of 2018 in apparent retaliation for Ottawa’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou following a US extradition request. Canada has called China’s conduct “hostage diplomacy” and many Western countries, including Lithuania, have denounced the arbitrary detentions.
He said it is important for democracies to defend a rules-based international order and stand up to countries like China, which would argue that “the same human rights standards do not apply to Toronto and the Xinjiang. Or that democracy is not the universal measure of human progress and you can replace it with development. “
In recent months, Lithuania has stood out among the countries of the European Union for the way it is reshaping its relations with China. Like Canada, Britain and the Netherlands, the Lithuanian parliament voted in May to declare China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority as “genocide”. He also called for a United Nations investigation into the internment camps and to ask the European Commission to review relations with Beijing.
He also took several steps to show his support for Taiwan, the autonomous island considered a separatist province by Beijing despite the fact that the Chinese Communist Party, which seized power in 1949, never ruled the territory. The Chinese government has taken steps to further isolate Taiwan from the international community in recent years.
In March, Vilnius announced that it would open a de facto embassy in Taiwan, a similar arrangement to other Western countries where the facility is referred to as a trade office rather than a diplomatic mission. Taiwan later announced that it would reciprocate by establishing its own representative office in Lithuania, the first such new office to be established in Europe in 18 years.
Taiwan opens representative office in Lithuania skeptical in China
Last week, the Chinese government warned Lithuania not to “send the wrong signals to the separatist forces in Taiwan” by opening an office in Taipei. Only 15 countries have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but many more have unofficial embassies which are often referred to as trade offices.
In June, Lithuania joined countries like the United States and Japan to donate COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan, which has struggled to procure sufficient quantities for its population of 24 million. residents and blamed China for blocking a deal to buy Pfizer-BioNTech doses. Canada has offered no vaccine to Taiwan despite donations of masks from Taipei last year.
In the spring, Lithuania abandoned the “17 + 1” cooperative partnership between China and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, a forum that has been criticized as an effort by Beijing to “divide and rule” the region. Mr. Adomenas said the arrangement brought no economic benefit to the country. “These are just promises and perks around the corner, but they never really materialize. “
He said China has so far not retaliated against Lithuania for these actions.
These measures reflect the will of the governing coalition which seized power in Lithuania last fall and declared its intention to support those who “struggle for freedom”, like Taiwan. As former Lithuanian minister Gintaras Steponavicius said last March, as neighbors of Russia, Lithuanians are used to living under the constant threat of a bigger country.
Taiwan, a democracy with a population roughly the size of Australia, was the first Asian jurisdiction to legalize same-sex marriages. It has embarked on major reconciliation efforts with its large indigenous population. He has a transgender minister.
“It is a beacon of freedom, human rights and the rule of law,” said Mr. Adomenas.
The vice minister said Taiwan is “also living proof that democracy and Chinese culture are compatible, which Chinese Communist regime apologists deny.”
He said Lithuania was preparing to offer humanitarian visas to Hong Kong people fleeing Chinese crackdown in former British territory – something the Canadian government refused to do. Lithuania has issued similar visas – more than 2,300 – to Belarusian opposition members, activists, journalists and others, who are threatened with repression by the Lukashenko government in Minsk. Vilnius will also help with getting travel documents to Hong Kong people when needed, he said.
With a report from Reuters