China recalls envoy from Lithuania over allowing Taiwan to open office

 China has recalled its Ambassador from Lithuania for its decision to allow Taiwan to open a representative office under its name, a move that could cast a shadow on Beijing’s ties with the European Union.

China views Taiwan, an island which has been independent since 1950, as a rebel region that must be reunited with the mainland - by force if necessary.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that “the decision (to allow Taiwan to open a representative office under its name) brazenly violates the spirit of the communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Lithuania and severely undermines China's sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

“The Chinese Government expresses its categorical opposition to this move. China has decided to recall its Ambassador to Lithuania and demanded the Lithuanian Government recall its Ambassador to China,” it said.

China has also told the “Lithuanian side that there is only one China in the world and the People's Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China”.

Lithuania also plans to open its representative trade office in Taiwan.

China claims that Taiwan is an integral part of it under the ‘One China’ policy and opposes any country granting diplomatic recognition to Taipei. It also resents any support to Taiwan.

Lithuania, one of the Baltic countries in the EU with a population of 2.794 million, has been moving closer to Taiwan in the past couple of years, including lending support to the island’s bid to be an observer at the World Health Organisation (WHO), much to the chagrin of Beijing.

In May, it surprised Beijing with its decision to leave the China-led “17+1” group to engage Central and Eastern European countries through infrastructure and other projects.

Lithuania’s Ambassador Diana Mickeviciene had said that the decision to leave the 17+1 group was taken as it has not brought any trade benefits for her country.

“Our expectation (for joining 17+1) was to improve access to the Chinese market, and unfortunately this hasn’t happened,” Mickeviciene was quoted as saying by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.

“We have had slight growth in exports to China, but imports from China are always growing much faster, so our trade balance remains negative,” she said.

China’s clash with Lithuania comes at a sensitive time when its lucrative ties with the 27-member EU are under stress over Brussel’s allegations of human rights violations by Beijing in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

Earlier, the EU backed off from approving the China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investments (CAI) as it supported US President Joe Biden’s call for joint opposition to Beijing’s policies on Xinjiang, Hong Kong and a probe into the origins of coronavirus, including its likely leak from a bio-lab in Wuhan.

Belgium, Lithuania and Poland reportedly opposed the China-EU trade agreement.

Also, the 16-year long reign of German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- regarded as a staunch supporter of the EU’s close trade ties with China -- is coming to an end as she is due to retire from the leadership of the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) later this year.

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