Chinese ambassador threatens to leave Estonia if Taipei representative office is opened

  • 2023-11-07
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - China's ambassador to Estonia, Guo Xiaomei, warned at a meeting with chairman of the Estonia-China parliamentary group Toomas Kivimagi that the opening of a Taipei representative office could lead to her departure from Estonia, the daily Postimees writes.

The meeting in the Riigikogu took place at the initiative of the Chinese ambassador and the ambassador expressed her concern to Kivimagi about the visit of Taiwan's foreign minister to Estonia this Wednesday and the government's decision to allow the opening of a Taipei representative office in Estonia.

"As for the visit of the foreign minister of Taiwan, I see no cause for excessive concern here. As a democratic country, it is not appropriate for us to say who can travel to Estonia and who cannot. But as far as opening a representative office is concerned, there is clearly a very serious problem and challenge here. The ambassador's clear message was that this could mean the departure of the Chinese ambassador from Estonia," Kivimagi said.

According to Kivimagi, he understands the role and meaning of communication with Taiwan, but the risks of such communication can be ten times greater for one side than for the other.

"I do not deny that I shared the Chinese ambassador's concerns. In my opinion, the departure of the ambassador would be a very big problem for Estonia," he said.

He added that he does not consider himself an expert when it comes to China, but his personal assessment as the chairman of the Estonia-China parliamentary group is that there is a certain contradiction in Estonia's activities.

"We have unequivocally declared that Estonia continues to follow the one-China policy and I was given a clear message in a memo before the meeting that Estonia recognizes only the government of the People's Republic of China as the government of China and Estonia has not recognized Taiwan as an independent country. I dare to think that this is still Estonia's foreign policy position. But the recent activities on the issue of Taiwan are, in my opinion, not quite in line with the principle that Estonia has confirmed," Kivimagi said.

He said that he is worried after the meeting with the Chinese ambassador.

"I would say that Estonia's security is at stake. After all, China is a major key player. In the current geopolitical situation, taking all security-related circumstances into account, the activity in the direction of Taiwan is incomprehensible to me," Kivimagi said.

The initiative for the meeting came from the Chinese ambassador, and according to Kivimagi, the ambassador repeatedly emphasized that she was meeting with him as the chairman of the Estonia-China parliamentary group, not as a member of the board of the Riigikogu. Kivimagi added that as far as he knew, the ambassador expressed her desire to meet even before the government decided last Thursday to permit the opening of a Taipei representative office in Estonia.

"It is possible that she may have had this information earlier," Kivimagi added.

At the same time, the meeting initiated by the Chinese ambassador, who presented her credentials to President Alar Karis at the beginning of October, could have been part of a series of first meeting visits of the newly appointed ambassador. For example, the website of the Chinese embassy features information about and a photo of a meeting of the ambassador with Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kolvart on Oct. 27.

Kivimagi also spoke with the Chinese ambassador about the war started by Russia in Ukraine.

"I repeated to the ambassador what I have said many times before, that China could play a more significant role in ending this war. We discussed that even Chinese President Xi Jinping cannot tell Russian President Vladimir Putin to do this or that. But I honestly believe that the Chinese leader is perhaps the only one that Putin listens to at all," Kivimagi added.

He pointed out to the Chinese ambassador that Western countries are trying to pressure Russia to stop aggression by means of economic sanctions, to which the ambassador asked if a weak Russia is better than a strong one.

"I answered that in this context, yes. If Russia does not have the money to buy weapons, ammunition or the technology necessary for the military industry, it will help stop the aggression. I also said that if Russia uses third countries as a back door to bypass sanctions and if China also helps Russia find a market for its gas or oil, then it is working against the sanctions," Kivimagi said.

He also planned to talk to the ambassador about the Balticconnector gas pipeline connecting Estonia and Finland and the communication cables, which may have been damaged by the ship Newnew Polar Bear sailing under the flag of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.

"I wanted to tell her that if it was an accident, it would be fine, but if it wasn't an accident, then this is very bad. Unfortunately, we didn't manage to discuss this issue, because the time for the meeting ran out," Kivimagi said.

Mihkel Tamm, head of public relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the daily that as a rule, the ministry does not comment on meetings held in the Riigikogu. He noted that it would also be difficult for them to comment on the words of the Chinese ambassador to Toomas Kivimagi, the chairman of the Estonia-China parliamentary group, because no ministry representatives were present at the meeting and therefore they do not know in what context and in what exact wording the ambassador said these words. Tamm added that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been in contact with representatives of the Chinese embassy after the government's decision last Thursday to permit the opening of a Taipei representative office in Estonia.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs can repeat what we already said last week, that is, Estonia continues to follow the one-China policy and does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country," Tamm said.

The government at a Cabinet meeting on Thursday decided that a representative office of Taipei can be opened in Estonia, which does not develop political relations with Taiwan, but is intended to promote mutual economic, educational and cultural communication. It is important to note that this is not a representation of Taiwan, but of its capital, Taipei, which indicates that it is not a diplomatic representation. The government's decision gives Taiwan the opportunity to open such a representative office if there is interest.

Such representative offices of Taipei have been opened in nearly 20 European countries and so far the ambassadors of China have not left these countries after such a step.