VILNIUS – The Chinese Embassy in Lithuania said on Monday it disagreed with the Lithuanian government's accusations over the incident last month when a group of supporters of the Chinese government were involved in a conflict with Lithuanian activists who were voicing support to Hong Kong.
The Chinese Embassy says Beijing supporters gathered in the Cathedral Square in central Vilnius on Aug 23 spontaneously, and the embassy only provides consular assistance to its citizens.
The Chinese Embassy called Hong Kong protesters rioters and rejected the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry's reproach over embassy staff violating the public order.
"The Chinese citizens in Lithuania abide by the laws of Lithuania and have no intention to disturb the activities commemorating “the Baltic Way”, held at Vilnius Cathedral Square on August 23," the embassy stated in a comment sent to BNS Lithuania.
"It is a spontaneous action of the Chinese citizens expressing their dissatisfaction with a handful of anti-China activists’ support to the rioters in Hong Kong, China. The rights of expression of the Chinese citizens in Lithuania should be respected and protected," it reads. "It is the Embassy’s obligation to render consular protections to the Chinese citizens overseas, and the Embassy did nothing that violated the public order."
The embassy also underlined it "strongly hopes that such events tarnishing the Chinese government will not happen again in the future."
Earlier in the day, Lithuania's Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Chinese Ambassador Zhifei Shen and handed in a diplomatic note over an incident during a rally in central Vilnius in August, held in support of Hong Kong, stating that embassy staff "took part in the organization of Chinese citizens' unlawful actions during this incident."
Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told BNS Lithuania the Chinese diplomats crossed the line as diplomats can observe demonstration but should refrain from active actions.
"Based on the information we have, the behavior of some diplomats crossed that line diplomats should have. We, therefore, expressed our regret and demand for similar actions not to be repeated in the future," the minister told BNS Lithuania.
"We believe it was not in line with the diplomatic status. The participation in the actions was more active than it should have been. Lithuania is a free country and one can express thoughts and opinions here but that should be done in accordance with the public order. It applies, first of all, to citizens, but the diplomatic corps must be neutral. They can observe but they should not take a more active part in demonstrations or pickets," Linkevicius said.
The minister expressed hope the incident would not affect the bilateral relations between Lithuania and China. "I hope it won’t. In general, our relations have been developing pragmatically, respecting each other's interests, and I hope it will remain so," the minister said.
The incident in the Cathedral Square in central Vilnius took place on August 23 at the end of a rally when several hundred people gathered to voice support to Hong Kong activists who formed a human chain on that day to mark the 30th anniversary of the Baltic Way.
During the rally, Beijing supporters with Chinese flags initially observed everything near the square but once the demonstration participants started leaving, they mingled among the protest's initiators, with disputes leading to a brawl among Hong Kong and China supporters.
Last week, Lithuania's police issued fines of 15 euros for the violation of the public order to two Chinese citizens.