Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye visited the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra on Tuesday to explain China’s role in a diplomatic spat over Taiwan.
The meeting has been revealed after Foreign Minister Julie Bishop hit out at a Chinese delegation for disrupting an international forum in Perth to protest the presence of a Taiwanese delegation.
The minister confirmed the Chinese delegation to the Kimberley Process meeting — which aims to get government, the global diamond industry and civil society groups together to discuss conflict diamonds — disrupted proceedings.
“The Australian government invited a Chinese-Taipei rough trading house to the Kimberly Process meeting as a guest of the government,” Ms Bishop said.
“It appears that the delegation from China took exception to the presence of the delegation from the Chinese-Taipei trading house and interrupted proceedings.”
China’s foreign ministry said it raised concerns about the Taiwan delegation’s role in the Kimberley Process with Australia before the meeting.
“China’s reasonable concerns were not respected,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, Reuters reported.
The Ambassador is understood to have met with DFAT deputy secretary Gary Quinlan at DFAT’s ACT offices.
Chinese diplomats believe the characterisation of them as behaving rudely in the meeting is wrong and that the right protocol recognising the “one China” principle was not in place.
“There are also clear rules and procedures regarding the organisation of the Intersessional Meeting of the Kimberley Process,” the Chinese Delegation to the Kimberley Process said in a statement.
The delegation added: “the head of the Chinese delegation expressed high respect for the traditional owners of the land and the welcome to country”.
Ms Bishop said it was “regrettable” that the meeting had been interrupted.
“It was regrettable. There is a time and a place for making political statements. I didn’t believe this was the time or place,” she said.
A source at the meeting said the disruption occurred on Monday when Ms Bishop was on stage and an indigenous welcome to country ceremony was about to start.
The Chinese official delegation started yelling “point of order” and would not allow for the participants to start the meeting.
The Australian chair then withdrew the Taiwanese delegations invitation after further disruptions and objections which were supported by some African delegates. The event has resumed and the Chinese delegation said it is going “smoothly”.
The source said the participation of the Taiwan-based “Rough Diamond Trading Entity of Chinese Taipei” has long been a source of tension for China in the Kimberley Process meetings, and the issue has come up at previous meetings.
China may have been specifically upset as the Taiwan group was invited as a guest of the Chair. It was been granted observer status in the past.
Chinese-Taiwan relations have been increasingly tense since the election of new President Tsai Ing-wen last year, who is seen as far more independent.
Beijing claims Taiwan as part of China and has been attempting to force the Taiwanese government to adhere to the so-called “one-China” principle.
The Australia government follows the “one-China” principle and does not officially recognise Taiwan, a stance taken to maintain diplomatic relations with China.
Australian National University academic Danielle Cave said the events amounted to “aggressive diplomatic bullying” by the Chinese side.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said the disruption was “inappropriate” and showed a disregard for the host country.
By PRIMROSE RIORDAN