Lithuania hypes ‘fake news’ of diplomats’ safety issue in China, a move of playing ‘victim’
Published: Dec 16, 2021 07:55 PM
View of Vilnius, capital of Lithuania Photo: VCG

View of Vilnius, capital of Lithuania Photo: VCG

Lithuanian diplomats' claim of "safety concerns" upon their departure from Beijing counts for nothing but a pathetic and groundless accusation with the goal of building a victim's image, analysts said on Thursday, after the Chinese Foreign Ministry urged Lithuania to stop hyping such 'fake news.'

Such a clumsy, low act by the Lithuanian diplomats shows the guilty conscience of policymakers in Vilnius amid worsening ties with China over the Baltic country's "suicidal mistake" of challenging China's bottom line on the Taiwan question, and it ripped off the last decency of itself, they continued.

The Financial Times reported on Wednesday that Lithuania has pulled all its remaining diplomats out of China. Among the group, Audra Ciapiene, Lithuania's interim chargé d'affaires in China, the country's most senior diplomat in Beijing after the ambassador's recall in September, returned to Vilnius on Wednesday. 

Global Times reporters made phone calls to the Lithuanian mission in Beijing on Thursday but there was no answer.

Reuters on Wednesday cited a diplomatic source as saying that a group of 19 people comprising embassy personnel and dependents left Beijing en route to Paris. Another diplomatic source familiar with the situation called their departure a response to "intimidation."

Commenting on the issue, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said during a regular press conference on Thursday that the so-called safety concerns and claim of the Chinese government banning Chinese personnel from working in the mission are purely fabricated. 

China has always attached great importance to ensuring the safety of foreign diplomatic missions in China and that of their personnel, including those from Lithuania. Lithuania has never mentioned safety issues to the Chinese side, said Wang. 

The cause of worsening China-Lithuania ties is very clear. If Lithuania does not look straight at reality, refuses to reflect on and rectify its mistakes, and instead shirks its responsibilities, it will only bring more significant impact to bilateral ties and more harm to the feelings of the two peoples, Wang said. 

Wang reiterated that "we urge Lithuania to abide by the basic norms of international relations, sternly implement its promises, and soon rectify its wrong behavior that infringes on China's sovereignty and core interests." 

The new developments came after China downgraded its diplomatic ties with Lithuania to the level of chargé d'affaires as a solemn protest against the Baltic state's collusion with the secessionist authority on the island of Taiwan and blatant violation of the one-China principle and international rules. 

Under international relations' norms and framework, it is natural that the Lithuanian diplomatic personnel could not enjoy as complete benefits as they did before the downgrade, however, this would not necessarily lead to threats to their personal safety. Lithuanian diplomats' reported claim was purely subjective, if anything, Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

China Foreign Affairs University professor Li Haidong told the Global Times that the hype over safety concerns and stripping of diplomatic immunity is fake news, and it proves there is no moral bottom line for key policymakers in Vilnius.

Cui viewed the Lithuanian diplomats' pull-out from China as an overreaction to the downgrading of ties, and also a continuation of its overall strategy of playing for sympathy to prompt the EU to voice support.

However, the EU had taken a neutral and pragmatic stance over the case as of press time.

"The repatriation of Lithuanian diplomatic staff and their relatives is a sovereign decision by the Lithuanian authorities on what is best for its mission and its staff," Nabila Massrali, EU foreign affairs spokesperson, said in response to a question about whether the issue warranted a response from the 27-member bloc, the Financial Times reported.

The sudden evacuation of Lithuanian diplomats from Beijing itself shows sick paranoia as a sharp contrast to its recent call for efforts to ease tensions with China and restore ties, said experts.

Lithuania's foreign ministry said it was ready to continue a dialogue with China and restore the functions of the embassy once a mutually beneficial agreement had been reached, Reuters reported on Wednesday. 

Their actual actions do not match their words, in fact, they go in the very opposite direction to restoring relations, Cui noted.

It is new round of diplomatic manipulation on Lithuania's part to smear China's image, which wantonly neglects international norms and caters to the Western-dominant public opinion, said Li.