Nigeria has allowed itself to be used as China’s “hired thug,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday, blasting China’s “sick mentality” toward Taiwanese diplomacy and adding that the battle for Taiwan’s representative office in the African nation has been lost.
“On the surface, we have been facing off against Nigeria, but in reality we are facing off against violent and savage China, which does not care about the niceties of international law,” Department of West Asian and African Affairs Director-General Chen Chun-shen (陳俊賢) said, attributing the sending of armed guards to seal off the nation’s representative office in Abuja on Friday last week to pressure from Beijing.
“Our staff and Nigerian friends have reported that, for some unknown reason, China suddenly exerted a ‘mountain-toppling’ amount of pressure on June 30,” he said, adding that Chinese embassy personnel monitored the operation to seal the office and expel staff.
“The incident was pure political harassment, as Taiwan’s representative had already departed the country and the remaining counselor was in Lagos looking at potential offices with a colleague,” he added.
“The only personnel remaining in the office were general affairs staff responsible for accounting and secretarial work,” Chen said, adding that he had on June 19 notified the Nigerian government that the office would be moved to Lagos.
“Finding a new office is not easy, because we have to find a good and safe location whose owners are willing to rent to us. The owners of the locations we have looked at so far want to sell, not rent, but what if the Nigerian government demands we move again?” he said, adding that he on Tuesday met with Nigeria’s representative to demand that Taiwan be given three months to complete the move.
The representative was also informed that his office would be required to move “outside of Taipei” as soon as the move to Lagos is completed, he added.
“We are very sorry to have lost this battle, but hope that the public can be understanding and supportive,” Chen said. “While on the surface we appear to be at a great strategic disadvantage, from January to last month we have succeeded in sending the message that Taiwan’s diplomats cannot be ejected easily. Even if we fail in the end, we will fight to the last minute.”
Following a visit by Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) in January, Nigeria announced plans requiring Taiwan to change the name of its representative office from “Trade Mission of the Republic of China (Taiwan)” to “Taipei Trade Office,” move the office from Abuja to Lagos and cease providing “consular services” such as issuing visas.
A March 31 ultimatum by the Nigerian government to remove Representative Chao Chia-pao (趙家寶) was motivated by his lobbying against the relocation, which was viewed as inappropriate for a “business representative,” Chen said.
The relocation to Lagos would not be the first instance of a Taiwanese representative office being in a non-capital city, as the nation’s representative office in the United Arab Emirates is in Dubai instead of Abu Dhabi, Chen said, adding that Dubai was chose as it is more “advanced.”
It was the second time Nigeria has sealed off Taiwan’s representative office in Abuja, following a 2004 incident in which the office was closed for five months, beginning on the eve of a party to celebrate then-president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) inauguration to a second term, he added.
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