Lithuania on Wednesday Dec. 15 hastily pulled its diplomats out of China, leaving its embassy closed and empty, citing security concerns over retaliation the Chinese regime could take against the Baltic nation over its growing ties with Taiwan.
In what The Economist called “the worst diplomatic crisis between China and a European state in decades,” Wednesday, December 15, culminated in the withdrawal of 19 embassy staff and dependents in what had been an escalation of intimidation and pressure against Lithuania by the Chinese regime for allowing Taiwan to open a representative office in Vilnius, its capital.
The Chinese communist regime claims sovereignty over Taiwan, and has been increasing its threats to retake the island by force, constantly increasing the dispatch of fighter jets to its air defense identification zone (ADIZ).
After the opening of the Taiwanese embassy in Lithuania in June, as usual in a totalitarian regime like China’s, it quickly began its retaliation. Beijing demanded that the Baltic country change the status of its embassy to only an office in charge of business.
“If the Lithuanian side does not face reality, if it does not reflect and correct mistakes but instead shirks its own responsibility, then it will only challenge bilateral relations even more,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin threatened in August, according to Reuters.
Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters in Vilnius that the Communist Party of China (CPC) told the remaining Lithuanian officials in Beijing to hand over their diplomatic IDs to the Foreign Ministry.
“We were given extremely short time…We asked for a longer period, simply because it would be complicated to arrange that return so quickly. We did not get any answer to the request, and people returned as fast as possible,” the minister said.
The regime’s action to reduce the diplomatic status of the officials raised serious concerns in the Lithuanian capital about the security risk to those who remained in China without their diplomatic immunity and they decided to evacuate immediately.
On Wednesday Landsbergis, also confirmed via Twitter, that China had “unilaterally” decided to rename the Baltic country’s embassy in Beijing, and that “the Embassy staff will continue working remotely from Vilnius until the situation is assessed and the decision is found.”
The Chinese regime, as expected, denied the pressure and came out to state that the concern for the safety of Lithuanian diplomats in China was unfounded.
Beijing imposed economic sanctions on Lithuania and has called on multinationals to sever ties with the Baltic country or face exclusion from the Chinese market. It also blocked all Lithuanian exports to China by erasing the country from its Customs register.
An advisor to the Lithuanian president stated that they plan to ask the European Union for help in dealing with the pressures and threats from the Chinese regime.
“The president will speak with the EU leaders about the pressure we face, we think this will lead to a discussion how the EU and particularly European Commission could help Lithuania in this matter,” Asta Skaisgiryte said, according to Reuters.