A Chinese diplomat stormed out of a Pacific islands forum in Nauru while a Chinese businessman in Kenya called the African country’s people and president “monkey” triggering uproar on Thursday.
In Yaren, Nauru’s president has demanded China apologize for a top diplomat’s “crazy” behavior at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and lashed out at Beijing’s “arrogant” presence in the region.
“They’re not our friends. They just need us for their own purposes,” President Baron Waqa told reporters.
“Sorry, but I have to be strong on this because no one is to come and dictate things to us,” said Waqa, whose country backs self-ruling and democratic Taiwan over arch-rival China in their battle for diplomatic recognition.
This year’s annual Pacific summit, which wraps up in Nauru on Thursday, has been one of the most contentious in the event’s 49-year history.
The usual discussions about climate change have been overshadowed by the host’s row with China and its treatment of asylum-seekers held on the island under a deal with Australia.
The diplomatic spat pits Nauru — with a population of 11,000 and an area of just 21 square kilometres (eight square miles) — against the Asian superpower.
It erupted on Tuesday when the head of China’s delegation Du Qiwen attempted to address a meeting but Waqa refused to let him speak until island leaders had finished.
The Chinese delegation then stormed out, with Du reportedly striding around the room to emphasize his displeasure before leaving.
“Would he behave like that in front of his own president? I doubt it,” Waqa said at a press conference late Wednesday.
“He disrespected the Pacific, the forum island leaders and other ministers who have come to join us in our territory. Are you kidding? Look at him, he’s a nobody.
“He’s not even a minister and he’s demanding to be recognised and to speak before the prime minister of Tuvalu. Is he crazy?”
Waqa had already angered Beijing before the summit began in a row over visas.
The exchange with Du highlighted sensitivities over Beijing’s rising influence in the Pacific, where China provided an estimated US$1.78 billion in aid to island nations between 2006-16.
“We’re seeing a lot of big countries coming in and sometimes buying their way through the Pacific, some are extremely aggressive, even to the point that they tread all over us,” Waqa said.
“From this forum, all leaders (now) know how arrogant some of these people are.”
He said such behavior merited an apology from Beijing.
“We won’t just seek an apology, we’ll even take it up to the UN,” he said. “Not only that, I will mention it at the UN and every international meeting.”
China rejected his calls for an apology, instead calling on Nauru to reflect on its actions.
“I want to sternly warn Nauru, and whomever is behind this farce: the ‘one China’ principle is an unstoppable historical trend,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a regular press briefing.
“It should stop this unreasonable fuss and stop humiliating itself.”
China does not belong to the PIF but is one of 18 countries that attends the leaders’ summit as a “dialogue partner” for discussions with member nations.
Beijing and Taipei have vied for diplomatic influence in the Pacific for decades, with both sides offering aid and support to small island states in return for recognition.
Taiwan paid for much of the infrastructure used at the Nauru PIF and there could be similar tensions at next year’s event in Tuvalu, which also recognizes Taipei.
China sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the island views itself as a sovereign nation and is a self-ruling democracy.
In Nairobi, Kenyan authorities have arrested a Chinese businessman after a video of him making a string of racist remarks was widely shared on social media, the government said Thursday.
The Chinese national, identified as Liu Jiaqi, is being processed for deportation, said Kenya’s immigration department.
“His work permit has been cancelled and (he) will be deported on racism grounds,” the immigration service said on its Twitter feed.
In the two and a half minute video shared on Twitter and elsewhere, Liu, who appears to be in the midst of a dispute with one of his employees, is recorded issuing a litany of racist slurs.
“Every one, every Kenyan… like a monkey, even (Kenyan President) Uhuru Kenyatta. All of them,” he said.
After the employee suggests Liu should “go back to China” if he feels that way, the businessman responds with further abuse.
“I don’t belong to here. I don’t like here, like monkey people, I don’t like talk with them, it smells bad, and poor, and foolish, and black. I don’t like them. Why not [like] the white people, like the American?”
He added that he only stays in Kenya because “money is important”.
It was not clear from the video exactly what Liu’s job was in Kenya.
Some Kenyans on social media have called for Liu to be charged rather than simply deported.
Zhang Gang, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Nairobi, said that according to Liu’s employer, the clip was recorded in June “and he has already been punished by his company for his wrongdoing and apologized to his Kenyan colleague”.
“The personal talk and personal feeling of this young man does not represent the views of the vast majority of Chinese people,” he said, adding Chinese nationals were urged to make “positive contributions to the friendship and cooperation between China and Kenya.”
This is not the first time Chinese workers in Kenya have been accused of racism.
Three years ago a small Chinese restaurant in the capital Nairobi was shut down by authorities and the owner charged for operating a “no blacks” policy after 5 pm.
Earlier this year Kenyan workers on a new Chinese-built railway alleged racism and discrimination by Chinese staff and managers.
However, the government dismissed allegations of racism on the $3.2 billion (2.8 billion euro) signature infrastructure project.
Kenyatta was in Beijing this week attending a conference where China promised to invest another $60 billion in Africa.
Raid on Chinese TV
Liu’s arrest comes a day after Kenyan police raided the African headquarters of China’s English-language state broadcaster CGTN (China Global Television Network) in Nairobi.
The raid was part of Nairobi’s crackdown on illegal immigrants but several journalists were briefly detained.
The Chinese embassy said in a statement it would express its concern through diplomatic channels, after several incidents in which nationals with legal documents were hauled into police stations for verification.
“The Chinese embassy in Kenya has lodged representations with Kenyan officials and the relevant people have all been released on that day,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a press briefing in Beijing.
“Kenya has admitted inadequacies in law enforcement and apologized.
“It has promised to improve the conduct of its lower-level officers to avoid a repeat of this,” she added.