Australia

Chinese diamond talks delegates 'hijack mic' in Taiwan protest

Diamond (file image) Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Kimberley Process tries to ensure diamond sales don't fuel conflicts

Australia has complained to China's ambassador over what was described as "extraordinary" disruption by Chinese attendees at a diamond conference.

Australia was hosting a Kimberly Process conference on controlling conflict diamonds in Perth on Monday.

But the Chinese group were angered by the presence of a Taiwanese delegation, and noisily interrupted the official opening ceremony.

One high-level Australian attendee told the BBC: "It was disgusting."

'Highly stressful' meeting

China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province which will eventually be reunited with the mainland.

It insists that other countries cannot have diplomatic relations with both China and Taiwan, so few countries recognise the island's independence.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Julie Bishop was about to address the conference as foreign minister of the 2017 chair, Australia

China often seeks to isolate Taiwan by blocking its involvement in international events.

According to reports, the Chinese group "hijacked the microphone" during a traditional Aboriginal welcoming ceremony, as a senior official was introducing Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

They demanded to know whether the Taiwan group - Rough Diamond Trading Entity of Chinese Taipei - had been officially invited.

"They were saying you can't even begin this meeting unless this matter is clarified," said the Australian attendee, who asked not to be named for professional reasons.

"It was highly stressful for everyone in the room because they kept demanding to be heard," he said.

"No country would accept showing such a lack of respect to its Aborigines and senior members of government."

The welcoming ceremony was suspended until the matter had been addressed.

A discussion session later in the morning was also abandoned because of continual interruptions by officials from African countries in support of China's position.

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Media captionChina-Taiwan relations in 60 seconds

The Taiwanese representatives were then asked to leave the conference, which discusses ways of preventing the sales of diamond from conflict-hit countries fuelling further violence.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) has raised its concerns with the Chinese ambassador.

A spokeswoman for DFAT said the invitation of the Taipei-based group was consistent with Australia's One China policy.

"The chair had to withdraw the invitation to the Taiwanese following objections from China and several other delegations to the former's presence during the opening session, in order to enable the meeting to continue," she said.

A spokesman for the Chinese consulate in Perth told the Sydney Morning Herald: "The head of the Chinese delegation expressed high respect for the traditional owners of the land."

A statement sent to the BBC from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office said the incident was regrettable.

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