CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 November 2018

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...of rough diamonds and cutural vandals

PERTH (SE): “The head of the Chinese delegation expressed high respect for the traditional owners of the land,” a representative of the Chinese Consulate in Perth, Australia, said in describing the manner in which a delegation from his country to a conference hosted by the Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, interrupted her as she was introducing an Aboriginal Welcoming to the Land ceremony at the opening session.
 
The welcome to the land is common way of extending hospitality to visitors on formal occasions in any part of Australia.
 
The ceremony is regarded as a sacred moment and demands the same respect as the singing of the national anthem, but the Chinese delegation to the Kimberley Process conference on preventing the trafficking of what are known as blood diamonds being held in Perth on May 2 had no problem in trampling all over it.
 
The delegation placed its disdain for Taiwan ahead of both the job at hand, combatting the trading in blood diamonds, a smuggling racket that supports civil wars and land grabs, and any respect for a foreign culture by interrupting the opening ceremony.
 
It blocked proceedings by ripping the microphone away from their host to kick up a racket over the presence of a delegation from the Taiwanese economy, demanding to know why the Rough Diamond Entity of Chinese Taipei had been invited.
 
If, as the consulate said, the Chinese delegation did hold respect for their hosts, other delegates at the conference thought it a strange way to show it, begging the question of who really are the rough diamonds.
 
The Sydney Morning Herald quoted one delegate as calling the behaviour of the Chinese disgusting. “It was extraordinary and so uncalled for and so inappropriate and so disrespectful,” it quoted the delegate as saying.
 
Nor would the Beijing mob back off, keeping up the riot until an answer was given. Several African countries on the Chinese handout chain supported its position until finally the cultural vandals from Beijing triumphed over the Rough Diamonds from Taiwan, who were asked to leave and a panel discussion they were to lead cancelled.
 
The Kimberley Process was set up in 2000 to monitor the use of diamond trading to finance guerrilla groups, terrorism or civil wars, especially in Africa.
 
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra raised the matter with Beijing, saying, “Continual disruption to proceedings at the opening session was regrettable and the Australian government’s concerns with respect to the behaviour of Chinese delegates have been raised with the Chinese ambassador.”
 
Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, defended the delegation’s behaviour, claiming that Taiwan could not be invited because it is neither a member nor an observer.
 
In fact, Taiwan has had observer status since 2007.
 
China’s policy of gifts and handouts has won friends among nations that have abandoned diplomatic relations with the island economy of Taiwan.
 
Australia subscribes to the One China policy of Beijing, but like China and other countries keeps up unofficial relations with Taipei.
 
But there may be more to the Chinese antics than meets the eye, as China is suspected of trading in blood diamonds with Zimbabwe.
 
The Chinese antics serve little purpose other than to make the diplomatic dance much trickier.

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