Fiji police evict two Chinese defence attaches amid Pacific Forum tensions

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US Vice-President Kamala Harris
US Vice-President Kamala Harris ... her virtual presence at the Pacific Islands Forum attracted two Chinese defence officials in the media gallery sitting with the media contingent. Image: Al Jazeera/AFP

Pacific Media Watch newsdesk

Fiji police have evicted two Chinese defence attaches from a Pacific Islands Forum summit in Suva while US Vice-President Kamala Harris was delivering a virtual address, reports The Guardian Australia.

Kate Lyons, editor of The Guardian’s Pacific Project, reported that the the men were present at a session of the Forum Fisheries Agency when Harris announced the step-up of US engagement in the region, “believed to be in response to China’s growing influence”.

According to The Guardian, the officials had been sitting with the media contingent, but one was identified as a Chinese embassy officer by Lice Movono, an independent Fiji journalist who has been covering the forum for the Australian edition of the newspaper.

“Movono said she ‘recognised him because I’ve interacted with him at least three times already’, including during the visit of the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, to Suva last month, at which journalists were removed from events and blocked from asking questions,” The Guardian report said.

“‘He was one of the people that was removing us from places and directing other people to remove us,’ she said. ‘So I went over to him and asked: “Are you here as a Chinese embassy official or for Xinhua [Chinese news agency], because this is the media space. And he shook his head as if to indicate that he didn’t speak English”.’

Movono alerted Fijian protocol officers, who told her to inform Fijian police, who then escorted the two men from the room. They did not answer questions from media, reported The Guardian.

Diplomatic sources later confirmed that the men were a defence attache and a deputy defence attache from China, and part of the embassy in Fiji, The Guardian said.

The report highlighted the intense geopolitical rivalry over growing Chinese influence in the region.

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