An indigenous welcoming ceremony at a meeting to address illicit gems might command dignified respect. But not on May 3, not from the Chinese delegates.
The scene was a Perth conference of the Kimberley Process hosted by Australia’s foreign minister. Australia acts as this year’s chair of the group formed in 2000 by governments, industry and activists to fight the trade of rough diamonds used to undermine legitimate governments.
The SMH reported that the Chinese “used the microphone at their table to speak over the chairman of the meeting, senior Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade official Robert Owen-Jones, as he tried to introduce the foreign minister Julie Bishop and the indigenous welcome ceremony, attendees said. The Chinese delegation said they had a point of order and demanded to know if everyone in the room had been ‘formally invited.’ The interruptions continued until the agenda was changed to address the so-called ‘point of order’ as the first item. Only then was the welcome to country permitted to go ahead, followed by Ms. Bishop’s speech.”
But more outbursts erupted later, according to the article. “Fairfax Media understands that another session later in the morning involving a panel discussion with executives from mining companies was abandoned altogether because of continual interruptions by various African delegations in support of the Chinese position.”
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that an attendee said “he had heard the Chinese were sending WhatsApp messages to their allies in the room, asking for support.”
The SMH stated a foreign affairs spokesperson said Australia had invited the Rough Diamond Trading Entity of Chinese Taipei “in line with earlier precedent.
“Continual disruption to the proceedings in 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,” she added.
ABC spoke with J. Michael Cole of the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute, who noted that Australia’s one of the countries economically dependent on China. But he added, “I also want to emphasize that China needs those countries as much as those countries need China.
“If Australia had decided not to give into Chinese pressure on Monday I would be mightily surprised if China stopped buying Australia’s natural resources as a result because China desperately needs them for its economical development.”