September 2, 2019 / 2:14 PM / 2 months ago

Lithuania raps Chinese diplomats for role at pro-Hong Kong protest

VILNIUS (Reuters) - Lithuania said on Monday it had lodged a protest to the Chinese embassy after some of its diplomats were involved in disruptions at a pro-Hong Kong protest in the capital Vilnius last month.

People point flashlights during a general strike at Tamar Park in front of the government buildings in Hong Kong, China September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Chinese diplomats acted “in violation of public order” at the Aug. 23 event, which was organized to show solidarity with anti-Beijing protesters in Hong Kong.

A police spokesman told Reuters that two Chinese citizens were detained and fined 15 euros ($17) each after people waving Chinese flags agitated at the protest.

“We have information that some (Chinese) diplomats were more active than they should, and that is not acceptable,” Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told reporters, without giving further details or naming them.

China said on Tuesday its diplomats in Lithuania had not broken any laws.

At a daily press briefing in Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said it was “totally reasonable” for overseas Chinese to express opposition to the “violent and illegal behaviors in Hong Kong”, but he added that China hoped any patriotism could be shown in a “rational way”.

“Regarding the situation in Lithuania .. I can tell you that the Chinese diplomats there have been fulfilling their jobs based on the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. They have not violated local laws,” Geng added.

The event in Vilnius was held as activists formed human chains across Hong Kong, inspired by a similar protest against Soviet rule in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in 1989.

Mantas Adomenas, a member of parliament who organized the Vilnius protest, told Reuters that before police intervened, several Mandarin speakers with Chinese flags jostled activists and attempted to wrestle away their megaphone.

After the arrest of the two Chinese citizens, police were approached by people who showed embassy identification and asked for the detainees’ release, Adomenas said, citing witnesses in a version partly corroborated by the police spokesman.

“I reviewed filmed footage of the protest, and I saw that the Chinese ambassador was present at the sidelines, and was several times approached by people from the protest,” Adomenas added.

The unrest in Hong Kong began over a now-suspended extradition bill but quickly morphed into a wider pro-democracy movement resisting Chinese control of the former British-ruled territory.

Reporting By Andrius Sytas; additional reporting by Tom Daly in BEIJING; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Darren Schuettler

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