22 Jan 2020

Criticism of China described as 'xenophobic' by Tongan diplomat

4:47 pm on 22 January 2020

A New Zealand-based Tongan lawyer has been criticised by a former diplomat over remarks he made about China.

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Photo: 123rf

Tonga's former ambassador to China, Emeline Tuita, said Nalesoni Tupou was wrong to attack China's ambassador for saying China could speak for Tonga at the UN.

At a Chinese reception in Nuku'alofa last week, new Chinese ambassador Cao Xiaolin gave a speech claiming - as a permanent member of the UN Security Council - that "China speaks for Tonga and other developing countries with a view to safeguarding our common interests".

That followed Tonga temporarily losing its voting rights for not having paid its annual subscriptions.

However, Mr Tupou objected to the suggestion that China could represent Tonga if the country lost its right to vote.

He questioned what Tonga's common interests with China were, and said Tonga was a nation of its own and not a province of China - unless Tonga's government had already given approval for China to deliver to the UN as its voice.

But Ms Tuita has described Mr Tupou's claim as an "erroneous, xenophobic interpretation," and taken out of context.

Kaniva Pacific reports Ms Tuita saying the statement aimed to reassure the people that China would look after the interests of Tonga and other developing countries.