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International relations

Taiwan says diplomat hurt in brawl with Chinese officials in Fiji

China disputes account of incident at Oct. 8 reception

Honor guard members lower Taiwan's flag in Taipei in April 1.   © Reuters

TAIPEI (Reuters) -- A Taiwanese diplomat ended up in hospital in Fiji this month after two Chinese diplomats stormed into a reception trying to gather information on who was attending, Taiwan's foreign ministry said on Monday, in an unusual escalation of tensions.

China, however, disputed the account.

China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, has ramped up pressure on Taipei to accept Chinese sovereignty, including sending fighter jets near the democratically run island.

The Pacific is a major source of competition between the two, where Taiwan has formal diplomatic relations with four countries, though not Fiji. China says Taiwan is one of its provinces, with no right to full ties with foreign countries.

Taiwan's foreign ministry said the incident happened on the evening of Oct. 8 at a Taiwan national day reception organized by Taiwan's representative office in Fiji, where two Chinese diplomats tried to force their way in to take pictures and collect information on who was attending.

Violence ensued after Taiwanese diplomats tried to prevent them from entering, and a Taiwanese diplomat was sent to hospital with a head injury, the ministry said.

China's embassy in Fiji rejected Taiwan's account, and said they had asked Fiji's police to investigate.

"On that very evening, the staff of the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji acted provocatively against the Chinese Embassy staff, who were carrying out their official duties in the public area outside the function venue, causing injuries and damage to one Chinese diplomat," it said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Taiwan's comments were like "a thief crying 'stop thief.'"

Fiji's foreign ministry did not responded to requests for comment.

Speaking in parliament, Taiwan Deputy Foreign Minister Henry Tseng said: "We are still looking at whether this represents common behavior or was an isolated incident. But we condemn these irrational acts by the Chinese diplomats."

Larry Tseng, the head of the ministry's East Asia and Pacific affairs department, said there were injuries on both sides in the "pushing and shoving" that took place between the Chinese and Taiwanese diplomats.

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