Lithuania’s foreign minister has summoned the Chinese ambassador over the embassy’s alleged involvement in a counterprotest against supporters of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
Linas Linkevicius said China’s officials in Vilnius had “crossed the line”, accusing them of directing pro-Beijing hecklers as they disrupted an expression of solidarity in the Lithuanian capital with the anti-government campaign in Hong Kong.
Hundreds of Lithuanians formed human chains on August 23 at the same time as tens of thousands of Hongkongers made the same gesture.
Pro-Beijing supporters briefly disrupted the demonstration in the Baltic state, shouting slogans such as “Hong Kong is part of China” against demonstrators.
Lithuania’s foreign ministry on Monday served a diplomatic note on Zhifei Shen, the Chinese ambassador in Vilnius, stressing it would not tolerate the behaviour from some Chinese diplomats seen at the counterprotest.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of the Republic of Lithuania deplores and rejects the actions by the staff of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) who were involved in organising the unlawful actions undertaken by the Chinese citizens during this incident,” the note said, cited by local journalist Vaidotas Beniušis.
Linkevicius said the Chinese diplomats had “crossed the line diplomats should have”.
“The participation in the action was more active than it should have been. They can observe but they should not take a more active part in demonstrations or pickets,” Linkevicius told local media BNS Lithuania.
Lithuanian lawmaker Mantas Adomėnas, the organiser of the demonstration, told the Post he had also witnessed Shen “personally observing from the sidelines” and directing people who were at the counterprotests.
“There is video evidence. And our MFA was relying on the State Security Department information regarding the role PRC Embassy performed in the organisation, or coordination of the counterprotest,” Adomėnas said.
He said it was the first time the PRC had intervened in a protest in Lithuania.
Lithuania has urged the embassy to take action to ensure any behaviour that “disturbs public order and violates the Constitution and Laws of the Republic of Lithuania is not repeated in the future”.
The Chinese Embassy in Lithuania has not immediately responded to a request for comment.
Lithuanian media earlier reported two Chinese citizens had been fined for 15 euros (US$16) for disturbing public order in the same counterprotest event.
Hong Kong’s demonstration came on the 30th anniversary of the “Baltic Way” in 1989, when 2 million people in Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia held hands to form a 680km (1,094-mile) human chain, spanning the three nations to push for independence from the former Soviet Union.
Paying tribute to the “Baltic Way”, organisers claimed Hong Kong’s human chain covered 60km (37 miles), and drew 210,000 people, who joined hands across several districts.