‘No Taiwanese minister came to Lesotho’

STAFF REPORTER

MASERU – The government of Lesotho was pressured to release a statement on Wednesday this week reaffirming its position on the One-China principle after the Chinese embassy suspected that a Taiwanese minister had been invited to visit Lesotho. Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, ’Matšepo Molise-Ramakoae, told Public Eye yesterday that there is no Taiwanese minister in Lesotho and, therefore, her ministry had to release a statement to convince China.

“They (Chinese embassy) were saying that a Taiwanese minister has been invited to visit Lesotho and we did not know anything about that so we had to release a statement to give them assurance we would not do that,” Ramakoae said. The timing of the statement raised eyebrows as it was published when the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, was visiting Taiwan.

Pelosi made a brief but controversial stop in Taiwan on Wednesday, as part of a wider Asian tour. She is the most senior US politician to visit the island in 25 years. Her decision to stop at the island has enraged Beijing, which considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province of China. On Tuesday, China’s foreign affairs ministry issued a statement saying the visit was a serious violation of the One-China principle.

“It has a severe impact on the political foundation of China-US relations and seriously infringes upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It gravely undermines peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sends a seriously wrong signal to the separatist forces for ‘Taiwan independence’,” read the statement. China said it “firmly opposes and sternly condemns this” and has strongly protested to the United States.

Then on Wednesday, Lesotho’s ministry of foreign affairs released it statement. “The Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, HE Mr Lei Kezhong and the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Honourable ‘Matšepo Molise-Ramakoae had diplomatic consultations on the “One-China Principle” on the 3rd August, 2022,” reads the statement.

“During this meeting, the Hounourable Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations re-affirmed the position of the Government of Lesotho regarding the up-holding of the One China Principle,” it added. It said the policy spells out that there should be no official contacts with Taiwan, such as exchange of letters or visits by high-level officials such as senators, members of the national assembly, or former high-level officials or politicians.

The principle also spells out that there should be no official agreements or agreements with political implications, such as Visa or free trade agreements, no official setting of official institutions such as embassies and rejection of participation of Taiwan at multi-lateral fora such as international meetings. Ramakoae yesterday swore that the statement was prompted by Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. “It is just that, as I have already said, they were talking about visitors which we did not know anything about,” she said. Asked about the timing of the statement, she said her ministry could not wait any longer to release it.

“We are aware of the international developments but we could not wait to publish the statement on Sunday for example, when Ms Pelosi has long left Taiwan. If we did not release the statement immediately then the Chinese embassy would suspect that there is something we are hiding,” she said. She acknowledged that the statement might annoy the US but emphasized that it was done to protect the interests of Lesotho and Basotho.

“In everything that we do, we should defend Lesotho and protect its interests. The statement has nothing to do with whatever is happening between America and China,” she said. Public Eye was informed that the visitors that the Chinese Embassy was talking about were allegedly invited by the Democratic Congress (DC) led by Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu. This was denied by DC’s spokesperson, Serialong Qoo who is also the minister of mining. Ramakoa also said there was no party involved in this, “as far as I am concerned.”

“There is no party involved in this. The fact of the matter is that there are no such visitors in Lesotho,” she said. Qoo also told this publication that DC had not extended any invitation to someone in Taiwan. “This is news to me. I am also not even aware that the ministry of foreign affairs released a statement on Wednesday,” he said. eSwatini is the sole African country that maintains official diplomatic ties with Taiwan and one of just 15 countries worldwide to do so.

In 2020, it was reported that China’s ambassador to South Africa sent a statement to eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) threatening to impose economic pressure on the country unless it drops its diplomatic recognition of Taipei for Beijing. According to reports, Lin Songtian, Beijing’s envoy to South Africa, sent a letter to eSwatini saying “no diplomatic relations, no more business benefits.”

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