Vanuatu PM accused of assaulting envoy

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Monday, December 6, 2004

PORT VILA, Vanuatu — Serge Vohor, the Prime Minister of Vanuatu, recently came into spotlight as the newest battleground in the diplomatic war between the People's Republic of China and Taiwan, was accused of pushing the ambassador from the People's Republic of China, Mr. Bao Shusheng.

Mr. Bao, the newly-installed envoy from Beijing, yesterday complained to the press that he was "punched on the shoulder" by Mr. Vohor after the parliamentary session ended last Wednesday (December 1). Mr. Bao approached Mr. Vohor at the time to complain that the flag of Taiwan was still flying in the capital city, even after the council of ministers has already made the decision to take it down.

"I then approached him just outside of parliament where I waited for him again at the main entrance. He then shook his fist right in my face and punched me on my right shoulder." said Mr. Bao, "I was shocked at what happened, but his bodyguards stepped in and the prime minister then rushed to his car. This has deeply offended me and my country."

However Mr. Bao decided today not to file a formal protest or make a police report. The incident has been publicised on Vanuatu's local newspapers, one of which called it "another indiscretion for which Vohor should resign". Mr. Vohor had already faced a no-confidence vote by the opposition members of parliament before the incident for his decision to establish a diplomatic relationship with Taiwan.

The opposition MPs are confident that the no-confidence vote would pass in the parliament, as 16 more MPs have recently deserted Mr. Vohor and sided with the opposition, which now holds a 36 to 14 majority in the 52-member parliament, including the prime minister himself and the speaker.

Mr. Vohor has been in office for only four months and his position now seems precarious, after his secret visit to Taiwan last month. In this trip he signed a communique recognising the Republic of China (the official name of Taiwan) as a sovereign state. But the country's council of ministers, which is Vanuatu's ruling body, revoked the deal and reiterated to Beijing its commitment to the one-China policy, which is a pre-requesite for maintaining formal diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China, which sees Taiwan as its 23rd province and the Republic of China as a defunct entity. Currently the Republic of China maintains formal diplomatic relationships with 27 countries, including Vanuatu.

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