China bullying small nations again

Panama and Sao Tome stand up

Washington, 30 August 1997

China has a habit of trying to bully small nations. Back in April 1997, it threatened Denmark and the Netherlands because these nations supported introducing the annual resolution on human rights in China in the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.

In August 1997 it was Panama and Sao Tome's turn to be bullied: Panama came under fire because it invited Taiwan to a four-day conference on the future of the Panama Canal in the beginning of September 1997. Panamanian President Ernesto Perz Balladares invited Taiwan president Lee Teng-hui to attend the inaugural ceremony of the conference. President Lee's travel via Honolulu is leading to awkward maneuvering by the United States (see "A Tale of two presidents").

President Balladares was unfazed by the Chinese threats, and said that Panama wouldn't sacrifice its relations with Taiwan to please China, even if China stopped using the waterway. He added: "They can always go around Cape Horn."

As expected, the United Nations gave in to Chinese pressure and decided not to send a delegation to the conference.

Sao Tome and Principe are being bullied by China because in May 1997, this island-chain off the coast of Africa established relations with Taiwan. Beijing immediately expelled all five Sao Tome and Principe students who were doing studies in Beijing, and told the Sao Tome authorities to repay within 90 days the full $18 million in development grants which China had given the island-nation since its 1975 independence from Portugal.

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