China has closed all its embassies except in South Africa to Swaziland (eSwatini) people seeking visas to visit the country for leisure of business.
In a statement it said the move could ‘cripple’ Swaziland’s business and economic development. China is Swaziland’s second largest trading partner.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) wants Swaziland to end diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Taiwan broke away from China in 1949 and has been largely unrecognised in the international community since then.
Taiwan, which calls itself the Republic of China, is not a member of the United Nations which has a ‘one-China’ policy that recognises Taiwan is a part of China.
Swaziland is the only country in Africa and only one of 17 in the world that recognises Taiwan.
A statement from Lin Songtian, the Ambassador of the PRC to South Africa, was published in the Swaziland News, an online newspaper.
The statement read in part, ‘The eSwatini people have come to realize the fact that the long-existing immoral and abnormal relations between their country and the Taiwan Authority, a region of China, does not serve the fundamental and long-term interests of the eSwatini and its people.’
It added Swaziland had been benefiting greatly from business relations with the PRC while refusing to recognize the one-China policy.
‘Such an immoral and abnormal situation is unfair and unacceptable to the Chinese government and people and cannot, shall not, be allowed to continue,’ the statement said.
It added, ‘As a friendly gesture and transitional arrangement, the Chinese government has no choice but to close all the windows in the world, except the Embassy of the PRC in Pretoria for eSwatini people both officially and privately to apply visas to Mainland China.
‘The responsibility for the difficulties and inconvenience arose therefrom does not come from the Chinese side.’ It said the door of the Chinese Embassy in South Africa was open for the Swaziland government to talk and find a solution.
‘But one thing must be clear that no diplomatic relations, no more business benefits.’
It added, ‘The ball is on the court of eSwatini side. It is the right time for the eSwatini government and people to make a right choice for win-win cooperation or continue to keep silent to and remain the immoral and abnormal relations with Taiwan, as a region of China.’
Thulie Dladla, the Swazi Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Corporation would not comment on the statement.
Jeremy Liang, the Ambassador of Taiwan in Swaziland told the Swaziland News the conduct of the PRC amounted to ‘bullying and interfering’ in the affairs of eSwatini.
Swaziland makes a lot of its relationship with Taiwan. In 2018 Taiwan gave King Mswati III, the absolute monarch, US$1.3 million towards the cost of his 50th birthday celebration. In April 2018 the King called on the United Nations to admit Taiwan to the organisation.
Many Taiwanese-owned businesses in Swaziland, especially in textiles, have been criticised for their poor treatment of workers who have staged strikes and other protests to draw attention to the situation.
In July 2014 a survey of the Swazi textile industry undertaken by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) revealed workers were subjected to harsh and sometimes abusive conditions, many of the kingdom’s labour laws were routinely violated by employers, and union activists were targeted by employers for punishment. More than 90 percent of workers surveyed reported being punished by management for making errors, not meeting quotas or missing shifts.
More than 70 percent of survey respondents reported witnessing verbal and physical abuse in their workplace by supervisors.
In November 2018 it was reported students from Swaziland studying in Taiwan were being made to work in a frozen chicken factory for 40 hours a week to pay for tuition and accommodation. If they tried to leave their university would punish them and their condition were likened to slavery.
Swaziland students in Taiwan forced to work ‘like slaves’ in frozen chicken factory
Taiwan first guest at King’s party
Swaziland calls on UN to admit Taiwan