However, China swiftly issued a statement in which it disputed key aspects of Taiwan’s account of the incident. Taiwan’s foreign ministry said the incident happened on the evening of October 8 during a Taiwan national day reception which had been organised by Taiwan’s representative office in Fiji.

The ministry claimed two Chinese diplomats had tried to force their way into the event in order to take pictures and collect information on attendees.

Violence flared after Taiwanese diplomats attempted to stop them entering, and a Taiwanese diplomat was sent to hospital with a head injury as a result.

However, China’s embassy in Fiji rejected Taiwan’s account as “totally inconsistent with the facts”.

A statement claimed: “This kind of function clearly violates the one-China principle and the relevant rules and regulations of the Fijian government, with an attempt to create ‘two Chinas’ or ‘one China, one Taiwan’ internationally.

“On that very evening, the staff of the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji acted provocatively against the Chinese Embassy staff who were carrying out their official duties in the public area outside the function venue, causing injuries and damage to one Chinese diplomat.

“We have expressed our serious concerns to the Fijian side about the above incidents, requesting the Police Force of Fiji to carry out a thorough investigation into the incidents and hold the perpetrators accountable according to law.”

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian subsequently said Taiwan’s comments were like “a thief crying ‘stop thief'”.

China has close ties with and is thought to have invested more than £750million in the south Pacific island during the last five years.

Fiji’s foreign ministry has not commented on the incident.

Taiwan Deputy Foreign Minister Henry Tseng told the island’s Parliament: “We are still looking at whether this represents common behaviour or was an isolated incident.

“But we condemn these irrational acts by the Chinese diplomats.”

Wang Ting-yu, a member of the ruling Democratic Progressive party, said: “We can’t let China bully its way into doing whatever it wants.

“Our diplomats in Fiji have my full support.”

Larry Tseng, the head of the ministry’s East Asia and Pacific affairs department, said there were injuries on both sides in the “pushing and shoving” that took place between the Chinese and Taiwanese diplomats.

Beijing has tightened the screw in recent weeks, staging a military drill which saw at least 19 fighter jets cross the median line which bisects the Taiwan Strait, and which has served as an unofficial maritime border between Taiwan and mainland China – although Chinese officials subsequently rejected its legitimacy.

China has been angered by US attempts to engage with Taiwan, led by President Tsai Ing-wen, recently, especially the visits of Government officials Alex Azar and Keith Krach.

Speaking to last month, Ketian Zhang, an Assistant Professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government in the US, said: “China does have a red line, which is that Taiwan should not declare de jure independence.

“If it does so, it is highly likely that China will resort to the use of force.”



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