‘We were treated like criminals’, says Fijian journalist


A Fijian journalist covering Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s meeting with Pacific leaders in Fiji told ABC News of the media’s displeasure over how they were treated at the two-day event.

As the PIC leaders walked away from the proposed trade and security deal, members of the media covering the event were restricted from conducting their affairs.

Fijian journalist Lice Movono, speaking to ABC News, said yesterday, “I watched as visiting Chinese officials try to physically remove cameramen that the Foreign Secretary had allowed onto the premises to just video and photograph the initial meet and greet of the two leaders (Wang Yi and PIF Secretary General Henry Puna).”

She said she watched how Chinese government media and officials tried to stand in the way of these journalists so they would not be able to do their work.

For Movono, she was confused as she watched it unfold. She was grateful to the Pacific Islands Forum secretariat for insisting to let the media do their work.

“Today we were constantly reminded and removed from places which other other branches of the Fijian government had allowed us into and we were treated like criminals, really!,” she said.

She also told ABC News that each one of them was vetted by the Chinese officials, both visiting and resident, and even their media passes were issued by the government of China. “They were not issued by local police or local authorities which is usually the case when there is a high-level foreign dignitary visiting or when there is a high-level government event.”

She also said they were told they could not ask questions. But when one of them did ask questions, like her colleague from the ABC News bureau in Canberra, “he was physically restarained by government of Fiji officials and told to sit down by Chinese military who were in the room.”

Movono said the entire experience was confusing, even frightening.

Meanwhile, the second China-PICs meeting did not reach a consensus with regard to China’s proposals for trade and security.

Earlier, Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. and Federated States of Micronesia President David W. Panuelo cautioned their fellow leaders from the Blue Pacific from signing any document with China.

Panuelo, in his lengthy letter to 18 Pacific leaders, raised some issues wtih the proposals, that if they commit to these agreements, it would somehow lead to a fractured peace and security situation in the Pacific, that the PICs would be caught in the middle of the geopolitical struggle between superpowers. He asked that they should avert any intensified conflict in the region.

He also said that China’s ultimate goal is to take back Taiwan, “peacefully, if possible; through war, if necessary.”

He also underscored that these commitments would deviate from their real focus: climate change.

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