Taipei, Feb. 3 (CNA) Eswatini remains a staunch ally of Taiwan despite China's political and economic pressure, Taiwan's foreign ministry said Sunday, after Beijing reportedly threatened to cut business ties with the African country if it maintained diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
"Eswatini has reiterated its firm intentions to deepen its diplomatic relations with Taiwan, even in the face of pressure from China," Joanne Ou (歐江安), spokeswoman for Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), said in a statement issued late Sunday.
MOFA wishes to express its "sincere appreciation and highest respect" to Eswatini for standing up to China's efforts at suppression, she said, adding that Beijing was "rudely interfering in the economic activities of another country."
In an undated statement reportedly issued by the Chinese embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, Beijing served notice that visa applications by Eswatini citizens for travel to mainland China will now be processed only at the Pretoria embassy, the Times of Swaziland reported in late January.
"According to the latest notification of the Chinese government, starting from January 10, 2020, visa applications of Swaziland citizens to Mainland China will be processed by the Chinese Embassy in South Africa," the report said. "At the same time, the Chinese Visa Application Service Centre and other Chinese Diplomatic Missions will not accept the applications anymore."
Prior to the reported change, Eswatini citizens could apply for China visas at any Chinese embassy or consulate office in South Africa.
Another South African newspaper, the Daily Maverick, said that in the seven-page statement, Chinese Ambassador to Pretoria Lin Songtian (林松添) indicated that not only have restrictions been imposed on visa applications, but his embassy could also now keep a close watch on Eswatini citizens planning to travel to China.
"Such an embarrassing situation is the result of Eswatini defying the One-China Principle and maintaining so-called 'diplomatic ties' with the Taiwan authorities, a province of the PRC," Lin said in the statement, according to the Daily Maverick.
The paper also reported that China was threatening to "cripple" Eswatini economically if it did not switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China immediately.
"No diplomatic relations, no more business benefits," the paper quoted Lin as saying in the statement. "To maintain such an immoral and abnormal relations [sic] with Taiwan authority politically disregards the Eswatini national dignity, economically disregards the interest of its country and people."
In addition, the Times of Swaziland reported that Beijing might already have convinced Chinese businesses to stop trading with Eswatini companies.
On Monday, MOFA said it is fully aware of Beijing's actions against Eswatini and has been in close contact with Eswatini Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini, Foreign Minister Thulisile Dladla and other top level officials on the matter.
Taiwan will help Eswatini uphold its national dignity, MOFA said, responding to information it said it had obtained from its embassy in the African country.
Eswanti, however, would be well advised to be cautious of China's "flashy promises," MOFA said, adding that several African countries are suffering as a result of China's "debt trap."
Eswatini is among Taiwan's 15 diplomatic allies worldwide and the only one on the African continent.