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From China With Love ?

From China With Love ?
August 09
10:39 2019

A trip which some members of the Opposition PUP made to China last week has drawn public backlash on social media from the reigning UDP government because the trip is being portrayed as a betrayal of Taiwan, which shares a decades-old friendship with Belize, and which also finds itself under claim by the powerful communist rule of China.

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The UDP went on record to blast the delegation’s leader, PUP Caribbean Shores Area Representative, Kareem Musa for what the party called “a diplomatically irresponsible trip to Communist China,” citing Taiwan’s loyalty to Belize for 30 years. “The UDP is steadfast and unwavering, both as a party and as government, in its support for Taiwan. This UDP administration would never countenance any overtures from Communist China.”

What made the concerns even deeper was the response which Musa gave and the perception that the photo taken conveyed, showing him presenting a miniature flag of Belize to the political leader of the party that invited him to China. Musa said openly that he sees no issue with Belize forging ties with China and openly toyed with the idea of Belize switching allegiances from Taiwan to China.

“In terms of the future, it’s not going to depend on Kareem Musa. I am just one politician in all of this. Of course it’s going to mean that a government would have to change its position and it would have to arrive at that consensus, whether it is the UDP and the PUP, they would have to come together and the national executives of parties will have to make decisions moving forward,” Musa laid out candidly.

But Musa justified that Taiwan has been blatantly supportive of the UDP for funding political projects that can be considered private.

“I don’t necessarily subscribe to the view that they are giving money and providing assistance to the United Democratic Party directly. I would not want to believe that, but there is that discussion within the party that the assistance that Taiwan has been recently giving – been providing to the government of the day – is somewhat political. It is somewhat blatant. So there is that discussion and like I said, I wouldn’t want to subscribe to that belief that that is taking place but it hasn’t been this blatant for quite some time,” Musa remarked.

One of the projects which the Musa raised concerns over was the funding that Taiwan has provided for the renovation of the Taegar residence on Regent Street, which houses the political office for UDP Minister of State, Tracy Panton.

Musa said that even if the PUP had not had any problems with the obvious display of political support that Taiwan has shown towards the current UDP government, he would have still taken the trip to China, which came at the invitation from a political party in that country that is friendly with the current Chinese government. The invitation was extended from that Zhi Gong Party, translated as the China Party for Public Interest, through the Belize Chinese Association President in Belize, Johnston Ou.

Ou clarified later, via release, that he only served as translator for the two parties on that trip, since he had scheduled business to conduct in China and accompanied the PUP delegation there.

Musa informed that his trip ought not be criticized because he did not go in an official capacity, and that he was not there as a member of the PUP, but as a private citizen. But Musa does hold an important position as Deputy Party Leader of the PUP. If his party gets elected into power in 2020, Musa would hold a powerful position in a leadership role with decision-making influence on policy matters.

PUP Chairman, Henry Usher, echoed Musa’s comments that it was not the PUP that was invited, and that Musa was on a personal visit. We asked Usher about the picture which was shared on social media – that of Musa presenting the miniature Belizean flag to the leader of the Zhi Gong Party. Usher said that the flag was given simply as a souvenir and nothing else.

Musa reasoned that Belize should not involve itself in internal affairs between China and Taiwan because while those two countries have a dispute, they also do business with each other.

“Taiwan invests heavily in China and likewise, China invests heavily in Taiwan. So let’s not make it seem as though they’re not even trading with each other because they do and they do invest with each other. The way I look at it, it is as though this is a situation where you have two siblings that are having their own dispute. That’s not something for us to be getting involved with. That’s not part of our political concern, it shouldn’t be,” stated Musa.

Over the past 30 years, Taiwan has assisted Belize with numerous student scholarships in various fields of study, and technical support in agriculture and culture. While the Taiwanese Embassy in Belize has not issued an official reaction to the PUP delegation’s visit, sources close to the Embassy have indicated that Taiwan will continue to forge even stronger ties between our two countries, though it was not specified in what ways. The impression drawn from unofficial embassy reactions is that the recent visit to China is not conducive to a sustainable relationship between Belize and Taiwan.

The delegation included Belize City Deputy Mayor, Oscar Arnold, City Councilor, Michael “Chippy” Norales, and Attorney, Kevin Arthurs.

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