by Emmanuel Joseph
China has come out swinging over claims it is pressuring Barbados to break from the British monarchy and become a republic.
In a brief, but hard-hitting response, spokesman for the embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Barbados, Gao Jin took the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Britain Tom Tugendhat to task over his allegations that Beijing has been using infrastructural investment and debt diplomacy as a means of control.
Tugendhat claimed that Barbados was ditching the Queen for the “emperor” of China.
The senior Tory MP reckoned that Chinese pressure was fuelling the island’s move, announced last week in Governor General Dame Sandra Mason’s Throne Speech, to remove the British monarch as Head of State.
The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee told the Times: “China has been using infrastructure investment and debt diplomacy as means of control for a while and it’s coming closer to home for us.” The allegation was carried in several major international publications today.
But in a strong rebuff, the Chinese spokesperson described the accusations as “totally groundless”.
“It is the internal affairs of Barbados to become a republic,” Gao told Barbados TODAY this afternoon, as he dismissed any suggestions of Chinese interference.
“China remains firm in its commitment to strengthening friendship and cooperation with other countries on the basis of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equal and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.”
Tugendhat had said the UK’s partners have long faced challenges from rivals seeking to undermine their alliance.
“Today, we’re seeing it in the Caribbean. Some islands seem to be close to swapping a symbolic Queen in Windsor for a real and demanding emperor in Beijing,” he contended.
Tugendhat raised his concerns in a speech entitled Reappraising UK Foreign Policy Towards China, in an online webinar for the Royal United Services Institute.
He added: “It’s interesting because, of course, the UK is really not a monarchy, we’re a republic pretending to be a monarchy. The Crown in Parliament, after all, is simply a recognition that the people are sovereign.”
The MP did not go into detail over China’s alleged tactics to undermine British influence.
Barbados is part of the Chinese Belt and Road initiative. This project sees China target infrastructure investment in strategic land and maritime locations.
The project was adopted in 2013 by China where it has invested in nearly 70 countries and international organizations
British analysts have said the initiative helps Beijing win votes in international forums such as the United Nations and encourage states to break diplomatic ties with Taiwan and switch allegiance to China.
However, Barbados’ decision to go the route of republicanism has been bandied about in Government circles for decades.
In her Throne Speech last week on the subject, Dame Sandra said: “The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind. Barbadians want a Barbadian Head of State.
“This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving. Hence, Barbados will take the next logical step toward full sovereignty and become a republic by the time we celebrate our 55th Anniversary of Independence.”
Efforts to reach Barbados’ Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Jerome Walcott to comment on the claims by Tugendhat were unsuccessful.