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Newsline: Foreign embassies in China puzzle over Japanese diplomat’s detention

In the foreign embassies of Beijing, there is no doubt that China’s secret police wished to send a chilling message when they detained a Japanese diplomat for some hours on February 21st, trampling the legal principle of diplomatic immunity. (https://www.economist.com/china/2022/03/05/foreign-embassies-in-china-puzzle-over-a-diplomats-detention) Some details of the case are shockingly clear-cut. Japan’s diplomat was accosted after lunch with a Chinese citizen at a hotel restaurant in Beijing. The envoy was taken to a room at the hotel and surrounded by ten or so men. A diplomatic identity card was shown, and ignored by the captors, as were the diplomat’s demands to call the Japanese embassy. Identifying themselves as state-security officers, they proceeded with a two-hour interrogation about the lunch. Yet the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the treaty that protects diplomats, is unambiguous, stating: “The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention.” Envoys debate whether the operation was an attack on Japan, overreach by aggressive spooks or a calculated warning to foreign missions that even routine meetings with Chinese contacts are out of bounds, as national-security rules tighten further.

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