Sources: Beijing hounds its KL envoys, embassy calls it 'fabrication'

  • Jun 12, 2018
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Beijing has sought answers from its embassy in Kuala Lumpur following the conduct of its diplomats prior to and immediately after Malaysia's general election on May 9.

According to various sources, including those within the diplomatic circle, Beijing had expressed displeasure over Chinese President Xi Jinping's image in BN campaign material and the fact that the Chinese envoy was not among the first to pay a courtesy call on new Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

However, the Chinese embassy, when contacted by Malaysiakini, denied suggestions that there was any dressing down from Beijing over their conduct.

Sources said BN component party MCA would not have used the photograph of MCA president Liow Tiong Lai shaking hands with President Xi as part of campaign materials without the express knowledge of the embassy.

The use of Xi's photograph became a campaign issue for the opposition on grounds that election rules stipulated that only the image of top two leaders from competing parties were allowed on billboards.

Sources also said Beijing was not happy with Chinese ambassador Bai Tian for paying the new prime minister a visit behind the rival US and their allies.

Bai had only met Mahathir on May 24, two weeks after the swearing-in ceremony. In contrast, Mahathir met the head of state of Brunei on May 14 and Singapore's prime minister on May 19.

This was followed by a meeting between Mahathir and US ambassador Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir on May 21.

During the previous Najib Abdul Razak administration, China had developed a strong interest in Malaysian infrastructure projects, offering loans and securing lucrative construction projects for state-owned firms.

Among others, these projects were of commercial and political concern, including the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) that would serve as a land bridge for cargo across Peninsular Malaysia, without having to pass Singapore by sea.

Chinese firms are also constructing a massive port project in Malacca, which some analysts believe would be repurposed for Chinese naval ships.

When contacted, the Chinese embassy dismissed talk of displeasure by Beijing on their conduct as "fabrication".

"This is empty talk. Complete fabrication," the embassy said.

"China and Malaysia are traditional good friends and neighbours. Our friendship and collaboration have spanned many years. It goes beyond partisan politics.

"When the new government was formed, China's premier Li Keqiang had reached out to Mahathir to congratulate him. The Chinese embassy too immediately reached out to the new government officials.

"Mahathir and other top officials had expressed a wish to preserve China-Malaysia ties and deepen collaboration," the embassy said.