Very undiplomaticIn a statement released on Thursday, the Chinese Embassy in Seoul expressed “grave concerns” about Korean media and politicians “inciting anti-Chinese sentiment” over repeated controversial judgments on short track speed skating in the Beijing Winter Olympics. The embassy denounced the local press and politicians collectively for their reports and comments on the incomprehensible refereeing decisions on the speed skaters. The embassy would be better advised to look into the reasons for deepening anti-Chinese sentiment in Korea.
Strictly speaking, the responsibility for unfair decisions should be borne by umpires themselves. And there is no clear evidence of the Chinese government or sports authorities having interfered in refereering decisions. But we wonder if the embassy can blame Korea for “stimulating anti-Chinese sentiment” despite a series of suspicious decisions in the short track events, which ended up with gold medals for Chinese athletes.
The issue was raised by other countries’ media outlets, too. The embassy brushed off all their accusations by underscoring the integrity of the chief referee and the superiority of cutting-edge equipment to determine a winner.
A bigger problem lies with the way the Chinese Embassy expresses its concerns. Any embassy would try to mitigate worsening public sentiment in their host countries from a conflict of interest, misunderstanding or distortions. That’s the job of diplomats.
But they should follow international norms and standards. For instance, they can report local people’s reactions to their governments through official channels. Or they can release their own countries’ position to the rest of the world through the media. But we have never seen any embassies directly issue a hard-line statement full of undiplomatic language to criticize the local press and political circles in such a condescending way. Such an act constitutes diplomatic discourtesy.
This is not the first time the Chinese Embassy has triggered controversy in Korea. But such a high-handed reaction only aggravates anti-Chinese sentiment among Koreans, as evidenced in their hostile reactions on social media.
Seasoned diplomats would have surely expected adverse effects from such a statement. We question if the embassy decided to release the statement after carefully weighing the significance of bilateral relations or if it only wanted to leave a diplomatic footprint reflecting what Beijing thinks.