Brazilian lawmaker reveals letter from Chinese embassy asking not to congratulate Tsai Ing-wen

Social media users showed their support for Taiwan and Brazil, leaving out China.

Kayla Wong | May 27, 2020, 04:40 PM

A Brazilian congressman has revealed a letter from the Chinese embassy asking members of parliament to refrain from congratulating Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on her May 20 inauguration.

Letter asked Brazilian congressmen to recognise sensitivity of Taiwan issue

In a May 26 tweet, Paulo Eduardo Martins disclosed a letter from the Chinese embassy in Sao Paulo, which asked the Chamber of Deputies -- the lower house of Brazil's legislature -- to avoid "gestures that could harm the principle of One China", such as sending congratulatory messages to Taiwan or maintaining official contacts with the island.

Saying that Brazil is not even allowed to congratulate the Taiwanese President now, he then offered his congratulations to Tsai for her inauguration, even though he is "late" in doing so.

The letter's veracity was later confirmed by Lusa News Agency, the largest news agency in the Portuguese language.

As Brazil recognises the One China policy, it does not have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

The two, however, maintain unofficial relations through representative offices.

Who is Paulo Martins?

Martins is an ally of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is the first Brazilian President to have taken a relatively tough stance towards China, criticising Chinese investments in the country as a threat to its national security.

Bolsonaro's son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, has also previously earned a strong rebuke from China when he blamed China for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tsai thanked Martins

Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has since replied to Martins' tweet, thanking him for congratulating Tsai on her inauguration.

Martins' tweet has sparked a wave of posts using the hashtags #VivaTaiwan (Long live Taiwan) and #VivaBrazil (Long live Brazil), which Tsai also used in her tweet thanking Brazil for its "kind congratulations".

Her tweet was retweeted by Martins.

In using the hashtags, Twitter users, including those from Hong Kong, signalled their intention to show their support for Taiwan, rather than China.

China: Brazilian effort to scapegoat China is doomed to fail

Chinese state media Global Times, responding to the incident, reduced it to "some Brazilian politicians' tricks to scapegoat China for a rapidly worsening epidemic situation in the country".

The hawkish media said they did so by "hyping the Taiwan issue", adding that such an effort is "doomed to fail".

In addition, they claimed Twitter users who used the trending hashtags were "radical anti-China elements" in Brazil and Taiwan.

Top image adapted via Paulo Eduardo Martins/Twitter & SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images