By: J Wesley Washington |
For the first time since Liberia reestablished diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) nearly 15 years ago, the Liberian Embassy in Beijing hosted a diplomatic reception in observance of the country’s 171st Independence Anniversary.
Relations between Liberia and the PRC have been broken and reestablished several times since February 17, 1977 when diplomatic relations were first established during the administration of President William Richard Tolbert. However, on October 12, 2003, during the brief administration of President Moses Z. Blah, Liberia dropped diplomatic relations with Republic of China (Taiwan), established by President Charles Taylor, and reestablished ties with the PRC. Since then, Liberia has had a diplomatic presence in Beijing.
According to a dispatch from Beijing, the occasion, which was characterized by cultural and other performances by Liberian and Chinese groups, was graced by the Special Representative for African Affairs at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Xu Jinghu; Deputy Director General of the African Department, Mr. Wan Li; other high-level Chinese government officials including Ambassador Zhang Yue, who served as the Chinese top diplomat to Liberia from January 2014 to March 2018.
Others included members of the diplomatic corps, especially the African missions in China, their spouses; Chinese partners and business executives; the Liberian and student community in China and other well-wishers.
Ambassador Xu Jinghu, Special Representative for African Affairs at the Chinese Foreign Ministry and His Excellency Mr. Victor Sikonina, Ambassador of Madagascar to the PRC, who is also Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and the African Group of Ambassadors in China, joined Ambassador Thomas to cut Liberia’s Independence Anniversary cake.
In his remarks, Liberia’s Ambassador to the PRC, His Excellency Mr. Dudley McKinley Thomas, termed the country’s National Day as one of “freedom”. “This 171st anniversary of our independence marks another milestone reached by the courageous and remarkable journey embarked upon by our nation’s founders to build a nation state that would forever remain free, sovereign and independent,” he emphasized.
He catalogued the country’s rise, which faced dark, dismal and sometimes even critical days, but remained a beacon of light and hope for more than 125 years for millions of our African breathern who, during that period were still suffering under the yoke of colonialism, suppression and repression.
On Liberia’s international obligations, Ambassador Thomas recounted that as a charter member of the United Nations, it fought for the inherent right of all people to determine their own future; while in the 1960s, witnessed the birth of some 41 independent African States and saw the emergence of a “new spirit” in Africa. “This new spirit manifested itself in the desire and need for unity among African countries,” he noted.
The country’s top diplomat in China stressed that though the Embassy was celebrating the country’s continued “freedom” and “independence”, it was not the sole intention to herald and draw attention, although with a sense of humility, to some of the many significant contributions and the unique roles the country played in African and world affairs; but to also recognize and express Liberia’s eternal gratitude to Africa and the international community for their immense contributions during the country’s civil war and more recently, the Ebola crisis.
He praised the efforts led by the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), “who made enormous sacrifices and whose nationals paid the ultimate price of lives lost during Liberia’s senseless and tragic war; as well as the pivotal role played by the international community, led by the People’s Republic of China, in assisting Liberia defeat the deadly Ebola Virus Disease, which also brought much disaster and suffering to the neighboring countries of Sierra Leone and Guinea.”
Ambassador Thomas further used the opportunity to call on development partners, including the People’s Republic of China, to offer their kind support and assistance as the administration of President George Manneh Weah embarks on his policy of promoting sustainable development and empowering the Liberian people through government’s “pro-poor” agenda. “Not only on a bilateral basis, but also through the mechanisms of the Forum on China – African Cooperation (FOCAC) and the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, China and Liberia can achieve ‘Win-Win’ cooperation,” he pleaded.
He used the occasion to reconfirm the Liberian Government’s support and commitment to the “One China Policy”.
Meanwhile, as part of the program, Ambassador Thomas installed into office the new leadership of the Liberian Student Union in China (LSUIC), following its 12th Annual Conference held under the theme: “The Power of Love Over the Love for Power: A Key to National Unity and Development.” The LSUIC is an organization that incorporates all Liberians studying at various universities around China.
Those installed for a one-year period included: Charles Gbollie, PhD candidate, Central China Normal University, President; Yamah Joy Barvor King, PhD candidate, China University of Mining and Technology, Vice President; McSimon Prosper Garvlehn, Master’s degree candidate, Tianjin University, Secretary General; Darlington D.W. Dahn, Master’s degree candidate, Beijing Normal University, Financial Secretary and Loretta Teemah Dolo, Master’s degree candidate, China University of Mining and Technology, Treasurer.