02/05/2007, 00.00
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Police Band plays Taiwanese, not Chinese national anthem

Diplomatic incident spoils inauguration of Beijing-funded stadium. The Caribbean island nation broke off diplomatic relations with Taipei only in 2005. Taiwanese bank now wants repayment of money from previous loans.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A diplomatic faux pas marred the inauguration of a Beijing-financed stadium on the Caribbean island of Grenada when a band performed Taiwan's national anthem.

Beijing's ambassador to the nation, Qian Hongshan, and scores of mainland workers who built the US$ 40 million Queen's Park Stadium in the capital St George’s were visibly uncomfortable as Taiwan's anthem echoed inside the 20,000-seat venue on Saturday.

Grenadian Prime Minister Keith Mitchell immediately apologised for the blunder and pledged an investigation into how the Royal Grenada Police Band could make such a mistake.

Under Mr Mitchell Grenada switched diplomatic allegiance from Taipei to Beijing in 2005, a move that was sharply criticised by the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress.

In the West Indies, Beijing and Taipei are involved in a “dollar diplomacy” offering economic aid and providing investment in order to gain diplomatic recognition and support in the United Nations.

Above all, Beijing does not want any state to recognise Taiwan as an independent state. For this reason, it paid for the rebuilding of the stadium, which was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Some 500 Chinese workers helped restore the venue in time to host cricket World Cup matches in April.

The stadium itself though was built with money from Taiwan’s Export-Import Bank which gave the island nation four development loans between 1990 and 2000.

Grenada has failed to make some repayments on the loans and the bank has filed a lawsuit in December 2006 against it in a US District Court in the Southern District of New York where the loans had been transferred.

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