A photo showing the Chinese Ambassador to Kiribati stepping on the people’s backs in a welcoming ceremony went viral.
Kiribati cut ties with Taiwan in September, leaving Taiwan with only 15 countries.
Rimon, who used to work for former Kiribati president Anote Tong, said he had never seen the Taiwanese ambassador greeted in such a manner before.
Liberal Party MP in Australia Dave Sharma, who was Australia’s Ambassador to Israel and also served in Papua New Guinea, was also surprised by the photo.
Constantine Panayiotou, United States defense attaché to five countries in the Pacific, including Kiribati, shared his frustration on Twitter.
As a journalist, Rimon said the photo was widely discussed in Kiribati from a political perspective.
“For outsiders in the region, they see this in the context of China’s political situation in the region and competition with the West, and there is a Chinese ambassador stepping on people’s backs. That is seen as a statement,” he said.
However, Rae said the views of the residents on Marakei Island ultimately determined the most.
“The global world has a view that has to do with politics, with regard to the issue of Taiwan and China, but if there is a neutral view and from a cultural perspective you will understand what is happening,” he said.
“I felt it was done out of love and respect so they said ‘we welcome you to this island’.”
The ABC has contacted the indigenous elders on the island of Marakei, the Kiribati government, and the Chinese embassy in Kiribati for comment, but has so far received no response.