A Liberal Democrat minister has caused a bizarre diplomatic incident in Taiwan by breaking a local tradition of never gifting watches.
Baroness Kramer, a transport minister, was visiting Taiwan on an official trade mission when she gave the present of a pocket watch to Ko Wen-je, the mayor of Taipei.
Unfortunately Kramer was unaware the gifting of watches is considered to be taboo in Taiwan because the Chinese phrase for "giving a clock" sounds similar to the words used for "bidding farewell" to the dead at a funeral.
To make matters worse, according to Focus Taiwan, Ko told reporters that the present was not completely useless because he can "just regift it to someone or take it to a scrap metal dealer and sell it for cash".
Photos of the British minister handing over the offending timepiece ran across Taiwanese media.
Kramer attempted to salvage something from the meeting, which was intended to help bolster trade links between the two countries, by issuing an apology.
"I'm sorry. We learn something new each day," the British minister said in a statement reported by Straits Times. "I had no idea a gift like this could be seen as anything other than positive. In the UK a watch is precious – because nothing is more important than time."
The baroness insisted that the watch, purchased from the House of Lords shop, was high-quality.
"It is a very unique item," she added.