Using channels of its own, the EU Delegation to China published an article about 45 years of diplomatic relations between the two blocs, which also appeared in the newspaper China Daily.
China Daily censored the article: to be exact, it censored a passage about the coronavirus outbreak in China. It made no secret of taking this action, apparently taking it in consultation with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with the consent of the EU Delegation.
In May 2020, Belgian Member of the European Parliament Gerolf Annemans of the Identity and Democracy Group posed a parliamentary question to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell and asked “is it true that the EU Delegation allowed itself to be censored with regard to the origin of the coronavirus?”
MEP Annemans enquired “is the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative aware of other instances of censorship of information provided by the EU in the past?” and “what measures have been taken in this regard with a view to the future?”
In July 2020, High Representative/ Vice President Borrell responded on behalf of the European Commission and declared that “the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission regrets that the joint Op-Ed by the EU Ambassadors to China on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of EU-China diplomatic relations was not published in full by the China Daily” and that “the EU Delegation has issued a press release on this matter”.
The High Representative/ Vice President reported that “the full and unedited Op-Ed was published on the EU Delegation’s and several EU Member States’ websites and social media channels, and also distributed to Chinese media outlets, some of which published the article, in Chinese, in its original unedited form”. He further added that “the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy also clarified in person and through his spokesperson that the EU Delegation took the decision to accept the publication in the form appeared in the China Daily with considerable reluctance and while being under time pressure”.
The High Representative/ Vice President went on to further state that “China has State-controlled media, and there is censorship” and that “the EU Delegation, like all other countries’ embassies, operates in this environment, and does everything it can to pass EU messages to the Chinese public, in spite of the obvious challenges”.
“Democracy is a founding value of the European Union. Freedom of expression, free press and media pluralism are pillars of modern democracy and crucial guarantees for an open and free democratic debate” and that “these values guide the European Union’s action internally and externally”, asserted the High Representative/ Vice President Borrell.
In ending, the High Representative/ Vice President Borrell expressed that “accordingly, the European Union consistently advocates strongly and at all levels with its Chinese interlocutors the need for a free and open press and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms” and “this is done in the framework of the EU-China human rights dialogue, as well as in other bilateral meetings, including at the highest levels”.
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