Monday

29th May 2017

Commission blames China for press gag in EU capital

  • Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso exchanges diplomatic papers with China's EU ambassador, Wu Hailong, in March (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The European Commission has indicated that China is responsible for a ban on media questions to vice premier Li Keqiang during his two-day visit to the EU capital.

Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde on Wednesday (2 May) told reporters they can take photos of him at three separate press events in the EU quarter on Wednesday and Thursday but they will not be able to ask him questions at any point.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"What can I say? It takes two to tango and this is what we have been able to arrange ... If you have any questions about other media arrangements you should rather ask our Chinese partners. So I'll leave it at that," she added, on whether the press gag was a Chinese idea or an EU one.

Wang Xining, the spokesman of the Chinese embassy to the EU, told EUobserver the decision is based on Chinese "custom" and that he is "frustrated" by people who see it as something else.

"It is interpreted as if we are trying to avoid something ... or repressing freedom of speech. I don't complain. I know what people are thinking. But I feel frustrated because this is just a protocol arrangement. For Europeans, when people meet at this level there must be a press conference. But in our custom, we receive many presidents and prime ministers - sometimes there is a press conference, sometimes not," he said.

Li's trip to Brussels coincides with breaking news on an east-west diplomatic crisis in which a Chinese dissident - Chen Guangcheng - fled house arrest and was sheltered by the US embassy in Beijing.

It also coincides with a scandal in China's ruling clique. Bo Xilai - seen earlier as a contender to become the new Chinese leader in 2013 - was last month defenestrated from the Communist Party's politburo and investigated over a gangland murder, leaving Li as the top candidate.

Noting that she will email press a memo on Li's visit and the texts of three declarations on energy and "sustainable urbanisation," the commission's Ahrenkilde said "this will enable you to cover the story."

When another politburo member, Liu Yandong, visited Brussels two weeks ago, the commission said there was no time for press questions for "logistical reasons."

EU institutions in November 2010 blocked government-critical Chinese journalists from entering a press conference with Chinese VIPs for "security" reasons. They let them in when other EU-accredited reporters complained. But they cancelled the press conference at China's request.

Ahrenkilde on Wednesday said she thinks "it is likely" EU leaders will ask Li about Chen but she "cannot confirm" it. She added that Li's decision to avoid press "is not linked" to the 2010 episode.

EUobserved

Scramble for UK agencies paves way for Trumpian claims

The Spanish health minister this week bragged that Barcelona was “the best city”, had “the best building”, and “the best infrastructure” to host the EU's medicines agency post-Brexit.

Macron and Merkel to 'reconstruct' the EU

The French and German leaders will present a common proposal to deepen and strengthen the EU and the eurozone. They say they are ready to change the EU treaties.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms