Monday

6th Apr 2020

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"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.

Analysis

First 100 days: Digital and Green Deal policies hit by crises

The first 100 days of Ursula von der Leyen's commission were supposed to be about the digital and environmental transitions. However, that agenda has been hit by first the coronavirus, and now the Greek border situation.

Feature

How corporate lobbyists steer EU law-making

Former EUobserver investigations editor Peter Teffer has written a new book about how lobbying in the EU works. The EU's focus on the internal market offers corporate lobbyists a perfect means to forward their interests.

News in Brief

  1. Three arrested in deadly French 'terror' attack
  2. Greece quarantines two migrant camps
  3. UK premier Boris Johnson hospitalised with coronavirus
  4. Former Libyan rebel leader Jibril dies of corona
  5. EU waives customs duties, VAT on vital medical imports
  6. Air France-KLM seeks state-backed loans
  7. New ventilators for EU will take time, commission says
  8. Drugs firms managing to meet demand, EU says

This is the (finally) approved European Commission

MEPs gave the green light to the entire new European Commission during the plenary session in Strasbourg - but with the abstention of the Greens and a rejection by the leftist group GUE/NGL.

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. Coronabonds clash continues This WEEK
  2. EU depicts Africa's health system as a threat
  3. Greenland watches ... and waits for virus
  4. Coronavirus exposes lack of common data approach
  5. Virus recovery talks should ditch old taboos, EU's Vestager said
  6. EU's 'Irini' Libya mission: Europe's Operation Cassandra
  7. Slovak army deployed to quarantine Roma settlements
  8. Lockdown: EU officials lobbied via WhatsApp and Skype

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us