Foreign embassies in Beijing have been asked to remove “politicised propaganda” from their buildings, apparently a reference to the Ukrainian flags that many missions have displayed on their exterior since the Russian invasion.
The notice from China’s foreign ministry, sent earlier this month, said: “Do not use the building facilities’ exterior walls to display politicised propaganda to avoid inciting disputes between countries,” according to Reuters.
Four Beijing-based diplomats interviewed by the news agency said “politicised propaganda” was a reference to the Ukrainian flag. The notice was addressed to “all embassies, and international organisations’ China representative offices”.
The UK, Canadian, US and EU missions in Beijing, as well as other embassies, have displayed the Ukrainian flag outside their buildings in a show of solidarity. Embassies often display other banners to show support for countries or groups, such as the Pride flag of the LGBTQ+ community.
One diplomat said their mission did not intend to comply with the request.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has been condemned by western countries, but not by China, which is a close ally of Moscow.
Xi Jinping, China’s leader, has tried to position himself as a mediator in the conflict, while also showing clear support for Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president. On a visit to Moscow in March, Xi praised Putin’s “strong leadership”.
Xi did not speak to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, until April. This week, Li Hui, China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs and a former ambassador to Russia, arrived in Ukraine for a two-day visit, as part of a European tour.
No official details about Li’s trip have been released but he is the most senior Chinese official to visit Ukraine since the start of the war.
Nabila Massrali, an EU spokesperson, said “all diplomatic missions” received the note from China’s foreign ministry.
“The note does not specify what might constitute ‘politicised propaganda’, nor communicates further on the matter. The EU delegation has not changed any items displayed at its front wall.”
The UK’s Foreign Office declined to comment, while the US and Canadian foreign ministries did not respond to a request for comment.
China’s foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Reuters contributed to this report
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