EU - China

Italy follows France, Germany in sanctioning China over treatment of Uyghurs

Lu Shaye, Chinese Ambassador to France, was summoned by the French foreign ministry on Tuesday. Italy followed suit on Wednesday, summoning its ambassador.
Lu Shaye, Chinese Ambassador to France, was summoned by the French foreign ministry on Tuesday. Italy followed suit on Wednesday, summoning its ambassador. © Sean Kilpatrick/AP

Italy summoned the Chinese ambassador over China’s response to European Union sanctions on Chinese officials accused of being involved in human rights abuses on the Muslim Uyghur minority in Zinjiang. This follows France and Germany summoning ambassadors the day before.

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The Italian foreign ministry said it had called in Li Junhua to a meeting on Wednesday "in relation to the sanctions imposed by Beijing on the European Union."

China this week blocked entry to ten Europeans, including five MEPs and two EU bodies and think tanks, after the EU, Britain and Canada on Monday blacklisted four former and current officials from China's northwestern Xinjiang region for cracking down on the Uyghurs.

The United States also put sanctions on two of the officials, after sanctioning the two others previously, in July 2020.

Italy was seen, until recently, as one of the more China-friendly European countries, after it joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative in 2019.

Rights groups believe at least one million Uyghurs and other mostly-Muslim minorities have been put in camps in Xinjiang. They accuse authorities of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour.

China has strongly denied allegations of forced labour, instead saying that it has been working on training programs, work schemes and better education to counter extremism.

France recalls ambassador over tweets

One of the Europeans banned from entering China is including French MEP Raphaël Glucksmann.

On Tuesday the French foreign ministry summoned Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye over the sanctions and over what it said were insults and threats aimed at French lawmakers and a researcher.

In a series of tweets targeting, Lu called China specialist Antoine Bondaz a "little thug," a "crazed hyena" and "ideological troll" with "anti-Chinese" stances, after Bondaz complained about Chinese pressure on French lawmakers hoping to visit Taiwan.

"The embassy's methods, and the tone of its public comments, were completely unacceptable and exceeded all the limits commonly accepted by any embassy in the world," a French foreign ministry official said after Lu appeared, adding that the ambassador’s behaviour was creating an obstacle to improving relations between China and France.

Germany’s foreign ministry said it had called in China's ambassador Wu Ken for "urgent talks" over China’s sanctions against European parliamentarians and institutions which “represent an inappropriate escalation that unnecessarily strains ties between the EU and China."

Belgium, Lithuania, Sweden and Denmark also summoned their ambassadors over the travel bans affecting their nationals.

(with wires)

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