The Chinese Regime Censored a Senior European Union Leader at the Opening of a Trade Event in Shanghai

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The organizers of the International Import Exhibition canceled the pre-recorded video of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, who criticized Russia's “illegal war” in Ukraine and called for less commercial dependence on Beijing

The Chinese regime censored a senior European Union leader at the opening of a trade event in Shanghai

The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, during an EU-China summit at the European Council building in Brussels (REUTERS/Olivier Matthys)

The Chinese authorities after organizing a major trade show in Shanghai withdrew a speech from the opening ceremony by the president of the European Council criticizing Russia's “illegal war” in Ukraine and called for less trade dependence on China, European diplomats said.

The pre-recorded video of Charles Michel was destined to be one of several world leaders and heads of international organizations, including the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, at the opening of the China International Import Expo (CIIE) on Friday, three European diplomats told Reuters.

< p class="paragraph">The diplomats, who cannot be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter, said they were surprised the speech was removed.

“The president (of the Council of Europe) Michel was invited to address the 5th Hongqiao/CIIE Forum in Shanghai”, he told Reuters Barend Leyts, a spokesman for Michel. “As requested by the Chinese authorities, we had in fact provided a pre-recorded message that was ultimately not shown. We have addressed this through normal diplomatic channels.”

The Chinese regime censored a senior European Union leader at the opening of a trade event in Shanghai

Flags of the European Union and China during the China-EU summit at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing (REUTERS/Jason Lee)

There was no response from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China or the co-organizers of the exhibition, nor of the Ministry of Commerce of China or the Government of the city of Shanghai to requests for comment from Reuters.

Other dignitaries who did speak at the ceremony after Xi included the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, the director general of the World Trade Organization and the presidents of Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Belarus, according to the exhibition's official website.

Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, is a staunch ally of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, whose country has hosted thousands of Russian soldiers before and during what Moscow calls a “special operation” in Ukraine.

Focus on Russia and trade

The European Council President's speech was very critical of Russia's “illegal war against Ukraine”< /b> and said Europe is drawing “important lessons” from it, according to excerpts of the speech provided by European diplomats.

The Chinese regime censored a senior European Union leader at the opening of a trade event in Shanghai

Charles Michel speaks at a press conference during the European Union leaders' summit in Brussels (REUTERS/Yves Herman)

Europe has depended too much on Russia for fossil fuels, which has caused a trade imbalance, said Michel.

“In Europe, we want balance in our relations commercial … to avoid excessive dependencies,” according to diplomats familiar with what he was going to say. “This also applies to our trade relations with China.”

Michel was also willing to ask China to make more effortsto end the bloodshed in Ukraine.

China has consistently refused to criticize Russia's aggression that has devastated cities in Ukraine and killed thousands of soldiers and civilians since started on February 24.

The Chinese regime censored a senior European Union leader at the opening of a trade event in Shanghai

The international community has repeatedly condemned China's support for the Russian regime during the invasion of Ukraine (Sputnik/Sergey Bobylev/Pool via REUTERS)

“China has a < b>role in using your influence to stop Russia's brutal war… through its so-called “no-limits” partnership with Russia,” Michel said, referring to a pact announced by Xi and Putin in Beijing before the war began. “You, China, can help put an end to this.”

Both Xi and Michel are expected to attend and meet at the summit of heads of state of the Group of Twenty (G20) in Bali next Tuesday and Wednesday.

The President of the European Council is one of the most senior leaders of the European Union whose role includes representing to the bloc at international summits and bilateral summits with other heads of state.

Since 2019, the EU has officially regarded China as a partner, an economic competitor and a systemic rival.

The EU foreign policy service said in a document last month that Beijing should now be viewed primarily as a competitor promoting “a alternative vision of the world order”.

(With information from Reuters)