China: Charles Michel in Beijing amid protests

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Its president European Council, Charles Michelleft yesterday Tuesday (29/11) evening for Beijing, where tomorrow Thursday (1/12) he will have talks with Chinese president Xi Jinpingwhich has faced historic protests against the restrictive measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus pandemic and in favor of more freedoms.

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“Charles Michel was invited by President Xi. When the Chinese president invites you, do you say no?’a European official asked, responding to criticism of Mr Michel’s trip, which some described as “unfortunate”.

China’s “zero COVID” policy, with its “draconian” restrictive measures, has sparked major protests in Chinese cities in recent days. For observers in the West, it is the biggest movement of dissent in the country since pro-democracy protests that were brutally suppressed in 1989. China’s key security body claimed on Tuesday that “enemy forces” were being cracked down on.

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The president of the European Council, the institution that represents EU member states, arrives in the Chinese capital today (30/11) ahead of meetings tomorrow Thursday with President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and the chairman of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s parliament, Wu Banguo.

His visit, shortly after the one made in Beijing by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in early November, continues the “strategic dialogue on China” between heads of state and government of the European Union at the October summit, the European official explained..

Charles Michel, having “mandate” of the 27, responded “in the personal invitation addressed to him by President Xi” at the recent G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, he explained.

I will “defend EU interests” during the talks, will “raise issues of human rights and fundamental freedoms” and “means having an honest dialogue” with Xi Jinping, he added.

“The timing of this visit was very well chosen, due to the economic and energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine”this official argued, according to which Mr. Michel “will urge President Xi to use his influence to end Russia’s aggression” and “will analyze the sanctions decided by the EU”. The response to the new coronavirus pandemic is also expected to be discussed.

The trip comes amid intense talks among Europeans on how to position themselves vis-à-vis China, amid escalating tensions between Beijing and Washington and as the EU seeks to reduce its huge current account deficit with the Asian giant.

The EU considers China – simultaneously – a “partner”, “economic competitor” and “systemic adversary”, a formulation adopted in 2019.

Bilateral relations have soured since the 27 adopted sanctions in 2021 following allegations of human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Charles Michel is asked to synthesize the positions of countries such as Germany, which has great economic interests in China, on the one hand, and countries such as Lithuania, which caused anger in Beijing because it accepted a delegation from Taiwan, on the other.

Source: News Beast

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