Authorities in China’s capital asked several Western embassies this week to remove political signs from their outer walls, diplomatic sources in Beijing told AFP.
Several Western embassies across Beijing display Ukrainian flags in solidarity with the country’s fight against Russia’s invasion, some accompanied by messages of support in English and Chinese.
However, sources in several European missions told AFP they had received a notice from Chinese authorities this week asking them to take down such political signage.
All said they would refuse the request and that they would not change their policies.
One official from a European embassy confirmed the request, saying it was almost certainly related to several missions’ prominent display of a Ukrainian flag.
However, an official from another European embassy said it was unclear whether the request was linked to Ukraine or the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.
Some foreign embassies in Beijing have raised pride flags in recognition of the campaign, which will be marked on Wednesday, to raise awareness of LGBT rights violations worldwide.
The official said they “strictly adhere to the Vienna conventions. There is therefore no reason for us to react to this note or to change our display policy”.
Asked on Wednesday about reports, which originally appeared in Japan’s Kyodo news agency, Beijing insisted that foreign embassies “have the obligation to respect Chinese laws and regulations”.
“China calls on embassies of all countries in China… to perform their duties in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations or relevant international agreements,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.
The convention, while stressing that envoys have a duty “not to interfere in the internal affairs” of their host countries, does not explicitly prohibit political signage from being displayed on embassies’ outer walls.
China has sought to portray itself as a neutral player in Russia’s war in Ukraine, calling for a “political settlement” to the crisis.
But recent comments by China’s ambassador to France questioning the sovereignty of ex-Soviet states cast further doubt on its neutrality.
A position paper from Beijing on ending the conflict was also met with scepticism from the United States and NATO.