Authorities in China allegedly cancelled a video address by European Union president Charles Michel at a major trade expo in Shanghai after learning that his speech would include criticism of Russia’s war in Ukraine, according to a report.
Mr Michel was set to deliver a pre-recorded video address at the opening of the China International Import Expo (CIIE) on Friday, three European diplomats told Reuters.
The event was to also include an address by Chinese president Xi Jinping along with several world leaders and heads of international organisations.
Barend Leyts, a spokesperson for Mr Michel, said that he was surprised that the address had been excluded.
“President Michel was invited to address the 5th Hongqiao Forum/CIIE in Shanghai,” he said.
“As requested by the Chinese authorities, we had indeed provided a pre-recorded message which was ultimately not shown. We have addressed this through the normal diplomatic channels.”
China’s commerce ministry and the Shanghai city government, who are the organisers of the event, have not issued a statement.
On Tuesday, the Chinese foreign ministry said they were not aware of any such incident.
“I am not aware of the relevant situation,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a regular briefing in Beijing.
“I cannot comment on this.”
Mr Michel’s speech included strong criticism of Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
“In Europe, we want balance in our trade relations... to avoid over-dependencies,” his speech said, reported Reuters citing the diplomats familiar with what he was to say.
“This is also true of our trade relations with China.”
“China has a role in using its influence to stop Russia’s brutal war... through your so-called ‘no-limits’ partnership with Russia,” Mr Michel was to say, referring to a pact announced by Mr Xi and Mr Putin in Beijing before the war began.
“You, China, can help put an end to this.”
The expo’s official website stated that after Mr Xi, 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 delivered speeches.
Belarus’s Alexander Lukashenko is a staunch ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin.