European Council president Charles Michel was set to deliver an address at the opening day of the China International Import Expo (CIIE) hosted in Shanghai on Friday, but Chinese authorities have pulled the pre-recorded video address in a very brazen act of censorship of a top official and diplomat, Reuters reports.
"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," a statement from EC President Michel's office confirmed.
The high-profile speech was likely canceled by Chinese authorities as it was expected to criticize Russia's war in Ukraine while also provocatively urging the European Union to reduce trade dependency on China.
What's more is that he was expected to call on Beijing to pressure Moscow to halt the ongoing attack on Ukraine, and heap criticism of the Russia-China "no-limits" partnership declared just before the war's start in February.
According to statements from diplomatic sources cited in Reuters, the rebuke of Russia was going to be scathing, at an event where President Xi Jinping is to speak as well:
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.”
Xi and Michel are expected to meet in person next week at the G-20 summit in Bali. Biden will also meet with Xi - a moment that will drive headlines, likely overshadowing everything else.
#Chinese authorities behind a major trade expo in Shanghai pull an address by the #EU chief #CharlesMichel that was set to criticize Russia’s “illegal war” in Ukraine and call for reduced trade dependency on China, diplomats say.https://t.co/qb3TIFz2lQ— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) November 8, 2022
But a Sunday report in the South China Morning Post noted that "Beijing has yet to officially confirm either Xi’s attendance at the summit or a meeting with Biden, who will be in Bali from November 13 to 16."
If it happens, it will be the first face-to-face meeting with Xi since Biden took office in 2021. According to the US side, via US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, "There’s an awful lot of issues for us to talk to China about. Some issues are fairly contentious and some should be collaborative." The US confirmed ongoing intense discussions and planning with the Chinese side for the meeting.