“The statements of the Chinese Embassy in France and the measures taken against elected officials, researchers and European diplomats are unacceptable,” said Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on twitter.
Reacting to the representation by the Embassy of Antoine Bondaz, an expert on China at the French Foundation for Strategic Research, as a “little tyrant”, “ideological troll” and part of a pack of “mad hyenas” , the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release condemning “insults against independent researchers and the controversy against French elected officials” and the defense of academic freedoms.
Clément Beaune, French Minister for Europe, said such threats and intimidation from China could not be tolerated. “Neither France nor Europe are doormats,” he told Franceinfo radio.
Lu added gasoline to the fire in refusing the diplomatic summons on Monday, and saying he would go Tuesday to present his own demands.
Lu’s summons was just the latest sign of heightened tensions between China and Western governments over growing Beijing military and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan, which it claims to be its own territory, and over persecution by the Communist Party. Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang Province.
The US, EU, UK and Canada have imposed sanctions on four Chinese officials and a security organization over the country’s treatment of Uyghurs in a coordinated move that triggered immediate retaliation from Beijing. China has imposed travel bans on 10 people from the EU, including French MEP Raphael Glucksmann, and four entities, saying the EU sanctions were based on “lies and disinformation.”
EU officials and MEPs in turn condemned China’s tit-for-tat sanctions, warning that they threaten EU-China relations, including a recently concluded investment deal that has yet to be concluded. ratified by the European Parliament.
“It is not by attacking academic freedom, freedom of expression and fundamental democratic freedoms that China will respond to the legitimate concerns of the EU,” the French foreign ministry said.
Bondaz called Lu’s style of diplomacy “counterproductive” because it had sparked previously dormant French public opposition to Chinese policies.
“I think it has a lot to do with the personality of the ambassador. He’s always been more aggressive, “Bondaz said, suggesting Lu might aim to be chosen as foreign minister after next year’s Communist Party congress 2022.” I think he has personal ambitions. He wants to appear in China as the diplomat who defends the country at all costs, who is the most aggressive, even if it causes an incident.
This is not the first time that Lu has been criticized in France. Le Drian summoned him last April over China’s propaganda campaign on how the world had handled the coronavirus pandemic, including what Le Drian called “slander” against French healthcare workers in retirement homes.
Lu’s embassy had published a vitriolic letter purportedly written by an anonymous “Chinese diplomat in Paris”, though it was ultimately suppressed after repeated requests from France. Among other charges, the letter said nursing home caregivers had abandoned their posts and left the elderly to starve or die of disease.
The Chinese Embassy in Paris did not immediately respond to a request for comment.