According to diplomatic sources, Beijing authorities have this week asked several Western embassies to remove political signs from their walls. Some Western embassies in Beijing have been displaying Ukrainian flags in solidarity with the country’s struggle against the Russian invasion, accompanied by messages of support in English and Chinese.
Several European missions have confirmed that they received this request from the Chinese authorities but have made it clear that they will reject the request and will not change their policies on the matter. An official at one European embassy mentioned that the request could be related to the display of the Ukrainian flag at several diplomatic missions, although another official at another European embassy noted that it was unclear whether the request was linked to Ukraine or to the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.
Foreign embassies in Beijing have also raised LGBT flags to mark the day, which is observed on Wednesday. However, embassy officials reaffirmed their strict adherence to the Vienna Conventions and stated that there is no reason for them to change their policies or respond to this note.
In response, Chinese authorities stated that embassies have an obligation to abide by Chinese laws and regulations and called on all countries’ embassies in China to perform their duties in accordance with the Vienna Convention. It should be noted that while the convention establishes the duty of diplomatic missions to “not interfere in the internal affairs” of host countries, it does not explicitly prohibit the display of political signs on the exterior walls of embassies.
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