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2020.05.11 11:34

Lithuanian embassy in China published EU letter redacted by Beijing

LRT.lt, LRT TV2020.05.11 11:34

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry confirmed that a letter redacted by Beijing was published by mistake on the website of the Lithuanian embassy in China.

The EU's foreign office, the European External Action Service (EEAS), agreed for a joint letter from all EU ambassadors calling for warmer ties with China to be redacted by Beijing. An edited version was then published in China Daily, the government's mouthpiece newspaper.

The redactions included a sentence on “the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, and its subsequent spread to the rest of the world over the past three months,” according to Politico.

The Lithuanian embassy in Beijing first published the censored version of the letter, subsequently replacing it by the unedited copy on May 7.

“There was confusion with the upload,” Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius told LRT TV. “First there was a [redacted] version, it was corrected after spotting the oversight.”

He also downplayed the importance of the letter.

Read more: Lithuania recognising Taiwan is akin to poking a tiger through a fence – opinion

EEAS said it regreted that the letter was “not published in full by the China Daily,” but said the announcement calling for warmer ties with Beijing had to be greenlighted by China’s foreign ministry, according to Politico.

In protest, the German, French and Italian ambassadors to China have published the full, unedited letter with references to the virus originating in China.

Meanwhile, Gunnar Wiegand, the managing director for Asia and the Pacific at the EEAS, retweeted the censored version. The tweet was later deleted.

According to Politico, the EEAS said it agreed for the reference to the virus’ origins and spread to be cut with “considerable reluctance,” but chose to proceed as it was important to stress cooperation between the EU and China on “climate change and sustainability, human rights, multilateralism and the global response to the coronavirus”.

This follows on from an earlier scandal in early May, when the same EEAS softened up a report on China’s and Russia’s Covid-19 disinformation due to pressure from Beijing.

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