Missions in China warned over 'propaganda' displays after Ukraine flags raised

FILE PHOTO: Billboard in support of Ukraine outside the Canadian embassy in Beijing

By Laurie Chen

BEIJING (Reuters) -China has notified foreign embassies and international organisations not to exhibit "politicised propaganda" on their buildings, an instruction diplomats say is aimed at missions that have displayed Ukrainian flags since Russia's invasion.

Several foreign missions in China raised the Ukrainian flag, or displayed its image in posters and lights, following the February 2022 invasion that sparked international condemnation of Russia, a close ally of China.

"Do not use the building facilities' exterior walls to display politicised propaganda to avoid inciting disputes between countries," China's foreign ministry said in a notification dated May 10.

The notice, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, was addressed to "all embassies, and international organisations' China representative offices".

In the notice, the ministry did not mention Ukrainian flags or any particular "propaganda" displays, but four Beijing-based diplomats, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said it was clearly related to Ukraine solidarity exhibits.

Asked about the notice at a briefing, foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said embassies and offices of international organisations had a duty to respect China's laws and regulations. He did not elaborate.

Weeks after Russia launched what it calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine a poster of a Ukrainian flag on the exterior wall of the Canadian Embassy was defaced with anti-NATO graffiti, according to a Reuters witness.

The missions of the European Union, Britain, Germany and Poland in Beijing have also displayed images of Ukrainian flags.

They did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

China has called for a peace in Ukraine but has refrained from condemning Russia, leading to criticism from Western countries.

Some embassies in Beijing are also displaying rainbow flags in support of the LGBT community, to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia on Wednesday, and LGBT Pride Month in June.

It was not immediately clear if China, which has faced criticism from rights groups for stifling LGBT activism in recent years, objected to such displays.

(Reporting by Laurie Chen and Yew Lun Tian; Editing by John Geddie, Robert Birsel)