MEP lashes out at Europe for buckling to China in coronavirus propaganda investigation
Dutch Member of European Parliament Bart Groothuis (VVD) is concerned by reports that Europe buckled under pressure from China and modified its report on disinformation about the coronavirus. The European Commission strongly denied being pressured to change the report, Trouw reports.
On Friday, EU foreign coordinator Josep Borrel released a report about disinformation and conspiracy theories about the coronavirus. According to the New York Times, the Financial Times, and Politico Europe, among others, the report was adapted under pressure from China.
An earlier version that leaked last week Tuesday stated that there was "persistent and coordinated pressure from Chinese sources to ward off the blame" for the emergence of the coronavirus, according to Trouw. The final text released on Friday stated: "We are seeing continued and coordinated pressure from some actors, including Chinese sources, to ward off blame". Other passages about a "global disinformation" campaign by the Chinese authorities to improve their "international image", were completely removed between Tuesday's leak and Friday's publication, according to the newspaper.
The New York Times reported that Chinese officials asked EU representatives in Beijing to amend the text. "The Chinese threatened counter-reactions if this report came out," the American newspaper quoted from an internal email a EU diplomat sent to colleagues.
A spokesperson for the European Commission strongly denied on Monday that the report was adapted due to pressure from China. According to him, the Tuesday leak and Friday report came from two different channels and nothing was adjusted or admitted. The final EU report is still quite critical of China. "Chinese officials and state media are trying to curtail any reference to Wuhan as the origin of Covid-19," is one of the criticisms in the report, according to Trouw.
But the fact that crucial details weren't mention is the writing on the wall, VVD MEP Groothuis said to the Dutch newspaper. He sent a letter to Borrel, asking him to provide a clear explanation on this matter. The letter was signed by dozens of other MEPs. Groothuis is especially disappointed that Borrel did not support his analysts, who provided the harsher version of the report on Tuesday. "China is getting stronger and they will try this more often," he said. "You have to draw a line and say: to here and no further. What you should not say is: It's not that bad, we deny. You have to come up with a sweeping statement, with the message to Beijing: You can keep trying but we will not go along with this."