France summons Chinese envoy over 'unacceptable' insults

FILE PHOTO: Chinese Ambassador in France Lu Shaye attends the MEDEF union summer forum renamed La Rencontre des Entrepreneurs de France, LaREF, at the Paris Longchamp Racecourse in Paris, France, August 29, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) - France summoned China’s ambassador on Tuesday to underscore the unacceptable nature of insults and threats aimed at French lawmakers and a researcher, and Beijing’s decision to sanction some European officials, a French foreign ministry source said.

Ambassador to France Lu Shaye had already been summoned by the foreign ministry last April over posts and tweets by the embassy defending Beijing’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and criticising the West’s handling of it.

The Chinese embassy last week warned against French lawmakers meeting officials during an upcoming visit to self-ruled Taiwan, drawing a rebuff from France.

Since then it has been in a Twitter spat with Antoine Bondaz, a China expert at the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research, in which the embassy has described him as a “small-time thug” and “mad hyena”.

“It continues to be unacceptable and has crossed limits for a foreign embassy,” the French official said after Lu was received by the head of the foreign ministry’s Asia department.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Lu’s behaviour was creating an obstacle to improving relations between China and France.

The United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada imposed sanctions on Chinese officials on Monday for human rights abuses in Xinjiang, in the first such coordinated Western action against Beijing under new U.S President Joe Biden.

In retaliation, the Chinese Foreign Ministry sanctioned several European nationals, including French Member of the European Parliament Raphaël Glucksmann.

The envoy had been told of France’s disapproval of that decision, the French official said, adding that Lu was “visibly shocked by the extremely direct character of what he was told” and had tried to change the conversation to discuss Taiwan.

Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Catherine Evans