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Several European countries, including Germany and France, have summoned China's ambassadors for talks after Beijing sanctioned EU officials.
China's ambassador to Germany, Wu Ken, was called in for "urgent talks" on Tuesday with state secretary Miguel Berger, the Foreign Ministry said.
Wu was summoned following a move by Beijing to sanction European officials in retaliation for EU measures responding to China's crackdown on the Uyghur Muslim minority.
During the discussion, Berger "made clear the German government's view that China's sanctions against European MPs, scientists and political institutions as well as non-governmental organizations represent an inappropriate escalation that unnecessarily strains ties between the EU and China," the Foreign Ministry said.
China's ambassadors were also summoned in other European countries over Beijing's retaliatory sanctions.
In France, the Foreign Ministry said Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye was called in over the sanctions as well as "unacceptable statements" targeting French lawmakers and researchers, news agency dpa reported.
"Insults to independent researchers and disputes with elected officials ... are inadmissible and have no place in the relations that the embassy of China is supposed to help develop between France and China," the ministry said earlier.
Denmark made a similar move on Tuesday, with Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod saying China's sanctions were "a clear attack on ... freedom of expression."
Berlin is not alone in engaging Beijing. Michael Gahler, one of 10 members of the European Parliament sanctioned by China, told DW on Tuesday that Western countries shared concerns about China and pointed out that penalties are: "About shedding a light on events that are ongoing."
"I mean, the atrocities and the outrageous things that go on in these internment camps and in these so-called re-education camps, or how they ever try to dress it up. These are unbearable situations, collective custody for an ethnic and religious minority," said Gahler.
The Christian Democratic (CDU) politician said the step: "helps those who are affected — those who are struggling and fighting against these circumstances — to get the necessary international attention. And it was joined by the UK, the US and Canada. So, it's 30 countries all together who are on the same line."
Gahler called China's retaliatory counter-sanctions "totally unjustified."
Germany's Green Party condemned Chinese retaliatory sanctions as an "attack on freedom of opinion and scientific freedom in Europe," demanding Berlin deal harshly with Beijing. Green Party leadership said China's behavior clearly illustrated the reality of a rivalry of systems fighting for predominance in the world today.
Green leadership said: "China's human rights abuses must be called such and that must have consequences for EU-China policy." The Greens want to punish those behind the ongoing repression in Hong Kong as well as banning all Chinese goods produced with forced labor.
On Tuesday, The European Parliament cancelled a meeting to discuss the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), an EU-China trade deal, in response to Beijing's Monday announcement.
"There has to be a solution to these sanctions before we can come back to ordinary business on this," said German Social Democrat Bernd Lange. European politicians have been lobbying for China to ratify International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions on forced labor before the agreement is passed.
Observer Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, director of the European Center for International Political Economy (ECIPE), a Brussels-based think tank, says people should realize that China has a lot of leverage and a message that clearly says drop sanctions or miss profiting on Chinese growth: "China doesn't have to open up. That's the message. It's presenting a clear choice."
js/aw (AP, dpa)