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The EU is under pressure to explain why it amended a report into global disinformation campaigns, in order to remove passages critical of the Chinese government.

References to a campaign of “global disinformation” by China were removed before the publication of the final report, Politico reported.

The Chinese [were] threatening with reactions if the report comes out,” the New York Times reported.

Several passages were altered following pressure from Beijing.

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The European Union removed references to a “global disinformation” campaign by the Chinese government, which were included in a draft report about the coronavirus pandemic, after pressure from Beijing.

Three sources told Politico that Chinese diplomats had successfully pressured the EU into changing the wording of an official report into “disinformation around the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic.”

An EU diplomat told colleagues that “the Chinese [were] threatening with reactions if the report comes out,” the New York Times reported last week.

An earlier version of the report, seen by Politico, referenced a “continued and coordinated push by official Chinese sources to deflect any blame,” for the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the final version published by the EU references only a “continued and coordinated push by some actors, including Chinese sources, to deflect any blame.”

References to a Chinese campaign of “global disinformation” were also removed before publication, Politico reported.

Bart Groothuis, a Member of the European Parliament representing Holland’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, has asked the EU it to explain why the references were removed.

Groothuis has written to Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, asking him to explain to the European Parliament as soon as possible whether there was diplomatic pressure from Beijing “successfully leading to adjusting assessment or factual findings” of the EEAS report.

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The Dutch MEP warns in his letter that if the EU had bowed to pressure from China, it “would cause damage to the democratic process in the EU.”

A spokesperson for the EEAS categorically denied that it had tweaked its report after foreign pressure, telling Politico “the publications of the EEAS are categorically independent. We have never bowed to any alleged external political pressure. This includes also our latest snapshot overview on disinfo trends.”

Boris Johnson under pressure to reverse Chinese 5G deal Boris Johnson China

REUTERS/Toby Melville

European governments are considering how to deal with China amid growing global criticism of how Beijing has handled the initial coronavirus outbreak.

China, where the outbreak began, has faced allegations of concealing the true scale of the crisis by covering up the true death count.

Boris Johnson’s UK government last week removed China from its international comparisons amid ongoing doubt about the accuracy of case numbers in the country.

The UK’s First Secretary of State Dominic Raab, who deputized for Johnson while he recovered from the virus, warned last week that the UK’s relationship with China could not return to “business as usual” after the pandemic.

Members of Parliament in Johnson’s own Conservative party over the weekend launched the “China Research Group,” to “promote debate and fresh thinking about how Britain should respond to the rise of China.”

The group is putting pressure on Johnson to rip up its deal with the Chinese telecoms company Huawei to develop the UK’s 5G network.

Conservative MP Neil O’Brien, the group’s secretary, told Business Insider he felt that Westminster was not thinking hard enough about how to respond to China’s growing global power.

“It’s important that we don’t lose sight of the growing influence of China and issues that raise,” he said.

“Looking at other countries like Sweden, Germany, and the US, the debate about responding to Chinese industrial and technological policy in those countries is a bit more advanced than it is here.”

Tom Tugendhat, the group’s chair, told Business Insider that opposition to the UK’s 5g deal with Chinese firm Huawei was “hardening” amid fury over China’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

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