China pushes back against US rule monitoring diplomatic visits

BEIJING (Bloomberg) – The US State Department’s new requirement that China give official notice before its diplomats visit universities and research institutions or meet with local government officials violates the Vienna Convention governing relations between countries, according to the Chinese embassy in America.

“According to Article 25 of the Vienna Convention, the receiving State shall accord full facilities for the performances of the functions of the mission,” the Chinese embassy said on Twitter. “But the US side is doing exactly the opposite.”

The State Department said the restrictions were a reciprocal action because its officials are forced to seek permission for such meetings and often denied access in China.

But Beijing denied that in a separate post by the Chinese embassy in the US, saying it does not place such requirements on American diplomats and consular officers.

The State Department said the move could affect as many as 50 meetings a week.

The US embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to an email seeking clarity on the rules its diplomats have to abide by in China.

“China has consistently supported US diplomatic missions in China in carrying out normal official activities and provided the necessary facilities,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing on Thursday (Oct 17). “The US saying that China restricts US diplomats is simply untenable. We urge the US to correct its mistakes, withdraw the relevant decisions, and provide support and convenience for the activities of Chinese diplomats in the US.”

The move comes as the US and China work toward getting a partial trade deal ready for leaders Donald Trump and Xi Jinping to sign at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next month in Chile.

At the same time, the world’s two biggest economies have clashed over pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, with China threatening to retaliate if the US enacts legislation supporting the protesters.

The State Department’s move echoes an earlier request by the US Justice Department for China’s state-owned broadcasters to register as foreign agents.

The designation increased regulation of the organisations, more in line with the strict scrutiny foreign news organisations face in China.

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