Hungary hosts Chinese minister after EU imposes sanctions

Hungary hosts Chinese minister after EU imposes sanctions

Brussels (Brussels Morning) Budapest has hosted Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe after the EU imposed sanctions against China over human rights violations in Xinjiang Province, China Global Television Network (CGTN) reported on Thursday, according to Reuters.

Hungary previously criticised the bloc’s decision to impose the sanctions, with its Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Péter Szijjártó, describing the move as pointless and harmful.

CGTN reported that Wei attended meetings on Wednesday with Hungary’s President János Áder, Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén and Defence Minister Tibor Benkő.

The Hungarian government made no official announcement about Wei’s meeting, which came just days after the country approved the use of the second Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccine.

EU’s sanctions against China

The EU imposed sanctions against China earlier this week, including asset freezes and travel bans for officials and one entity. The measures were in response to abuses of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang Province that the European Parliament and some Western nations have decried as genocide.

All 27 EU member states agreed to impose the sanctions against China, Hungary included.

The Chinese Communist Party rejected the accusations and imposed retaliatory sanctions against the EU.

The Hungarian government headed by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has clashed with the EC on several occasions and was the first EU member state to approve COVID-19 vaccines developed in China and Russia.

On Monday, Hungarian authorities approved the use of the second Chinese vaccine, developed by CanSino Biologics vaccine maker.

Visit not linked to sanctions

An unnamed Hungarian expert on relations with China pointed out that the Wei visit was most likely reciprocating a prior visit to China by Defence Minister Benkő and that it should not be misread for something else.

“The new Chinese vaccine is also linked to the military,” the expert noted, admitting that “the timing of the visit is rather unfortunate, but these trips take months to arrange so it is probably not a demonstration against the EU sanctions”.