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Brussels Needs To Practice What It Preaches

Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang stops to pose for a photo -- no questions, please! -- in Brussels on May 3.

Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang stops to pose for a photo -- no questions, please! -- in Brussels on May 3.

Brussels is often keen to portray itself as a champion of media freedom, but this week it came under severe criticism from its own press corps -- and on World Press Freedom Day, to boot.

Journalists were irked that they weren't given a single opportunity to pose questions to Chinese Vice Prime Minister Li Keqiang during his three-day visit to the Belgian capital.

Li is tipped to become China's next prime minister in a major reshuffle at the top of the Chinese Communist Party later this year. The trip to Brussels was meant to be an opportunity for him to forge working relationships with EU leaders such as Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy.

Traditionally, both the president of the European Commission (Barroso) and the president of the European Council (Van Rompuy) hold press points with visiting foreign leaders, where reporters are allowed to ask a couple of questions.

Not this time.

A commission spokesperson noted dryly that "it takes two to tango" and said that a press point was an option but that it wasn't taken up. That left journalists to speculate that Beijing wanted to avoid discussing recent events concerning Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng and the defenestrated party functionary Bo Xilai openly.

The Brussels media was assured, however, of several opportunities to take pictures of Li and promised a press release with the text of three declarations agreed by Brussels and Beijing on issues such as energy, electricity markets, and sustainable urbanization.

-- Rikard Jozwiak

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at