Factbox-Lu Shaye: Chinese envoy who questioned Ukraine’s sovereignty no stranger to controversy

By Yew Lun Tian

BEIJING (Reuters) – Outrage over China’s ambassador to France questioning the sovereignty of former Soviet countries like Ukraine reverberated across Europe on Monday as Beijing distanced itself from the envoy’s remarks by reaffirming its respect for their status.

It is not the first time Lu Shaye, 58, a prominent practitioner of China’s abrasive ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy, has courted controversy since taking up his post in Paris in 2019.

Below is a brief rundown of his most contentious moments.

– In an interview aired on French television on Friday, Lu said former Soviet Union countries “don’t have actual status in international law because there is no international agreement to materialize their sovereign status.”

His comments were condemned across the region and drew questions over China’s previous calls to respect national sovereignty in order to find a peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine started by its close ally Russia.

A transcript of Lu’s remarks posted on the Chinese embassy’s official WeChat account were subsequently deleted. The embassy did not reply to a request for comment.

Asked about Lu’s comments on Monday, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Beijing respects the sovereignty of all former republics of the Soviet Union, which was dissolved in 1991.

– Lu told a group of journalists at a reception in Paris in December 2022 that historic protests against China’s strict COVID-19 controls were “taken advantage of” by unnamed foreign forces, without providing evidence.

The protests, unprecedented in President Xi Jinping’s decade in power, spread across numerous cities last November. They helped hasten the end of three years of restrictions, sources have previously told Reuters.

– A few months earlier, in August 2022, Lu had weighed in on China’s perennial bugbear: the democratically-governed island of Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own.

Lu said that Taiwanese people had been brainwashed by ideas about independence, and that they can become patriots after being “re-educated”.

His remark drew parallels with China’s description of its educational centres for ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in its western region of Xinjiang.

The United Nations has said these camps amount to “arbitrary and discriminatory detention” and may constitute crimes against humanity. China has vigorously denied that.

– In April 2020, months after COVID-19 first erupted in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and started spreading around the world, the French foreign ministry summoned Lu over an article posted on the Chinese embassy’s website.

The post, ascribed to an anonymous Chinese diplomat, insinuated that residents of retirement homes in France had been left to die of hunger and disease as COVID spread in Europe.

Beijing repeatedly criticised western countries for mismanaging the COVID-19 pandemic by not doing enough to prevent the virus from spreading.

(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Editing by John Geddie & Simon Cameron-Moore)