A lot of calls now for minister João Gomes Cravinho to leave the government

Government “receives guarantees that China doesn’t support ‘secret police stations’

China admitted to stations in December, saying they were created by “passionate overseas groups”

Minister of Foreign Affairs, João Gomes Cravinho, said in parliament today that he had received assurances that China would not support alleged secret Chinese police stations in Portugal.

The assertion followed questions during a parliamentary hearing in the Foreign Affairs Committee by MP for Iniciativa Liberal Rodrigo Saraiva, who wanted to pin the minister down on the fairly hush-hush three-day visit to Portugal by Chinese vice president Han Zeng earlier this month.

And sure enough, the illegal police stations had been on the agenda.

Back in December, an official spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, admitted – after weeks of authorities claiming ignorance – that Beijing did indeed “maintain a network of on-duty police stations” abroad – but nothing like for the reasons highlighted by Human Rights NGO Safeguard Defenders.

The police stations were created “by passionate overseas Chinese groups” and are run by “volunteers committed to the Chinese diaspora and not by Chinese police officers”, said the spokesperson.

It was stressed that the stations are (were?) designed to “help Chinese citizens” with bureaucratic issues. There was no question of them involving the exertion of undue influence on Chinese citizens abroad, said the spokesperson.

And today, Gomes Cravinho has elaborated slightly: “”The signal we gave was that, on the Chinese side, it was fundamental to limit its activities in Portugal to what is agreed in the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations and consular relations,” he answered Rodrigo Saraiva.  In this sense, he continued, “the Chinese communities in Portugal must conform to these treaties,” adding that this guarantee was given, writes Lusa. 

In other words it was very much a guarantee for the future, starting from the visit here on May 7 by China’s vice-president.

The questions by IL’s MP however have finally shed light on what exactly Mr Zeng was doing in Portugal. There were dialogues with the Portuguese authorities over Macau, and Ukraine, said the minister.

“On the Ukrainian issue, the foreign minister noted the importance of “parliamentary backing” in Portugal’s support for Ukraine and said that Lisbon is aligned with Kiev’s peace plan”, explains Lusa

“The head of Portuguese diplomacy also recalled the recent visit to Lisbon of his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, in which they had the opportunity to address Kiev’s ten-point proposal.

“João Gomes Cravinho heard from his colleague that some countries do not agree with all ten points, but stressed that Portugal “is very comfortable” with them, highlighting Lisbon’s willingness to train F-16 fighter pilots and the importance of hearing words of “parliamentary backing” in support of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression”.

During the parliamentary hearing, João Gomes Cravinho was also confronted by Bloco de Esquerda on several current international issues, such as the Portuguese position on Western Sahara and the worsening of the situation in the Middle East.

In relation to Western Sahara, the minister rejected that there has been a change in the Portuguese position towards support to Morocco, although he considers that the plan proposed by Rabat “is an important negotiation step” that should take place within the United Nations.

“Negotiating processes begin precisely by the placing of proposals by one side or the other and it is not usual that the first proposal is accepted (…) neither the second nor the third. And so that is the situation we are in,” he told MPs.

On the Middle East, Lisbon’s position in votes at the United Nations and other international bodies, including Geneva, maintains its “defence of the principle of two states“, despite the minister recognising that “the challenges are becoming greater and more difficult“.

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