China has requested foreign embassies and international organizations based in Beijing not to use the outer walls of their buildings for "political propaganda," apparently with regard to signs that show support for Ukraine, multiple diplomatic sources in the capital said Tuesday.

Many embassies in Beijing have put up signboards depicting the Ukraine flag and with messages in Chinese and English, such as #StandWithUkraine, to demonstrate their solidarity with the Eastern European country battling a Russian invasion since February last year.

The notice from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, dated May 10, urged the embassies and international organizations not to use the outer walls of their buildings for propaganda and "avoid causing conflicts between states."

The move has triggered a backlash from diplomats of Europe and other areas, with none believed to have removed the signboards.

A signboard at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing depicting the Ukraine flag and bearing the message "We stand with Ukraine" in Chinese is pictured on May 15, 2023. (Kyodo)

Embassies in Beijing displaying support for Ukraine include Canada, Germany and Poland.

China has dispatched a special envoy to Ukraine, Russia, Poland, France and Germany from Monday to promote peace talks over the war in Ukraine. But critics are doubtful whether Beijing can act as a mediator due to its close ties with Moscow.

The notice also said embassies and international organizations are "obliged to follow Chinese laws and regulations," even though Beijing respects diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

The letter is believed to have been sent to all the diplomatic missions in China. Some embassies also fly the rainbow flag, a symbol of pride and diversity of sexual minorities.

A European diplomat criticized China's stance, stating that there is no reasonable justification for obstructing a state's expression of its intent and that they will not comply with the notice.

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