Saturday

21st Sep 2019

Merkel urges 'peaceful' end to Hong Kong protests

  • Hong Kong protests have been gathering pace since March (Photo: etan liam)

German chancellor Angela Merkel has urged a "peaceful" solution to the Hong Kong protests on a visit to China designed to boost trade.

"We hope that there will be a solution in the trade dispute with the United States since it affects everybody," she also said, referring to a US-China tariff war.

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Merkel spoke alongside Chinese prime minister Li Keqiang on Friday (6 September) - the first day of a two-day state visit which saw her bring along several German CEOs and that will see her visit German firms in China and attend two business forums.

Li said only that China wanted to prevent unrest in Hong Kong, which began in March over Chinese efforts to bring the former British colony and business hub closer to heel with a new extradition law.

The Chinese ambassador to Germany, Wu Ken, also defended the actions of Chinese police in an open letter in German media the same day.

He spoke of the protesters' "evil occurrences, as violent attacks on parliament and police stations ... as well as paralysis of traffic facilities".

He denounced US "intimidation policy" and called for "mutual respect".

He also said German and French police had in the past taken "decisive action" against anti-G7 protesters and so-called 'yellow vest' rioters.

"Why does it [European public opinion] come to different conclusions in view of the same overall picture as soon as Hong Kong is mentioned?", Wu added.

But for his part, Tom Cotton, a US senator, posted a video on social media showing Chinese police beating up people on the Hong Kong metro in recent days.

"That's footage of police trapping Hong Kong protestors in subway cars and beating them senseless as they scream for mercy. Worth keeping in mind as you [Merkel] kowtow to chairman Xi on behalf of German corporations," he said, referring to Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany, also mentioned Chinese human rights abuses in Tibet and its mass detentions of the Uighur Muslim minority.

China "stands against the values Germany cherishes," he said.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong protesters also appealed for help in an open letter.

"We sincerely ask you or your cabinet to [address] the face of the proliferation of police brutality in Hong Kong and your upcoming trip to China," their informal leader, Joshua Wong, said.

"In terms of civil and political rights, the situation in China has deteriorated significantly in recent years," Baerbel Kofler, a German centre-left MP who is the government's human rights commissioner, also said on the eve of Merkel's visit.

The trip - Merkel's 12th to China - makes her the most frequent EU visitor in the country.

China is Germany's top trading partner in a relationship worth €199.3bn last year.

But German exports of cars and engineering equipment and services are falling amid fears of a recession in the EU's largest economy.

China and the EU are also hoping to finalise a free-trade treaty under Germany's EU presidency due next year.

But European concerns on Chinese capture of strategically important EU assets, such as power plants, ports, and telecoms infrastructure, as well as anger at Chinese protectionism and intellectual property theft have held back closer ties.

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