German Chancellor Angela Merkel kicked off her three-day visit to China on Friday by calling for dialogue to resolve the political crisis in Hong Kong, adding that the “rights and freedoms” of the city’s residents must be protected.
Merkel, who traveled to Beijing with a German business delegation, this week came under pressure to address human rights concerns while in China.
Speaking at a news conference in Beijing, Merkel said she and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang had “in connection with human rights and the rule of law, of course also spoken at length about Hong Kong.”
“The principle of ‘one country, two systems’ continues to apply. The Basic Law, which guarantees the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong’s citizens, was developed on the basis of this agreement … I have pointed out that these rights and freedoms must, of course, also be guaranteed,” the chancellor added.
The Basic Law is Hong Kong’s de facto constitution, which grants some democratic rights — such as press freedom — to the semiautonomous territory that are not afforded to mainland China.
Hong Kong has been rocked by three months of demonstrations, triggered by a controversial extradition bill, with at times violent confrontations between police and protesters. The police response prompted an international outcry.
The city is bracing itself for another weekend of demonstrations. Although the territory’s leader Carrie Lam this week withdrew the bill, activists say other key demands — such as the unconditional release of all arrested protesters — have not been met.
Merkel on Friday called for deescalation, saying: “Every effort must be made to avoid violence. Solutions can only be found politically, that is to say through dialogue.”
Shortly after the news conference, Merkel attended an official welcome ceremony alongside Li. While Li stood during the Chinese national anthem, the chancellor remained seated during the German national anthem. Following several shaking bouts in public earlier this summer, Merkel has opted for a protocol change to remain seated during anthems at official ceremonies.
On Friday evening, the German chancellor is set to have dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Xi Jinping promises to keep opening up China’s economy as he welcomes Germany’s Angela Merkel to Beijing
Chinese President Xi Jinping told visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday that China would keep its promise to open up its economy as he courted European support in the trade war with the US.
Xi said that China and Germany needed to intensify their strategic cooperation “more than ever” to ensure everyone could enjoy a larger slice of the cake.
He argued that the Chinese market would develop further, adding: “Thus openness is extending from the manufacturing sector to the financial and services sectors. This will bring more new chances for Germany and all other countries in the world.”
Germany, the European Union’s main economic powerhouse, risks being caught in the crossfire as the threat of a recession grows.
Xi said China and Germany should together explore technological areas such as new energy vehicles, smart manufacturing, artificial intelligence, digitalisation and 5G communications networks.
He also welcomed German companies’ participation in the Yangtze River Economic Belt Development Plan, one of Xi’s pet projects to develop a more sustainable path in one of China’s economic powerhouses.
Source: South China Morning Post