Germany urged China to withdraw the national security law imposed on Hong Kong and grant access for international observers to visit Xinjiang’s Uygurs on Tuesday, marking an adversarial end to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s European tour.
At a press conference after bilateral talks, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also criticised Wang’s “threats” against the Czech senate president’s trip to Taiwan, a row that overshadowed Beijing’s intended focus on cooperation with the European Union’s biggest economy.
Germany, which currently holds the EU presidency, plans to organise a special summit with China’s president Xi Jinping later this month. Some other EU leaders are also expected to attend, in a bid to pile pressure on Xi to accept wider market access for EU companies as part of an EU-China investment deal still under negotiation.
Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.
Four of the five European countries Wang visited raised concerns publicly with him over Hong Kong, leaving the Chinese official on the defensive and repeating the nation’s need to curb Hong Kong independence movements.
Maas, however, dismissed Wang’s reassurance that Hong Kong’s freedoms were protected under the new law.
“You know that our concerns about the effects of the security law have not been allayed,” Maas said. “We want the ‘one country, two systems’ principle to be applied as fully as possible.”
Maas also called for Legislative Council elections to take place in Hong Kong “quickly and unhindered”. The elections, which were planned in September, were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Democratic opposition groups see the postponement as illegitimate.
The security law prompted the US to impose sanctions on Chinese officials and countries including Canada, Australia, Britain and Germany have suspended extradition agreements with Hong Kong.
The European Union agreed in July to limit exports of equipment to Hong Kong that could be used for surveillance and repression.
In his answer to reporters’ questions, Wang lashed out at the Bild newspaper, which last year hosted an event where Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung met Maas. The tabloid paper, Wang said, was full of “bias”.
“Whether Hong Kong or Xinjiang, both fall into the category of internal Chinese matters. We do not want any foreign interference in Chinese society,” said Wang.
Leading a protest by several hundred demonstrators outside the foreign ministry in Berlin on Tuesday, Joshua Wong’s political ally Nathan Law Kwun-chung called for more support from Berlin over the security law.
“Berlin is very quiet when the topic is China. Berlin is very quiet when the topic is Hong Kong,” said Law, 27, who fled to Britain after the security law came in.
“Appeasement strategies are really, really useless,” he added.
Law was joined by supporters waving the blue and white flag of the Uygurs, an ethnic minority group that activists say suffers from repression and persecution in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang.
According to the UN, roughly one million Uygurs and other Turkic people have been detained in camps.
Maas said he and Wang had discussed the camps and “I reiterated that we would very much welcome it if China would … grant access to the camps to a UN observer mission.”
The German foreign minister also denounced China’s “threats” against a senior Czech politician who led a delegation to Taiwan.
Wang had said on Monday that China would make Czech senate president Milos Vystrcil “pay a high price for his short-sighted behaviour and political speculation”.
During the press conference on Tuesday, Wang accused Vystrcil of “crossing a red line” and recognising Taiwan as a country, which he said was against the “one China” policy under which Taiwan was part of China.
Wang’s threats to a fellow EU country while in Germany infuriated some German politicians, who stressed the need for EU unity to support the Czech Republic.
Maas warned that the EU treats its foreign partners with respect and expects the same in return, adding: “Threats do not fit in with this.”
Wang’s visit to Berlin is the final stop on a tour of five European countries as he seeks to shore up economic and diplomatic relations in light of tensions with the US.
This trip, his first out of China since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, also took in the Netherlands, France, Norway and Italy, where he signed two trade agreements, including one on the supply of gas.
Wang’s visit will be followed by another European tour by his higher-up, Politburo member Yang Jiechi.
Yang, considered China’s top diplomat, will visit Greece and Spain this week, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse
More from South China Morning Post:
- EU must correct China economic ties before it’s too late: Josep Borrell
- China’s top diplomats in ‘unprecedented’ back-to-back Europe trips amid tensions with US
- China’s foreign minister warns against giving Hong Kong protesters Nobel Peace Prize
- 5G unease and concerns over human rights issues mar China’s charm offensive through Europe
This article Germany urges withdrawal of Hong Kong security law, seeks access to Uygurs in Xinjiang first appeared on South China Morning Post