Merkel raises human rights with Chinese president

11th November 2005, Comments 0 comments

11 November 2005, BERLIN - German Chancellor-designate Angela Merkel Friday raised the touchy question of human rights in China during talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, party officials said in Berlin.

11 November 2005

BERLIN - German Chancellor-designate Angela Merkel Friday raised the touchy question of human rights in China during talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, party officials said in Berlin.

With Germany now China's biggest trading partner in Europe, the question of human rights in the economic powerhouse has been a thorny issue in German foreign affairs, with Merkel having criticised outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's stance on China.

Hu's three-day visit to Germany comes as the nation's main political parties finalise an agreement for forging a new grand coalition under Merkel's leadership.

Indeed, China could be one key area that marks out the foreign policy differences between Schroeder and Merkel, who appears set to be elected chancellor on November 22.

Unlike Schroeder, who has called for the European Union's arms embargo on China to be lifted, Merkel has rejected such a move, in line with the stance taken by Washington.

Following talks with Schroeder, Hu told a press conference that the leadership of the new Merkel-led grand coalition had assured him that Beijing should expect continuity in Berlin's China policy. There were no questions from reporters at the press conference.

An official from Merkel's conservative Christian Democrat-led (CDU) alliance, foreign affairs spokesman Friedbert Pflueger, said that the question of the arms embargo was not raised during the Chancellor-designate's talks with Hu.

Pflueger said that it was not an issue to be pursued at a national level but rather needed to be agreed upon by the U.S. and Germany's European partners. The embargo has been in force against China since 1989.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Hu, Schroeder said that his stance on the embargo had not changed and that he was confident that the E.U. would come to a sensible solution to the question.

"I have not changed my opinion," said Schroeder, who has visited China six times during the seven years he has been chancellor.

Pflueger, who attended the talks between Merkel and Hu, said that a condition for the lifting of the ban was an improvement in the human rights situation and a relaxation with regard to relations with Taiwan.

However, as was the case with Schroeder, Hu's talks with Merkel focused more on the economic ties between the two nations, in particular in the areas of energy and environmental technology. Germany is China's biggest European investor.

During the talks, officials said Hu also emphasised that China was not only an energy importer but also an energy producer.

Hu went on to tell the joint press conference with Schroeder that there were many aspects to Sino-German relations and called for greater co-operation in other areas such as culture.

"We agreed to intensify our exchange and to develop investment ties," Hu told reporters.

During their meeting, Hu and Schroeder also discussed a range of key international issues, including the threats posed by nuclear programmes in North Korea and Iran, as well as steps to stabilise Afghanistan.

While Merkel underlined the importance of Sino-German relations in her talks with Hu, officials said she also expressed concern over the rapid growth of the Chinese economy.

Schroeder and Hu are also due to lay the foundation stone for the first Chinese cultural institute in Germany.

Hu told reporters that the institute would represent "a new window" for both countries.

Welcomed with full military honours on Thursday, Hu's visit has been held against the backdrop of a series of demonstrations, which included a march by protestors on the Chinese Embassy in Berlin.

German industry and political leaders hope that Hu's visit will give fresh impetus to the nation's economic ties with China.

Altogether the two countries are expected to sign during his visit economic agreements totalling more than 1.4 billion euros (1.6 billion dollars.)

This includes a move by Germany's biggest bank, Deutsche Bank, to buy a Chinese bank, and a deal with Munich-based electronics giant Siemens AG to build 60 high-speed trains for China.

The Chinese president, who arrived in Germany from Britain as part of a wider European trip, is to be the guest of honour at a state banquet at Berlin's historic Charlottenburg Palace Friday evening.

He is scheduled to travel to Germany's biggest state North Rhine-Westphalia on Saturday before visiting Spain.


Subject: German news

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