Steinmeier to make pre Olympic China trip

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German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier will visit China later this week to discuss press freedom and visit the site of the recent earthquake.

Berlin -- German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is to undertake a three-day trip to China later this week, his spokesman announced Wednesday.

On Friday, at the start of the trip, Steinmeier is to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, discussing the working conditions for journalists, particularly during the Olympic Games being hosted by Beijing in August.

Foreign journalists are particularly restricted in where they can work within China, often being forced to travel with government approved translators and guides. Chinese journalists meanwhile struggle to find employment if they criticise the government. Media in China is heavily censored with several international broadcasters and media outlets, including the BBC, unavailable to Chinese internet users.

The foreign minister is also to visit Sichuan Province, which was devastated by an earthquake on May 12, to assess the work of German aid organizations, spokesman Martin Jaeger said.

Steinmeier's second trip to China follows an invitation issued by Yang when he visited Berlin in January. The German minister has followed a policy of dialogue with China since coming into the post, insisting that soft pressure and discussion are the best methods of dealing with human rights issues in China without damaging Germany's economic interests.

That visit marked the end of a marked chill in German-Chinese relations that followed Chancellor Angela Merkel's exchange of views with the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, in the chancellery in Berlin in September last year. How the Dalai Lama's more recent visit will affect the visit is of great interest. Steinmeier refused to meet the Dalai Lama last month for 'timetabling reasons', whilst his critics accused him of bowing to Chinese pressue. The Tibetan leader is due to return to Germany in October for a lecture at the city's O2 Arena.

Dominic Hinde

1 Comment To This Article

  • Dr. CHing-Hei Yeung posted:

    on 12th June 2008, 13:11:32 - Reply

    Chinese internet users have been able to get access to the BBC online for a few months already