China : Chinese foreign minister sparks protests in Berlin
A visit with his German counterpart lead to protests and tough questions, which he brushed aside.
Berlin - Protest posters and chants in Mitte. A conversation behind closed doors at Lake Tegel.
Chinese policy took centre stage in Berlin in two places on Tuesday: Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met his Chinese counterpart at the Borsig Villa, the foreign ministry’s guesthouse in northern Berlin. Meanwhile, activists protested at the foreign ministry in Mitte against China's human rights violations in Hong Kong and Tibet as well as the genocide of the Uighurs in Xinjiang.
And one of those protestors was Nathan Law. The 27-year-old has been involved in the democracy movement for years. Like the Chinese foreign minister, Law is currently on tour in Europe.
On Tuesday morning he met German parliamentarian Margarete Bause (Greens) at the foreign ministry on Werderscher Markt where he repeated his demand for Germany to take the lead in the European Union to put China in its place.
“Economic relations are important,” he said in an interview with the Berliner Zeitung. “But human rights are more important.” China, he said, was threatening democratic rights not only in Hong Kong but worldwide with its expansive policy.
He compared the struggle of the democracy movement in Hong Kong with the East German civil rights movement in the 1980s: “We will not stop fighting until we have our freedom and democracy back.”
The time for action is now, he said, before the first Hong Kong residents are sentenced to life imprisonment. Many have already been imprisoned or simply disappeared.
The State Security Law, passed at the end of June as a reaction to the year-old demonstrations in Hong Kong, have sparked sharp international criticism. The law is a shocking intervention in the autonomy of the former British crown colony, which had been administered according to a principle of "one country, two systems" after it was returned to China in 1997.
It is not we who are in the wrong place.
The law is aimed at activities that Beijing regards as subversive, separatist, terrorist or conspiratorial.
Law himself left Hong Kong in July because he feared arrest. He has been working from London ever since and says he has had no contact with his family since: “But I hope they are well.”
Parliamentarian Bause agreed. She deflected criticism that the protest was in the wrong place since they weren’t in front of the Borsig Villa: “It is not we who are in the wrong place, but the ministers,” she said.
Democracy needs transparency, not closed doors.
The Chinese minister’s visit was an attempt to limit damage from Covid-19 and the country’s actions in Hong Kong, she said. The government also want to convince German politicians to not prohibit Huawei, which it controls, from taking part in Germany’s 5G future.
Bause wants the German government to “speak bluntly” with Beijing.
Bause and fellow parliamentarians Gyde Jensen (FDP) and Michael Brand (CDU) sent a similar letter Foreign Minister Maas prior to Wang Yi's visit, but it appears to have done little good.
“Whether Hong Kong or Xinjiang: Both fall into the category of China internal affairs,” the Chinese politician said at the closing press conference, according to widespread reports on the meeting. “We do not want any foreign interference in Chinese society.”