The German President Talks about Human Rights with his Counterpart Hu Jingtao in Beijing

On May 24th, 2007, during the second day of the German President Horst Koehler’s first visit to China, he had a closed door talk with the Chinese President Hu Jintao for over one hour in which he mentioned China’s unsatisfactory human rights situation to his counterpart.

According to a member of the entourage, when meeting with Hu Jintao, Koehler stressed that every political regime needs its people’s trust, and that the respect for human rights can strengthen its people’s trust in the government. He also recounted that during Hu’s visit to Berlin in November 2005 they had already touched upon this topic and made it public at the press conference in Berlin. In the talk, he asked Hu to respect people’s basic rights and said that only when people’s freedom and creativity are fully protected can a nation have long term peace and stability. In addition, as long as Koehler met with Hu and talked about human rights, he would always refer to the lesson Germany learned from the history and World War II.

How Koehler would bring up the sensitive issue of human rights at his meeting with the head of the Chinese Communist regime in Beijing was a point of interest for the German media and the general public. Prior to Koehler’s state visit to China, two relevant incidents occurred. One of them was that ten days before Koehler’s departure for China, the German Federal Parliament overwhelmingly passed a cross-party resolution condemning China’s forced labour system. Given that, the Beijing administration especially summoned Germany’s Ambassador to China to accuse the German Parliament of interfering with China’s internal affairs. However, German members of Parliament proclaimed that as China is a signatory to the U.N. human rights convention, it was legal for Germany to condemn China’s human right status.

Another incident was that a week prior to Koehler’s state visit, a China-EU human right dialogue was hosted by Germany and held in Berlin, in which China Human Watch and China Labour Bulletin were invited by Germany to participate. Since these two non-governmental organisations were regarded by China as “hostile organisations,” representatives from the Chinese Communist regime asked the German side not to allow them to enter the venue. After China’s unreasonable request was rejected, the Chinese delegation withdrew from the dialogue immediately. Afterwards, China Human Watch and China Labour Bulletin expressed that as China could not tolerate meeting with the organisations criticizing its human rights status, people really doubt the Chinese Communist regime’s sincerity of improving its human right situation.
Before Koehler’s visit to China, the International Society for Human Rights (IGFM), which is headquartered in Frankfurt, issued a press release to call on Koehler to “especially protest against China’s forced labour system.” In addition, it also mentioned the deteriorating human rights situation in China. In last March, Canadian human right lawyer David Matas and the Canadian former Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific Mr. David Kilgour exposed the Chinese Communist regime’s atrocities of harvesting organs from living humans to sell for transplantation to gain huge profits. The overwhelming majority of the victims were Falun Gong practitioners who either died on the operation table or were killed afterward.

After the talk between Koehler and Hu Jintao, the Die Welt, one of Germany's most well-known daily papers, posted an online commentary saying, “To comment on human rights in China is not meaningless.” It further added that with economic clout, the Chinese leadership definitely would not be happy about its Western trading partners’ exposure of China’s mistakes to their face. "It doesn’t mean that Western countries’ moral inspiration is so powerful that the leadership in Beijing would feel their consciences condemned. What’s critical is that the condemnation may be able to make them notice the conflicts within the ruling regime, and they should have been well aware of it on their minds".

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