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China's Wen Wants Leniency for German Shoe-Thrower

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has urged Britain's Cambridge University not to expel a German student who threw a shoe at him during a speech at the university last week.

Wen addressing Cambridge audience

Wen's Cambridge speech went off with just one hitch...

"Education is the best help for a young student," Wen said in a statement issued via Fu Ying, the Chinese ambassador to Britain, on Monday, Feb. 9.

"It is hoped the university will give the student an opportunity to continue his studies," Fu quoted Wen as saying in a statement posted on the ministry's website.

"As a Chinese saying goes, it is more precious than gold for a young person to turn around to redress mistakes," Wen said. "It is hoped that this student will see his mistake and seek to understand a real and developing China," he said.

Martin Jahnke, 27, a graduate student at the university's pathology department, was charged with committing a public order offence and was due to appear at Cambridge Magistrate's Court on Tuesday, Feb. 10.

The shoe was thrown at Wen, accompanied by shouts of "dictator," as he gave a speech on the global economy. Witnesses said the shoe landed about one meter away from Wen.

Shoe-thrower is a disease researcher

The offence carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a 5,000 pound (5,730 euro) fine.

According to the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Jahnke carries out genetic research into debilitating diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and arthritis under a group led by Professor John Trowsdale.

His work has been published in the Journal of Biochemistry and he has delivered lunchtime seminars to other graduate students, the newspaper said. In his spare time, he is also a keen member of the university caving club.

Similar to Bush incident

The incident "affected the image and reputation of Cambridge in China", Fu said, but the university had forwarded a letter of apology from Jahnke. China has condemned the incident as "despicable," but it also issued the comment urging the university to allow Jahnke to continue his studies.

"From the words and actions of this student, it could be seen how he lacks knowledge about China," she added.

The protest was similar to an event in December when former US President George W Bush was forced to duck to avoid shoes thrown at him by an Iraqi journalist at a press conference in Baghdad.

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