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Germany

Expert Says Human Rights in China Making No Progress

German Foreign Minister Steinmeier is visiting China and is under pressure to address the precarious human rights situation there. Beate Wagner from the Human Rights Forum told DW-WORLD what the critical issues are.

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Arbitary executions, even for petty crime, are rampant in China

Beate Wagner is a member of the Human Rights Forum's coordination group and secretary general of the German Society for the United Nations. The Human Rights Forum is a network of more than 40 German non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which critically monitor the human rights policies of the German government.

DW-WORLD: Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is visiting Beijing . The question of human rights will also be taken up, as is always the case when a high-ranking German politician travels to China . In what form should Steinmeier address the issue?

Dr. Beate Wagner

Beate Wagner says more has to be done to step pressure on China to improve human rights

Beate Wagner: Human rights should be an integral part of German foreign policy. The issue should be dealt with on various levels. On the one hand, it could be addressed publicly during a press conference with the president. But there should also be pressure on the level of existing dialogue that the topic is taken seriously. There is the human rights dialogue -- which has existed between the European Union and China for years -- and the dialogue on the bilateral level between Germany and China. There have to be questions about progress, in order for a true dialogue to develop. This is apparently not the case at present.

To what extent? Where are the shortcomings?

The human rights situation in China is well known. The number of people executed in China equals the amount executed in all other countries of the world put together.

You can even be executed there for tax crimes. There is no freedom of the press or freedom of expression. The human rights situation has not improved.

In view of these facts, dialogue doesn't appear to have really helped. Doesn't there need to be more pressure?

These forms of dialogue should only be continued when they bring results after a certain period of time. The bilateral dialogue has to be settled. It has to be clearly stated what sort of progress has to be achieved. Otherwise, there is no justification to continue it. It just glosses over a situation in China which is very bad for human rights.

Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder was very reserved when it came to criticizing the human rights situation in China and Russia. His former director of the chancellery Steinmeier is now foreign minister. Will he set other priorities?

I can't judge that yet. The Human Rights Forum has positively noted that the new government with Chancellor Merkel's statements has placed a different emphasis when it comes to Russia and the United States. We'll have to see how that translates into concrete policies.

Honestly, though, are human rights really even a priority in China? Aren't economic interests given greater significance?

Of course, that's something we fear. And you have to continuously demand that human rights are an integral part of German foreign policy. That is also part of various demands by the Human Rights Forum. We are not satisfied with the level which human rights have in German foreign policy. We continue to see significant deficits, also concerning China.

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