Gauck meets writers on China state visit, heads to Shanghai | News | DW | 22.03.2016
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Gauck meets writers on China state visit, heads to Shanghai

German President Joachim Gauck has spoken to human rights lawyers, activists and writers on his visit to China. Germany's head of state is walking a tightrope between diplomacy and frankness.

Gauck arrived in Shanghai, the second stop on his visit, on Tuesday afternoon, after having talks with intellectuals and human rights campaigners.

The German president described himself as "deeply impressed" by his meeting at a Goethe Institute event in the capital, Beijing.

"It gave me a much broader picture," said Gauck. "The German public should know that I will not only observe what I am supposed to observe from the government's side."

"It all shows me that this is a society that is in a phase of transformation," said Gauck.

Among those Gauck met were the writers Liang Hong and Xu Zechen. "He is someone who really wants to learn," said Liang. "We spoke about the reality and problems of China and the relationship that literature and art have with reality.

Lawyers meet Gauck

Human rights lawyers Mo Shaoping and Shang Baojun, who met Gauck on Monday evening, were also welcomed to an event at the German embassy in Beijing on Tuesday morning. "The police warned us about coming here, but they didn't make any big problems," said Shang.

Also present at that event was the son of the former DW journalist Gao Yu. The 71-year-old was in 2015 convicted of leaking state secrets and later freed. However, she has still been prevented from traveling to Germany, where she is seeking medical treatment.

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Gauck arrives in China

On his first day in Beijing, Gauck - who has been urged to put pressure on Beijing over its human rights record - met President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang. Gauck and Xi announced the Year of Youth Exchanges, for German and Chinese high school and college students. Gauck said, "I come at a time when it is important to develop existing bridges and to deepen relations."

Germany & China's 'mutual respect'

Gauck said that he wanted to discuss both "similarities and differences" with the Chinese leadership, adding in an interview published in China: "Both sides know that on some political issues, we do not really agree with each other but we are ready to hold a discussion." The president admitted there were also elements of competition, in terms of the economy and between the social systems, but with "mutual and great respect."

Gauck arrived in Shanghai, the second stop on his visit, on Tuesday afternoon.

Gauck had been invited to China on many occasions, but this is the first time he has accepted the offer. When President Xi Jinping visited Germany in 2014, Gauck - an anti-Communist campaigner in the former East Germany - called on Beijing to step up efforts to promote the rule of law and stressed the importance of human rights.

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