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Maas vows to meet more activists

Lewis Sanders IV
September 12, 2019

The German foreign minister has dismissed Chinese criticism over his meeting with Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong. He promised to continue meeting activists, saying: "That won't change in the future."

Heiko Maas listens to Joshua Wong
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Thursday said he would continue to meet with activists after China issued an strong rebuke over his meeting with Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong.

"When the chancellor is in Beijing, she meets with human rights lawyers and activists," Maas told reporters. "If I'm in Beijing, I'll do the same. When I'm in Berlin, I do the same. And that won't change in the future."

Maas' comments come a day after the Chinese government summoned Germany's ambassador to China over his meeting with Wong. Chinese officials said the meeting undermines relations between the two countries.

"What happened now, I unfortunately have to say, will have negative consequences on bilateral relations and the Chinese side has to react," said Chinese diplomat Wu Ken on Wednesday.

Read more: Opinion: Merkel must step up her China strategy

Berlin unfazed

Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited China on official business. During her trip, she urged Beijing to take appropriate steps to find a peaceful resolution to unrest in Hong Kong.

Merkel also signed 11 separate agreements to expand cooperation in finance, research and transportation, among others.

Despite rising tensions between the two trade partners, Maas said that Germany's position on the "one country, two systems" policy remains unchanged.

"We support the rights Hong Kong enjoys under this Chinese policy," Maas said. "We have always argued that those demonstrating in Hong Kong should be able to express their opinions on the street."

Read more: As China takes 'center stage,' Europe stands at a crossroads

Hong Kong in focus

Hong Kong enjoys special status as a semi-autonomous city under the "one country, two systems" policy enacted during its handover from British rule.

Although this year's mass demonstrations were initially triggered by staunch opposition to an extradition bill, the protest movement has since called for expanded democratic rights and police accountability.

Read more: In Duisburg, China expands trade influence in Germany

DW's Henning Hertel contributed reporting.

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Wong packs the hall in Berlin