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Merkel calls for peaceful dialogue in Hong Kong

August 14, 2019

The German chancellor is seeking an end to the unrest in Hong Kong through amicable talks. She says the constitution, protecting residents' freedoms, must be at the heart of any dialogue.

Police officers fire tear gas as anti-extradition bill protesters demonstrate in Sham Shui Po neighbourhood
Image: Reuters/T. Peter

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pleaded for a peaceful solution to the increasing unrest in Hong Kong as the threat of Chinese force against protesters loomed large.

Echoing sentiments from the EU, Merkel told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday that "everything must be done to prevent violence and to find possibilities for a solution within the framework of dialogue."

As a former British crown colony, Hong Kong's Basic Law of 1997 guarantees civil rights under a Western-style framework. This enables locals to have a greater measure of freedoms than those in mainland China, under the so-called "one country, two systems" principle. Merkel said talks should occur with this legislation at the forefront.

The German chancellor said residents' rights, including freedom of opinion, "have a long tradition" in Hong Kong.

China's military threat

Merkel's comments came in the wake of satellite images showing what appeared to be armored personnel carriers and other vehicles belonging to the Chinese People's Armed Police Force, a heavily armed paramilitary unit, parked in the southern city of Shenzhen.

The pictures show more than 500 armored vehicles situated within the grounds of the soccer stadium at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center, just across the bay from Hong Kong.

Satellite image of a soccer stadium at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center, China
This satellite image appears to show military vehicles in Shenzhen, China. The vehicles seem to be parked by the football pitch, within the soccer stadium, just across the harbor from the Yuen Long District of Hong KongImage: AP/Satellite image/Maxar Tec

The United States reacted to the images, expressing concern about the armed movements and urging China to respect Hong Kong's autonomy.

"The United States is deeply concerned by reports of Chinese paramilitary movement along the Hong Kong border," a State Department spokesperson said in a statement to AFP.

"The United States strongly urges Beijing to adhere to its commitments in the Sino-British Joint Declaration to allow Hong Kong to exercise a high degree of autonomy."

The official said the protests reflected "broad and legitimate concerns" among the territory's citizens while offering the United States' "staunch support for freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in Hong Kong."

Fears of a Tiananmen Square repeat

Meanwhile, pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong called on world leaders to prevent a "new Tiananmen Square massacre."

Wong told DW: "I hope world leaders, politicians around the world — no matter the prime minister or the president — they should speak out and pay attention to the chaos generated by [Hong Kong Chief Executive] Carrie Lam and [Chinese] President Xi Jinping in Hong Kong."

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong: 'We will never step backward'

Referring to violent clashes between activists and police at Hong Kong airport, Wong told DW News anchor Sumi Somaskanda that anti-government demonstrators have felt increasingly threatened by law enforcement aggression. "We strongly experienced that life threatening weapons were used by police, when police fired more than 2000 tear gas in the past two months and arrested 700 activists, including one young lady [with] permanent blindness because of fire by bullets of riot police," he said. 

jsi/aw (dpa, AP, AFP)

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