Hong Kong democracy activists urge German action on China

BERLIN (AP) — Hong Kong pro-democracy activists demonstrated outside the German Foreign Ministry as China's top diplomat visited Germany's capital Tuesday, urging the government in Berlin to do more to force Beijing to address human rights issues.

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Led by prominent activist Nathan Law, who fled to Britain in July after China implemented a new national security law in Hong Kong, the demonstrators held photos of imprisoned dissidents and chanted “Free Hong Kong” and “Stand up for human rights.”

China’s national security law is seen by many as Beijing’s boldest move yet to remove the legal firewall between the semi-autonomous territory of Hong Kong and the mainland’s Communist Party system.

Law told the crowd of about 100 to 150 supporters in Berlin that it was “wishful thinking” by Germany and other western nations that China could be convinced to implement democratic reforms with dialogue and engagement alone.

“This authoritarian government is going the opposite way,” he said.

Law said the European Union needed to increase pressure on China to respect “basic human rights” and that Germany, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, could lead the way.

“Appeasement strategies are really, really useless,” he said.

The downtown protest came as German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas hosted Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a secluded government villa on the outskirts of the city, well removed from the demonstrators.

Wang is currently on a five-nation European tour, including Italy, France, the Netherlands and Norway.

Maas said the two had spoken “intensively” about the situation in Hong Kong, and that the issue would also be a main topic of a German-Chinese human rights dialogue that resumes next week.

He noted that Germany had already suspended its extradition agreement with Hong Kong over the disqualification of opposition candidates from elections.

“We have not only closely observed the situation in Hong Kong over the past weeks and months, not only in connection with the security law, we have also reacted together with our European partners,” Maas said.

“Our joint European appeal remains that the election to the legislative council takes place quickly and without hindrance, and that the restrictions of the security law be reversed,” the German minister said.

Wang defended the national security law, saying that protests in Hong Kong over the last year had gotten out of control.

He said Hong Kong was an “internal Chinese matter” and suggested that other countries had a “one-sided picture” of the situation.