Sunday, 5 February 2012

Controlling Host

Ah how the mighty have fallen. German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave her Chinese counterparts big face by bringing with her a 37-member delegation that included party leaders, senior government officials, and businessmen.

After attending an economic forum, she made a trip down south and was hoping to meet lawyer Mo Shaoping and visit Southern Weekend, a hard-hitting newspaper in Guangzhou.

However, Mo was told by police he could not attend a dinner with Merkel and have a private meeting with her.

"Unfortunately the lawyer was unable to attend. I regret that," Merkel told reporters in Guangzhou at the end of a three-day visit, according to a German government transcript.

The German chancellor said China's vitality and dynamic economic growth should have the confidence that even dissident voices are necessary for its society.

The "vitality and plurality of a civil society must be admitted, and it will finally contribute to strengthening the society and its capabilities," she said in the transcript.

Merkel confirmed she did speak to senior leaders about human rights in the country.

"We have spoken about the overall human rights situation," she said Saturday. "The issue of Tibet was also discussed, not very explicitly, but as one of many issues, which are also very worrying for us."

She also had to cancel a planned visit to the offices of Southern Weekend. The paper said "because of the tight schedule" it could not host Merkel and her delegation. The weak excuse means the newspaper was strongly pressured not to receive her.

One of the delegation members, opposition lawmaker Viola von Cramin-Taubadel of the left-leaning Greens, said her overall impression of the visit was disappointing.''

"The Chinese leadership could have spared itself from acting like that," she told the German news agency dpad. She said preventing Merkel from visiting the newspaper office was a sign of "hyper nervousness."

Mo said he was invited by German diplomats to talk to Merkel about the Chinese legal system and the challenges lawyers face. However, state security officers told him "orders from leaders above" would not allow him to see the German leader.

He is known for defending Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and a number of pro-democracy, labour and religious activists.

China still takes the position of welcoming other countries to do business with it, but under no circumstances can they meet with those related to dissent.

As Merkel says this insecurity is regretful that the authorities go to extremes to try to hide its ugly side, when it's already out in the open.

Just the fact that it's trying to hide something shows China's weakness. Despite its economic might (for now), China still cannot face up or resolve its own domestic issues that are a threat to its own legitimacy.

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