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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, left, with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, November 4, 2022.  © 2022 Kay Nietfeld/AP Photo

(Berlin) – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz should stress the importance of human rights in the Sino-German relationship during his visit to China and meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Human Rights Watch said today. Scholz arrived in Beijing on April 13, 2024, and is expected to meet with Xi on April 16.

“Chancellor Scholz should not play second fiddle to Germany’s narrow business interests, but should lead by setting the Sino-German relationship on a rights-respecting footing,” said Wenzel Michalski, Germany director at Human Rights Watch. “Promoting human rights is good both for the Chinese people and for Germany’s long-term interests.”

Scholz last visited Beijing in November 2022, when he also brought along a large business delegation. Since then, Germany has issued a new China strategy in which it commits to responding to an increasingly assertive and abusive Chinese government by “de-risking," or reducing reliance on China for critical supply chains. The strategy also asserts that “[h]uman rights are at the heart of” German government policies toward China.

In an April 12 letter to the German chancellor, Human Rights Watch urged Scholz to make clear to Xi that the Sino-German relationship will suffer if Beijing does not address serious human rights violations in China. These include ending its crimes against humanity targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic communities in Xinjiang and freeing the hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs arbitrarily detained or imprisoned, including Rahile Dawut, a prominent expert on ethnography, and Ilham Tohti, Uyghur scholar and Sakharov Prize laureate.

Beijing should also revoke the two draconian national security laws in Hong Kong and release those wrongfully detained in mainland China, including human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng and his wife, Xu Yan.

In a 2022 public opinion poll in Germany, 68 percent of those who responded said that is it important for Germany to stand up for human rights when dealing with China.

“Scholz needs to put Germany’s China strategy into action by forthrightly putting human rights at the center of the Sino-German relationship,” Michalski said. “The German government should demonstrate its commitment by impressing upon Chinese leaders its principled and public support for the human rights of everyone in China.”

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