January 15, 2010 / 4:07 PM / in 9 years

Germany urges China to respect human rights

BEIJING, Jan 15 (Reuters) - German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle urged China to show more respect for human rights on Friday but said differences of opinion on this issue should not hinder trade ties between the world’s two biggest exporters.

Westerwelle, on his first trip to China since taking office last October, said he had addressed Germany’s concerns about China’s position on freedom of opinion, human rights and the protection of minorities in a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi.

“The German government’s engagement for human rights and civil rights is not abstract but very concrete,” he said. “Tibet and the protection of cultural minorities were also topics we discussed, and over which we had differences of opinion.”

Tibet is a sensitive subject for Western leaders to broach with China, which views the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, as a separatist.

It took months for China to forgive German Chancellor Angela Merkel for meeting the spiritual leader back in 2007.

Westerwelle said Yang explained the Chinese stance on the Internet and the role of search giant Google (GOOG.O).

Yang said China opposed hackers attacking the Internet but the government had a duty to protect social stability and to prevent its citizens from physical or psychological injury.

China sought on Friday to play down a threat by Google to quit the country on hacking and censorship concerns, saying any decision by the company would not affect U.S. trade ties. [ID:nTOE60E00I]

Westerwelle and Yang said they agreed to foster relations between Germany and China, saying that differences of opinion over human rights would not affect trade ties.

The two countries are the biggest exporters of goods in the world and their economies rely heavily on trade.

“It was quite clear that our engagement for human rights and also for export opportunities for the German economy were not at odds,” Westerwelle said. “Instead they were very compatible.” (Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Noah Barkin)

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