April 24, 2008 / 10:39 AM / 12 years ago

Olympic partner VW urges China to open society

The new Volkswagen Bora is shown at the Auto China 2008 in Beijing April 20, 2008. REUTERS/Victor Fraile

HAMBURG, Germany (Reuters) - Volkswagen, the first foreign automaker to enter the Chinese market and a sponsor of the 2008 Beijing games, urged China’s government on Thursday to embrace the spirit of the Olympic Games.

“The Olympics offer China and its people a unique opportunity not only to continue their economic development, but above all to further open up their society,” Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn told shareholders at the VW annual meeting.

“We hope and firmly believe that our Chinese partners will seize this unique opportunity.”

The CEO said Volkswagen had stressed this in talks with those responsible in China.

The second-largest carmaker in China behind U.S. rival General Motors, Volkswagen decided in June 2004 to become a partner of the Beijing games and went so far as to dub the restructuring of its two Chinese joint ventures the “Olympic Programme”.

The Games have turned into a public relations disaster for China after violent crackdowns in Tibet provoked protests in the West and forced runners bearing the Olympic torch around the world to be protected by security forces.

Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner, editing by Will Waterman

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