Merkel goes to China for tough visit amid Hong Kong, trade tensions

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets Chinese President Xi (Reuters file photo)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel travels to China on Thursday for a business-driven visit likely to be overshadowed by the anti-government protests in Hong Kong and the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China.

Merkel will be accompanied by a large trade delegation during her three-day trip.

It kicks off in Beijing, with meetings with Chinese Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, and President, Xi Jinping, on Friday.

The German Chancellor will then continue on to Wuhan to meet with business representatives and students from Huazhong University.

The trip comes at a rocky time for relations between Germany and China.

Beijing accuses Germany of protectionism for putting technology from Asia’s largest economy under scrutiny.

Just before leaving for Beijing, leaders from the protest movement in Hong Kong, which continues to make international headlines and put Beijing under pressure, asked to meet with Merkel during her visit.

Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, however, said she does not plan on meeting with the protest leaders.

In an open letter to Merkel published in German daily Bild, the student protest leader, Joshua Wong, asked the German Chancellor for help, and warned that the months-long protests could end in violence.

“A dictatorial power that does not allow any basic rights to freedom, which is using increasingly violent measures, stands in opposition to us, with a tendency towards another Tiananmen Square massacre occurring,’’ Wong writes in his letter.

Asked about whether Merkel plans to respond, Seibert said the chancellor doesn’t answer open letters as a general rule.

The German government called on the protesters to seek dialogue with Beijing and to find a non-violent solution to the conflict. (dpa/NAN)