Chinese human rights lawyer blocked from meeting German vice-chancellor
Lawyer Mo Shaoping not allowed to meet Merkel deputy Sigmar Gabriel
Germany’s deputy chancellor Sigmar Gabriel during a meeting earlier this month with Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Photograph: Daniel Naupold/EPA
Prominent human rights lawyer Mo Shaoping was blocked from meeting Germany’s deputy chancellor during his visit to China yesterday, despite Sigmar Gabriel saying ahead of the meeting that he wanted to meet critical voices.
China does not take kindly to visiting dignitaries criticising its poor human rights record, insisting it contravenes its domestic sovereignty.
Human rights is generally a balancing act for Europe’s largest economy when it comes to visit the world’s second-biggest, with over 2,500 companies in China and investments worth more than €39 billion.
Earlier this month, China accused Britain of interfering in domestic political issues after London criticised Beijing’s human rights record. The Irish government also takes a softly-softly approach on human rights issues when visiting China.
Mr Mo told Germany’s DPA news agency that police came to his home with “orders from above” that he had been forbidden to meet Mr Gabriel.
“They must have understood that I had been invited and so came over to say that I could not go,” he said. “This is quite typical. It’s not the first time it has happened . . . It’s regretful (sic), but this is the present situation in China,” said Mr Mo.
The lawyer insisted he had been invited as an ordinary citizen, by a visiting foreign dignitary, and that there was no legal basis for stopping him from attending.
Mr Gabriel had previously said it was part of a European politician’s duty to meet human rights activists.
He reportedly raised the issue of human rights and the rule of law during hour-long talks with premier Li Keqiang.
Germany has strong trade links with China and Mr Gabriel is on a two-day visit, accompanied by a large delegation of business officials. He raised the issue of human rights and the rule of law during hour- long talks with Mr Li.
Mr Mo has represented some of the most prominent activists in China, including the jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.
In February 2012, state security stopped Mr Mo from attending a dinner with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Mr Mo met Germany’s foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier earlier in the month, when he was in China.
While President Xi Jinping’s new administration has introduced economic reforms, it has cracked down on dissent, detaining and jailing activists, curbing internet critics and tightening controls on journalists in what rights groups are calling the worst suppression of free expression in recent years.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular news briefing he was unaware of the incident.