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proteringermany4Dharamshala: - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday (28th June) told the Chinese premier Wen Jiabao that 'on some issues' (Human Rights and freedom of press), China and Germany 'still had a long road ahead' of them. Hundreds of activists, Tibetans and supporters in Berlin protested to against the Chinese crackdowns on Human Rights activists including people in Tibet during Wen's two-day stay in the country.

Tibet Initiative Deutschland, a support group for Tibet said that while Merkel welcomes Wen to her chancellery with military honours, it would release 300 black balloons to call attention to the reported detention of 300 Buddhist monks from the Kirti monastery in Ngaba region of eastern Tibet.

Regarding Human Rights on the agenda, "What's important now is that there is a transparent procedure for Ai Weiwei," Merkel said of the internationally acclaimed artist, imprisoned for two and a half months at an undisclosed location on charges of tax evasion. "On some issues, we still have a long road ahead of us," Merkel said, citing "the implementation of constitutional procedures" and "better working conditions for foreign journalists in China" as examples.

China's open check-book has not been welcomed by all. ‘Free Tibet' protesters shadowed Wen's tour. More widely, human rights organizations say the situation in China has worsened since pro-democracy protests erupted across the Arab world. Sam Zafiri is from Amnesty International. "China has actually moved back significantly. The human rights situation in China has not been this bad in a decade probably, if not more," he noted.

An example, says Zafiri, is the detention of artist and political activist Ai Weiwei who was arrested in April, allegedly for tax evasion. Along with fellow activist Hu Jia, he was released just days before Wen Jiabao's tour of Europe. "There are dozens of activists, lawyers, dissidents who are facing even greater restrictions on their ability to speak," Zafiri stated. "So the Chinese government clearly responds to outside pressure ... the myth of a China that is somehow immune because of its economic clout is just that, a myth."

The British Prime Minister David Cameron raised the difficult issue of human rights in China, which has seen a growing number of breaches of international rights in recent months, particularly in Tibet. In response to Cameron's remarks, Jiabo pushed for ‘dialogue' over the issue, which he stated needed the correct facts [on human rights]. He also advised Britain ‘not to finger point'.

The Chinese premier was more direct in his reply. "On human rights China and the UK should respect each other," says Wen, "respect the facts, treat each other as equals, engage in cooperation rather than finger pointing, and resolve properly our differences through dialogue," he stated.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, Premier Wen Jiabao and a total of 23 ministers are to sign 22 state cooperation pacts while a business delegation agrees (to) deals worth "several billion euros", a senior German government source said. Analysts estimate that China has already bought more than 40 billion euros of European assets this year, but this has done little to curb the crisis. The 22 state cooperation pacts to be signed by 13 Chinese and 10 German ministers are to cover deepening cooperation in areas including climate protection, energy efficiency, food safety, education and the arts.

"Of course you cannot separate trade and development from the issue of human rights, the rule of law, civil rights and also freedom for art and culture," Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told ZDF public television. "If things are discussed in a face-saving, reasonable way, you can talk about everything, even the most difficult questions."

Germany welcomed the release of prominent Chinese dissident Hu Jia Sunday (27th June) just days after outspoken artist Ai Weiwei returned home following nearly three months in police custody, amid a government crackdown on dissent. Western nations including Germany had repeatedly called for Ai's immediate release.

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