05/22/2006, 00.00
CHINA - GERMANY
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German Chancellor in China: "Human rights, religious freedom and international commitment"

During her first official visit, Merkel will meet Mgr Jin Luxian, bishop of Shanghai, to discuss religious freedom. She will be accompanied by 40 German businessmen.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Human rights and the Iran question are the "hot spots" on the agenda of Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, who yesterday, 21 May, started her first official visit to China.

The first issue, say anonymous officials of the German delegation, will be raised "tactfully": Merkel's predecessors, Kohl and Schroeder, always avoided discussing human rights publicly, claiming that an "open challenge" would not have yielded any results.

The new Chancellor, however, has decided to follow a different path and has scheduled a meeting with the Catholic bishop of Shanghai, Mgr Aloysius Jin Luxian. The choice of this prelate arose from his "official" status but was made more significant by the fact the Mgr Jin asked for, and obtained, reconciliation with the Holy See. After the meeting, which will discuss freedom of worship and human rights, the two should issue a joint statement.

According to the same source, Merkel "will ask President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to take on greater responsibilities regarding Iran, given the considerable international status China has now acquired".

Berlin "would like to see the Chinese government more involved in efforts to solve the crisis sparked by the Tehran government": to date, despite its power of veto on the United Nations Security Council, Beijing has not seen fit to make its voice heard "with authority" on the matter.

Of course, the economic factor is not lacking: the Chancellor is accompanied by a delegation of 40 German businessmen and by the Economics Minister, Michael Glos. Among agreements set to be signed during the visit, that between Lufthansa and Air China stands out. This accord should pave the way for entry of the Asian giant into the prestigious network of international transport, Star Alliance.

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