TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The timing of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s upcoming trip to China and what signals he will give to Beijing have raised questions at home, a German MEP said Thursday.
Reinhard Butikofer of the Green Party, who is part of the ruling coalition, said in Taiwan that Scholz’s one-day trip is “probably the most controversial visit in the country in the past 50 years”.
Scholz, who will be in Beijing on Friday, will be the first European leader to visit China since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Germany is strongly opposed to. Beijing has provided diplomatic support to Moscow, accused the US and NATO of instigating the attack and sharply criticized the sanctions imposed on Russia by economic sanctions.
Some in the ranks of Scholz’s three-party coalition government have at least questioned the timing of his visit. His trips to Ukraine and Russia in February also caused controversy.
Butikofer, part of a delegation of European lawmakers in Taiwan, spoke at a joint press conference from his hotel room, where he was quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19.
“As in other European countries and the EU, … China’s policy will be in transformation for some time, in transition,” Butikofer said. “We cannot return to yesterday’s China policy here, because the reality has changed.”
Scholz has promised to use his trip to advocate for Chinese moderation and help calm the situation with Ukraine and Taiwan.
In the face of Chinese threats to annex Taiwan by military force, the self-governing island republic is gaining support from Western politicians, even though their governments only maintain unofficial relations with Taipei out of deference to Beijing.
Butikofer said Germany’s governing coalition had agreed on a first-ever “clear statement of support for Taiwanese democracy against Chinese aggression”, as well as Taiwan’s “meaningful participation” in international organizations from which it is currently barred at China’s insistence.
Butikofer is one of five MEPs banned from visiting China, a move Beijing took after the EU, Britain, Canada and the United States imposed coordinated sanctions against officials in China for human rights violations in the far west from Xinjiang.
The European Parliament has said it will not ratify a much-anticipated business investment deal with China as long as sanctions against its lawmakers remain in place.
Legislators Els Van Hoof of Belgium, Sjoerd Sjoerdsma of Holland and Mykola Kniazhytskyi of Ukraine were present along with Butikofer.
In Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called the lawmakers’ visit an “awkward political hype-up” and said efforts by Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party to gain foreign support “are doomed to fail.” fail”.
At the press conference, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said the delegation’s visit “shows the strength of relations between Taiwan and the European Union and the bond that unites us with like-minded democracies around the world.”
Sjoerdsma said the visit had particular resonance after the bi-decade conference of the Chinese ruling Communist Party last month, where Chinese leader Xi Jinping reiterated Beijing’s determination to “reunite” with Taiwan. The parties split during a civil war in 1949, and the vast majority of Taiwanese reject Beijing’s calls to accept Chinese rule.
“We have a message to Beijing and I think the core message of our visit here is… that Taiwan should not be isolated, but that contacts will only increase, that we will not be intimidated, that we will come more often. often, and that our relationships and our friendships are not determined by others,” says Sjoerdsma.
Scholz’s visit to Beijing was also criticized by Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Nathan Law, who said it risked sending mixed messages about the invasion of Ukraine.
“German Chancellor Scholz’s visit damages the unity the world has against the Russian war effort,” Law told The Associated Press during a visit to Taiwan.
Scholz’s journey “certainly presents many opportunities for Xi Jinping to see it as a badge of honor, to see it as a means of rejecting the unity of the free world and tacitly easing pressure on Russia,” LLaw said, who fled arrest. in Hong Kong during a Beijing-ordered crackdown on dissidents in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. “I think this is such a bad move.”
Associated Press video journalists Johnson Lai and Taijing Wu contributed to this story.