Home World China Pro-China ‘Activists’ at Hamburg Rally Spark Fears Over Spies in Germany

Pro-China ‘Activists’ at Hamburg Rally Spark Fears Over Spies in Germany

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Germany's government has identified attempts by the Chinese government to intimidate demonstrators in Germany following a rally in support of the anti-extradition movement in Hong Kong in the Hanseatic port of Hamburg, a German newspaper reported.

The country's Green Party has called for the expulsion of any non-German nationals found to be acting as agents for Beijing after Hong Kong supporters complained of "provocative" actions from mainland Chinese during the Hamburg rally.

The German government has replied that it is aware of "such attempts to exert influence," the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

Green Party spokeswoman Margarete Bause called on German counterintelligence services to act to protect people "who engage here against us on behalf of a totalitarian regime," it said.

"The Federal Government must use these instruments effectively," it quoted Bause as saying.

The incidents have prompted a debate in Germany over growing Chinese political influence in the country following a report last year by the Berlin-based think-tank Merics, it said.

A Chinese national surnamed Wang who is now living in Germany told RFA that she had been caught on video by an unidentified man filming at a recent pro-Hong Kong rally in Germany.

"I saw a guy filming me … I think he must have been one of those people sent by the embassy," she said. "It made me think that there are too many spies around."

"Germany is a very open society because it has the rule of law, so it has no defense," she said. "If Germany doesn't wake up to this soon, it'll be too late."

Crude pressure on Germany

Exile Chinese artist Yang Weidong said many other overseas Chinese have been contacted by agents of the Chinese state.

"We all have personal experience of this," Yang said. "It's getting to the point where they are treating Germany as if it were the Chinese Communist Party's backyard."

"The German government, including the police, are too nice to them. Germany should take more effective measures against China," Yang said. "They should ask these people to leave."

Earlier this week, China stepped up pressure on Germany after its officials met with former 2014 pro-democracy movement leader Joshua Wong, 22, who is attending a newspaper-sponsored event at the German parliament celebrating global human rights activism.

Wong said the current anti-extradition movement differs significantly from the Occupy Central movement for fully democratic elections, in which he played a high-profile role, and that he is just a participant like anyone else.

However, he told an audience at the University of Hamburg on Thursday that he had asked German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to convey a message to Chinese President Xi Jinping, calling on him to resolve the political crisis in Hong Kong through democratic reforms, not through the use of military force.

He defended the use of batons, projectiles and Molotov cocktails by anti-extradition protesters, saying that 99 percent of the violence seen during the past three months has been committed by the police, including the use of random stop-and-search by police targeting ordinary citizens on the city's streets.

"In the face of the threat from China, Germans are also thinking about how this dictatorship will affect Hong Kong's freedoms," Wong said.

Wong said the anti-extradition movement has also been marked by a higher degree of support from people across the border in mainland China, compared with the Occupy Central movement just five years ago.

"There are more supporters from the mainland than there were five years ago, during the Umbrella Movement," he said. "I hope there will be even more support in future."

Beijing rebuffed

China, for its part, denied entry to some German media organizations at its media briefing on Wednesday, at which the Chinese ambassador to Germany said Wong was a "separatist."

"It is very regrettable that the German government … specifically the German foreign minister has met with him, and that some members of parliament are making political capital out of it," Wu said.

China had earlier summoned the German ambassador to meet with officials in Beijing, who lodged a formal protest at the meetings, he added.

Maas hit back on Thursday, defending his decision to meet with Wong, however.

"If the Chancellor is in Beijing, she also meets with human rights activists – if I'm in Beijing, so do I," Maas said. "And when I'm in Berlin, I do the same, and that will not change in the future."

He said Berlin's position remains the same on Hong Kong, calling on Beijing to honor the promise of a high degree of autonomy for the city under the "one country, two systems" framework.

While he was in Hamburg, Wong also called on the U.S. Congress to pass the Hong Kong Democracy and Human Rights Act, which will require Washington to review the city's human rights record and potentially deny visas or freeze the assets of those held responsible, as soon as possible.

"I hope that this bill will be passed as soon as possible, before or just after China's National Day on Oct. 1," he said.

Reported by Ng Yik-tung, Sing Man and Wong Lok-to for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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