The activist Joshua Wong has called for Germany to stop the export of riot control weapons and equipment to Hong Kong police, as he embarked on a global tour to promote his pro-democracy message.
Hong Kong police were using water cannon manufactured in Germany to suppress the protests against a proposed new extradition bill that flared up on the streets of the city in late March, the prominent activist said. “They [German manufacturers] should not be the supporters of Hong Kong riot police.”
After a meeting with Germany’s foreign minister and ahead of a series of speaking engagements in the US, Wong appealed to Germany to suspend trade negotiations with China until the government of Xi Jinping puts on the agenda human rights laws “that respect European standards”.
“Hong Kong can serve as an example for the world to learn from,” Wong told the audience at a press conference in Berlin. For too long, the 22-year-old said, authorities in the semi-autonomous region had been unaware of the ways in which the Chinese Communist party used trade to turn its “one country, two systems” motto into “one country, one-and-a-half systems”.
“China uses the Belt and Road initiative as a way to increase and expand its economic influence and political gain – not just in Hong Kong, China, Asia Pacific, but also in Europe,” he said.
Wong and fellow founders of the Demosisto political party had arrived in the German capital on Monday, where he was feted by politicians and media commentators at a party in the rooftop restaurant of the Reichstag building on Monday night hosted by the tabloid Bild.
A meeting with the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas – photos of which Wong tweeted from his official account – drew anger from the Chinese government, which said the encounter was “disrespectful” of Beijing’s sovereignty.
Wong was charged last month with inciting people to join a protest in June, and is out on bail. He was sentenced to two months in prison in May on a contempt charge after pleading guilty to obstructing the clearance of a major protest camp in 2014.
Speaking to German media on Wednesday, he said: “The air of freedom I breathe here, instead of the irritative smell of teargas, reminds me how important it is for me to share the thoughts of people who attend the protests in Hong Kong right now.”
A meeting with the chancellor, Angela Merkel, who was on a state visit to China last week, did not materialise during his trip, and Wong appeared reluctant to comment on attempts to contact the German leader. His global tour, he said, was focused on meeting with lawmakers to build up bipartisan support for his cause.
“Next time I come to visit Berlin, it would be great to have the chance to meet with anyone from the office of the foreign minister, or even the chancellor.” Merkel was criticised in parliament on Wednesday morning for failing to arrange a meeting with the protest leader.
Wong will meet US media in New York on Friday and move on to Washington next week, where he is seeking to lobby Democratic and Republican politicians to support the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which would require the US government to regularly reassess Hong Kong’s level of political autonomy to determine whether it should continue to have a special trade status.
In Berlin, Wong said he hoped to carry his pro-democracy message even to China: “First is Hong Kong, next is mainland China.”
“We hope for more and more people who live in mainland China to recognise the importance of universal values and freedom. Three decades ago, the Berlin Wall fell, and we hope that in the future, the great firewall of China will also fall.”