The Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Germany wanting to talk about trade – but he also received a warning over freedom of speech.
The latest leg of his European tour began with a meeting at the Berlin residence of his German counterpart.
Joachim Gauck praised plans for Chinese economic reform but also warned that the country needed to win the trust of its people.
The German Chancellor took the message further at a joint news conference. Xi Jinping had written about cooperation and economic growth – but he was also reminded of the West’s other concerns.
“An important contribution to our discussion was the dialogue on human rights, and naturally we spoke about it again today, and I made my point of view very clear: that broad and free expression of opinion is a very important element to promote a society’s creativity, be it in research, culture or civil society,” Angela Merkel said.
The comment brought no response from the Chinese president, whose country has been much criticised for harshly repressing dissent, and curbing freedoms in Tibet and elsewhere.
Pressed on Russia’s interests in Ukraine, he said China had “no private interests” and insisted on non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs and respected nations’ territorial integrity.
Human rights took a back seat as two of the world’s leading exporters signed a number of business deals, including agreements for German carmakers Daimler and BMW.
Xi Jinping, who has also visited the Netherlands and France, is next due to go to Brussels in a move seen as aiming to strengthen economic ties with the European Union.