Petitioner seeks greater understanding of Taiwan in Germany

11/06/2019 04:12 PM
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Michael Kreuzberg (right)
Michael Kreuzberg (right)

Berlin, Nov. 5 (CNA) The German man who launched a petition urging the German government to establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan has explained he wanted to encourage public debate about Taiwan so German society learns more about the nation.

Michael Kreuzberg, 71, comes from the port city Rostock on the Baltic Sea, which was once in East Germany. He initiated the petition before submitting it to parliament on May 31 and posted it online Sept. 11 to solicit endorsement signatures.

Currently, the petition has received enough signatures to be placed on the agenda of the German parliament or Bundestag, which has decided to hold a public hearing on Dec. 9.

In a recent interview with CNA, Kreuzberg introduced himself as a retiree who previously specialized in marine ecological conservation. In recent years he has undertaken relief work in Ghana and the Philippines to help improve the health care and education available to local children, he said.

Last year, Kreuzberg traveled to Taiwan with friends to see first hand a Chinese society not ruled by the Communists. After a 10-day stay, they were deeply touched by the kindness of Taiwanese people and the freedom and democracy they enjoy, he added.

"Cross-strait relations made me think of East and West Germany," said Kreuzberg, who was an East German citizen.

In the 1970s, East and West Germany joined the United Nations while Taiwan withdrew, he observed, noting that East German people detested their autocratic government so much that they toppled the Berlin Wall 30 years ago and voted for democracy and unity with West Germany.

After living through dictatorship, Kreuzberg said he is especially concerned about how the Chinese government suppresses the human rights of people in Tibet and Xinjiang.

"It's hard for me to tolerate Germany's association with China and reluctance to recognize democratic Taiwan," he added.

This feeling has intensified since visiting Taiwan in February 2018, where he saw a well-functioning independent country, as well as friendly and open people, he added.

As a result, Kreuzberg decided to initiate the petition ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Incident in Beijing on June 4, 1989, suggesting Berlin should establish diplomatic relations with Taipei.

The Nr. 95643 petition was signed by 56,002 people online before the Oct. 10 deadline, which pushed it past the threshold of 50,000.

On Dec. 9, Kreuzberg will attend the public hearing held by the Bundestag's petition committee as the petition initiator, along with officials from the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Under German regulations, after a petition reaches the required threshold, a parliamentary committee invites the petitioner and government officials to attend a hearing.

If the Bundestag votes in favor of the petition, German lawmakers will ask the government to forge formal relations with Taiwan, according to Taiwan's representative office in Munich.

On his Facebook page, Taiwan's representative to Germany Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉) recalled how he found Kreuzberg by searching through the telephone book and succeeded in arranging a meeting in Berlin.

"We both share a consensus," Shieh wrote in the post. "We do not expect the German government to establish diplomatic links with Taiwan because of the petition."

"However, with the public hearing, German society and media will report that Taiwan is a beacon of freedom and democracy that is worthy of being cherished," Shieh wrote. "This is what matters."

Kreuzberg has said he never expected the German government to follow the petition's suggestion and establish diplomatic ties with Taiwan because of geopolitical realities, but public discussion of the issue will ensure German society learns more about Taiwan.

That is what prompted him to initiate the petition in the first place, he said.

A similar petition has been submitted to the Australian House of Representatives and is gathering signatures urging the government to establish formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

In the United States, a petition, which urges the U.S. government to recognize Taiwan as an independent country, was submitted to a White House petition network on Oct. 7. Before the Oct. 15 deadline it surpassed the 100,000 signatures needed for the White House to issue a response within a month.

So far the White House has not yet responded to the petition.

(By Lin Yi-li and Elizabeth Hsu)


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