German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel criticized China’s new security laws on Wednesday and urged the government to allow more civil liberties or its society would “run out of air to breathe.”
On the second day of his two-day visit to Beijing, Mr. Gabriel said German firms feared that the new law, which came into force this month and boosts the government’s control over finance, cyber security and a host of other areas, would damage their business in China, one of Germany’s most important markets.
“The individual needs free space,” Mr. Gabriel said in a speech to a conference co-organised by the ruling Communist Party. “China must continue on the path of reforms and openness.”
He called for German firms to be given better access and equal treatment with domestic competitors. “I would wish that companies that have been in the country for a long time are treated no differently from Chinese companies.”
He added that he would welcome greater Chinese investment in Germany. There were historical reasons for German investment in China being 20 times greater, but the time had come to change it, he said.