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Maurer takes flak over China tank division visit

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Maurer takes flak over China tank division visit
Critics fire back: Ueli Maurer at an army shooting range earlier this year. Photo: VBS
16:44 CEST+02:00
Swiss President Ueli Maurer is facing controversy in Switzerland for becoming the first western leader to visit a tank division in China, where he is on a four-day official visit.

Maurer was questioned by a journalist on German-language Swiss TV whether that was appropriate, given that the Chinese army fired on its people, a reference to the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, when unarmed protesters were gunned down.

“Are you conscious that Chinese propaganda will be able to interpret your action (inspecting the tank division) as a rehabilitation of its image?” the journalist asked for newscast aired on Thursday night.

“That would be bad because the army fired on the people and bloodily suppressed a democratic movement.”

Maurer indicated that he believed the event was old history.

“I think we were able to draw a line under this affair a long time ago,” the president said.

The Swiss department of defence (which Maurer heads) “has had regular links with China for 15 years,” he said.

“It was very interesting to see how the troops are instructed,” Maurer added.

“I very much appreciated the spirit of openness of my hosts.”

When question further, Maurer declined to add any more fuel to the fire.

“I do not wish to comment on an adventurous interpretation of my remarks,” he told the ATS news agency on Friday.

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