Chinese premier Wen Jiabao has warned European leaders not to lecture China on human rights, as the authorities keep up restrictions on two prominent activists and social critics in Beijing.
As Germany and China held their first joint cabinet meeting Tuesday, inking billions in new business contracts, Wen warned Europe against interfering in its internal affairs.
Responding to comments by his German counterpart Angela Merkel about "differences of opinion," Wen said China respects the political system chosen by the citizens of the EU.
"In exchange, we expect from the EU respect of our sovereignty, our territorial integrity, and the autonomous choices of the Chinese people," said Wen, whose name entered a Chinese Internet censor list of "sensitive" keywords during the trip.
In London, Wen had told a meeting of top-level academics that China needed political reforms to work its way out of its current problems, however.
"We must create the conditions in which the people can supervise and criticize the government ... so as to prevent corruption from developing," Wen said.
"The more people get involved in the running of society and public affairs, the greater will be the impetus for social advancement."
Barred from interviews
But as Wen continued his three-country European tour, China said that prominent civil rights activist Hu Jia was barred from giving media interviews.
Hu, 37, was released on Sunday after serving more than three years in jail for subversion after he criticized Beijing's hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games.
According to foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei, a "deprivation of political rights" was still in effect for Hu, who has also spent years campaigning for civil rights, AIDS awareness, and environmental issues.
"Hu Jia is still in a situation where he is deprived of his political rights," Hong told a regular news briefing on Tuesday.
"[He] cannot give interviews in the process and shall also be subject to supervision, administration, and inspection from relevant departments in accordance with the law," he said.
Hu's wife Zeng Jinyan said he would be deprived of his political rights for a year after his release.
The couple's Beijing apartment is under close police surveillance, with further restrictions likely on their movement.
Hu is widely expected to be subjected to similar restrictions as outspoken artist Ai Weiwei and a range of other activists and rights lawyers, who seem to have been ordered to keep quiet after their release from custody.
Tax officials visited the Beijing home of Ai Weiwei, who was detained for 80 days without charge under investigation for "economic crimes," his mother said on Monday.
"There were two officials from the tax office talking to my son," Gao Ying said in an interview. "They wanted my son to sign something."
"[Ai Weiwei] told them that he would need to speak to his accountant ... and that he couldn't just sign something randomly," Gao said.
Wen arrived in Berlin late Monday from London where he and British Prime Minister David Cameron signed trade deals worth 1.6 billion euros (U.S. $2.3 billion).
Chancellor Angela Merkel, Wen and a total of 23 ministers were to sign 22 state cooperation pacts and deals worth "several billion euros," the German leader said.
Britain and Germany have expressed serious concerns about apparent restrictions on Hu and Ai, including their freedom to speak to the media.
Reported by Xin Yu and Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service and by Grace Kei Lai-see and Ho Shan for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.