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German voters 'won't accept' Asian politician

Published: 09 Feb 2013 17:50 GMT+01:00

“In the case of Phillip Rösler I'd like to know whether our society has come far enough to accept an Asian-looking vice chancellor for much longer,” deputy state premier of Hesse Jörg-Uwe Hahn, told the Frankfurter Neue Presse on Thursday.

Immediately his comment was jumped upon by members of the opposition Social Democrats (SDP) and Green party and decried as racist. Rösler, who was born in 1973 in Khanh Hung, Vietnam, and was adopted by German parents, is the first German cabinet minister to have a completely foreign ethnic background.

“It's scandalous,” head of the SPD fraction Frank-Walter Steinmeier told ZDF television and added he expected Hahn to step down in light of his comments about his party leader.

Hahn, who is known in the party for inelegant formulations and unfortunate remarks, said he had been misunderstood. He had been taken for a racist, but had actually been referring to “widespread, often underlying racism” in German society, explained Hahn in a written statement on Thursday afternoon.

But it was too late, wrote Der Spiegel on Friday, the comment was out and the FDP - still reeling from sexism allegations over inappropriate comments made by Rainer Brüderle to a female journalist - found itself once again on the defensive.

In an attempt to save the situation, Rösler himself issued a statement on Friday to declare Hahn a close personal friend of his who was “above all suspicion of racism.”

“I don't understand the fuss about Jörg-Uwe Hahn's much-criticised interview comments,” said the FDP leader, vice chancellor and economy minister in the statement.

But then the opposition, smelling blood, simply changed tack. Hahn himself was not a racist, but he had insulted German society by calling voters racist.

“An unashamed allegation of racism towards society is hidden in Hahn's formulation,” secretary general of the SPD parliamentary fraction Thomas Oppermann told the Mitteldeutschen Zeitung regional newspaper on Friday.

So what, said head of FDP youth wing Lasse Becker, however crudely put, Hahn had a point about German voters. “The choice of words was obviously unclear. But it's necessary to have this debate,” Becker told the Passauer Neue Presse regional paper on Friday. He had often heard voters make racist comments about Rösler, he added.

“At the election campaign stalls in the street I often hear: I would vote for you guys, but you have to get rid of the Chinese guy first,” said Becker. “The problem is everyday racism in Germany, that's what has to be addressed.”

Others agreed: “As an FDP member I often experience open or veiled racist comments with a view to Rösler," Patrick Kurth, general secretary of the FDP in Thuringia, told the Mitteldeutschen Zeitung on Friday.

"At the same time we can be proud of our country, in which it is possible that a victim of the Vietnam war can make it into high office,” he added.

The Turkish Community association jumped on the opportunity to widen the discussion, wrote the Tagesspiegel on Friday, and has called for an open debate on German society's stubborn racism problem.

But the government sees no need for a debate, vice government spokesman Georg Streiter told the paper, hinting at concern in government circles that any further scandals may damage not only the FDP's, but also their coalition partner the conservative CDU's chances in September's election.

The Local/jlb

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

21:23 February 9, 2013 by raandy
wow is me an asian in the wrong country .
21:31 February 9, 2013 by DerHirsch
Racist? Really? How many Asian countries have had caucasian leaders? How many blacks have been in power in any European country? The USA only in this century elected a black. Germany says this and is one again called names. Who was the last Asian PM of Great Britian or Canada or Australia or Mexico or Egypt? The majority of people, sadly, feel the same way the world over. Germany overtly mentions it and is black-balled.
21:40 February 9, 2013 by rajkshan
DerHirsch means to say that all the countries are Racist and he MEANS the word Racist should be removed from Dictionary.

FACT is Racism is ever more prevalent these days in Deutschland. The FACT is Deutschland cannot survive without Foreigners. This FACT is HARD for normal people to digest.
22:55 February 9, 2013 by chicagolive
The politicians is scream all they want but racism is alive and growing pretty well here. Of course if you are of the right race you would never notice that so for you their is no racism and you would find such comments offensive.
23:35 February 9, 2013 by PNWDev
@DerHirsch

Yup, amen. Even criticize a minority and we get labeled. Ask the Americans, they dont dare criticize bambam or they to get labeled too.
00:13 February 10, 2013 by Enough
Can't deny the fact that he doesn't look very German!
09:44 February 10, 2013 by Englishted
FACT is that he is leader of a party that attacks the lowest and weakest in society and favours the status quo (not the group) which is why his party is languishing so low in the polls and will with luck lose all their seats and power in the forthcoming election. Colour and race are not the issue in this case or would you say Germany was homophobic if they had their old leader?
10:33 February 10, 2013 by mitanni
Racism and discrimination are widespread in Germany, but I don't think that's the issue here. The problem with Rösler is that he is inexperienced and not very qualified, And the problem with his party is that it doesn't stand for much of anything; it certainly does not represent liberalism.
13:41 February 10, 2013 by zameenzad
How many times have you guys seen a Black, Brown, or Asian Police officer, Bank manager, Professor or Company executive?. NEVER.

There is a reason that people look down at Germans if you travel to any country and tell them you are German. Racism is in every place in Germany and it should be solved instead of hiding it under the carpet.
14:07 February 10, 2013 by antistar
Actually my CEO is Turkish. He is the CEO of a company that is the best of its kind in Germany, maybe in Europe, and one of the best in the world. He's been listed in the top ten of German business leaders in der Spiegel.

Not that Germany doesn't have problems with racism that it needs to deal with, especially in certain states, but I've lived and travelled all over Europe and it's definitely better here than elsewhere. That's also the opinion I get back from people of minority groups I speak to.
16:45 February 10, 2013 by TrullyAmazed
Dear reader,

Try to become a politician in Vietnam or China.. Germany most likely is racist. And China is not?
17:40 February 10, 2013 by Zubair Khan
"The problem is everyday racism in Germany, that's what has to be addressed.¦quot;

Above is a fact which must be accepted. Might be it will take many decades to control it but currently it prevails. Having foreign ethnicity I can verify the presence of racism in each segment of German society. Either with coloured skin or face shape one comes across this racism in daily life. USA and UK probably have controlled it to large extent but in Germany it is every where. Hahn very boldly pointed it out but now being politician stumbling.
21:13 February 10, 2013 by hsbrodt
I am Chinese and live and work in Germany and must say, if you do a good job, it will get rewarded here. And even to me as an Asian, Rösler lacks charisma and doesn't have the look of a weather-worn tough politician. What he needs is better PR and some grey hair, that's all. Racism exists everywhere but in Germany, you can turn things around by hard work and good results.
23:18 February 10, 2013 by strahlungsamt
Asian or not, Rösler is an idiot with a history of making inappropriate remarks. I've heard him call women bitches at a party convention. He's got George W. Bush's style and elegance and is a pretty sexist frat boy. He's the current village idiot of German politics. Plus the FDP is the least popular party right now, below 3% in the polls, mainly due to their neoliberal pro-business policies which don't go down well in times of high unemployment.

As for racism, the problem isn't too many foreigners. It's too few Germans. I just came back from Berlin, where I stayed in Moabit and Wedding districts. There's hardly any young Germans there anymore. Fertility is 1.35 kids per woman for the last 40 years and those few kids don't want to work anymore since every job only pays 400 euros a month now. Look at the doorbells in any building now, you see more Mohammeds and Truongs than Schmitts and Meiers. Then people wonder why their co-workers come from Somalia.
06:20 February 11, 2013 by RainerL
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
11:39 February 11, 2013 by royp
Hi is just boring very very boring, his persona is that of a boring middle class white guy we have enogh of them already. His politics were to represent the rich powerful business interests, what a shock no one likes rich corporations that are cutiing jobs during record profit times to make extra profit.

At least the Christian Democrats etc can hide the fact that they are pro-big corporations behind being pro religion & pro- family, the FDP don't have this base just a bunch of wierdo's. Also race was not a real issue, as his party are not a pro-immigrant party or a liberal party like the greens, or socialists, most voters play the good V.s. Bad immigrant game to justify their racism. But what is more interesting is that he does not come across as a real person just fake and wierd, maybe this is because of the race issue, being adopted and raised by Germans, and his need to fit in. Normally politicians have a home constituency, such as bavarians, or a country platform or urban platform, a religious base or a socialist base, or something folksys about them, such as supporting the local football team, or some important issue that was how they got into ,politics, such as the green movement, unemployment of family or friends in his community, social injustice, legal injustice, some wrong that needed to be righted, but no he just appears like some self interested ambitious shallow politician with no real values and no charm.
16:36 February 11, 2013 by minga
FDP is a party of self serving idiots with no realistic view of the German society. Their ratings are down due to this and has nothing to do with Rösler or racism.
14:56 February 12, 2013 by lovemymac&cheez
The Masters of Denial are at it again, folks.

"No, we didn't do that. We didn't start it. Ok, we did, but we didn't have to pay all that. We didn't lose the whole thing. It was just a stab in the back. Oh, we didn't lose that second round either. We were just following orders. Who was that again? Not us... we are too young for that! And we CERTAINLY did not invite those people to stay over more than a few months. They just chose to stop being guests... this is just some political party with low ratings, some loser politician, NOT US!!! We are NOT an immigration place!!!!"

Maybe it's time to stop denying facts and accepting people that are different from us a little more. This can be a very beautiful place to be, if we are just nice to each other.
00:25 March 6, 2013 by FAR
This is why I hesitate to go to Germany, I'm french and I'm from Reunion a french island in the Indic Ocean.. I have never had racism problem here in France, but when I crossed the border and I went t Germany (Munich) everything was race, when I told people I came from Reunion Island they said ""Ah ok so you're not really french, you get naturalization" I answered, Réunion is a FRENCH TERRITORY legitime as Paris or The French Rivera ... Everywhere I said I was french, I had to explain again and again (The real question was actually "Why you're french if you're not white?" ) That's was the real question, but my origin was like an obsession to germans... Really superficial society... this question was asked even when I went to buy an Ice Cream... I spaek a bit german as well... It doesn't surprise me this comments about his ethnicity, and the fact that he is german and have no other country since being adopted.. And for people who says "have you ever seen a country that bla bla bla "" I'll answer that yes, there is governors, presidents and so on of german background in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, etc .. (Like richiest man of Brazil, Dictator of Paraguay, etc) And I would say that they are ""ethnic" germans, but you're right, they are not germans, they hold the nationality where they were raised.. So its apply to Roesler, he doesn't hold the vietnamese citizenship he is german...
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