Guido Westerwelle and the German delegation pose for a picture with Premier Wen Jiabao, and no, the man to Westerwelle’s right is not his bodyguard! [Source]
Earlier this month, while all eyes were on what was to be China’s first ever Mr Gay China pageant, we totally overlooked a trip made by Germany’s openly gay Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. This was Westerwelle’s first trip to Asia in his new role since he led the pro-business Free Democratic Party to its best election result ever late last year. What made this trip newsworthy, in our opinion, was that the world’s only openly gay foreign minister was bringing his partner, Michael Mronz (a marketing executive working in the private sector) along on an official visit to Asia. This is unheard of.
Westerwelle’s short three day tour began with a 22 hour visit to Tokyo, Japan on Jan 14 and this was followed by another two days in Beijing, where he met up with Premier Wen Jiabao and Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi (the man who famously quipped that Chinese is one of the easiest languages in the world to learn). Westerwelle also visited the National Development and Reform Commission, where he held talks with Minister Zhang Ping. And perhaps to underscore Germany’s emphasis on human rights, Westerwelle met up with representatives of China’s civil society and made a visit to Beijing’s Lama Temple.
What’s totally ironic now as we look back, of course, was that the dramatic shutdown of the Mr Gay China pageant coincided with the first day of Westerwelle’s visit. Were the two events related? We will never know.
Xinhua’s report on Westerwelle’s visit was unsurprisingly silent on the surprise appearance by Mronz, going only so far as to say that Westerwelle was “accompanied by a number of German parliamentarians and a business delegation”.
According to German publication Bild, the Japanese were quietly irritated by Mronz’s presence. The article also revealed that while Westerwelle was busy attending events, Mronz undertook a “programme typical for a foreign dignitary’s partner”, visiting a museum amongst others.
It has also been revealed that Mronz paid for this trip out of his own pocket (we wonder: if governments should pay for the opposite-sex spouses of ministers to go on trips, why shouldn’t they do the same for their same-sex spouses? Update: See comment #2). DPA reports though that Mronz has “no intention of joining his partner on every official trip” because he himself has “too much to do”, preferring instead to come along every now and then when schedules permit.