Since June, several large-scale demonstrations and violent incidents have occurred in Hong Kong, which have aroused widespread concern in the international community. People who care about Hong Kong cannot help but ask, what happened to Hong Kong? Where will Hong Kong go in the future? Hence, I want to clarify the following points.
Firstly, the cause of the incidents was the amendments to HKSAR’s Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance in June this year. The aim is to incorporate the cooperation in handing over fugitive offenders and mutual legal assistance between Hong Kong and other parts of the People’s Republic of China into the sphere of the Ordinances application; plug existing loopholes in the legal system; better combat crime and highlight the rule of law and justice.
In the era of globalisation and informationisation, the cross-border nature of various crimes is very prominent. Combatting crime depends on the close cooperation of various jurisdictions. No place in the world should be used by criminals as a safe haven. Hong Kong has concluded arrangements on surrender of fugitive offenders with nineteen countries and regions, and arrangements on judicial assistance in criminal affairs with thirty countries and regions.
However, there has yet such an arrangement between Hong Kong and mainland China, Macao and Taiwan, let alone cooperation on legal cases. Hong Kong has been returned to China for more than 20 years; as part of China, it cannot carry out such cooperation with other parts of China. Is this situation normal? Therefore, it should not have been controversial with common-sense to make up for the legal loopholes in this area.
However, some extremists – taking the amendments as an excuse, spread rumors, created fear and panic and misled the public – deliberately creating violence like storming the Legislative Council Complex; besieging the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR); defacing the national emblem; insulting the national flag; attacking police officers; and even shouting the slogan “Hong Kong Independence”.
Their actions have already gone beyond peaceful demonstrations, and not only seriously threaten public security and social order and severely impact Hong Kong’s rule of law, stability and people’s livelihood, but also defied the bottom line of ‘One Country, Two Systems’. This aggrieves our families, but gladden our enemies.
Secondly，’One Country, Two Systems’ has been proven a remarkable success. Over the past 22 years, Hong Kong has been keeping prosperous and stable, ranking among the freest economies and most competitive regions in the world for consecutive years; and its position as an international financial, trade, and shipping centre has been further strengthened.
Hong Kong’s GDP has maintained a steady growth, hitting almost US$360billion in 2018 – over twice of that of 1996. Its economic development and rule of law have also been among the top in the world. Hong Kong: the ‘Pearl of the Orient; has been shining brightly. The practice over 22 years has proved that ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is the best institutional arrangement to maintain security, order, long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong.
That said, clarification is still needed on some misconceptions about ‘One Country Two Systems’. One Country is the root of ‘Two Systems’. ‘Two Systems’ is the branch of One Country. Talking about ‘Two Systems’ without One Country is like a tree without roots and water without a source. To question, even deny, the necessity of upholding ‘One Country’ with the exercise of ‘Two Systems’ constitutes a challenge to China’s sovereignty – which is absolutely intolerable.
No attempt can endanger China’s sovereignty and security, challenge the authority of its central government and sanctity of the Basic Law of the HKSAR, or use Hong Kong as a channel for infiltration and sabotage against the mainland. These are the three bottom lines that can never be defied in carrying out ‘One Country Two Systems’ in Hong Kong.
Thirdly, when the British ruled HK, it established the colonial system by sending a Governor and never gave real democracy to local people. In 1843, Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom promulgated the Hong Kong Letters Patent 1843, also titled the ‘Charter of the Colony of Hong Kong’ as the basis for Hong Kong’s law system.
From 1841 to 1997, the British sent 28 Governors in total as Chief Executives of Hong Kong. The legislature was the Hong Kong Legislative Council appointed by the British colonial authorities. But under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ policy, the original capitalist system and lifestyle remain unchanged, and Hong Kong’s law system remains basically unchanged.
Hong Kong residents are their own masters and manage their own affairs within the portfolio of the Special Administrative Region. Hong Kong residents now enjoy more democratic rights and more freedom than at any time in history, including high autonomy and the right of peaceful assembly and demonstration, which they never had under the British colonial regimen. The alleged so-called erosion of democracy and autonomy in Hong Kong is totally untenable.
Fourthly, Hong Kong affairs are solely the internal affairs of China. The Chinese government will never allow any foreign forces to intervene in Hong Kong affairs, and will never allow any foreign countries to disrupt Hong Kong. The current biggest danger of Hong Kong is that some outside forces are trying to turn Hong Kong into a bridgehead to attack and disrupt China, turning 7 million Hong Kong residents into pawns to contain China’s development.
As everyone knows, the European and US police officers show no mercy in fighting against violence in their own country. For example, if someone sieges the Capitol Hill in the US or assaults the police, the US police will undoubtedly adopt resolute measures to restore stability.
However, the US does not condemn acts of violence, but shields the rioters and arbitrarily distorts the legitimate law enforcement actions, which are very restrained, by the Hong Kong police. This is a flagrant double-standard. According to media reports, officials of the US Consulate General in Hong Kong frequently contacted the heads of ‘Hong Kong independence’ organisations.
Their purpose is to add fuel to the fire and further escalate the situation. They wish Hong Kong would be chaotic, they wish China would be chaotic. The most feared and hateful thing for them is revival of the Chinese nation including the Hong Kong compatriots. Their plot is doomed to failure!
Fifthly, Hong Kong’s immediate and overriding task is to stop violence, curb disorder and restore order. The rule of law is a core value that Hong Kong people take pride in, the foundation for an enabling business environment, and the important cornerstone for prosperity and stability. We will not sit idly in facing brazen, outrageous violence by a small batch of people. Hong Kong cannot afford continuous turmoil and internal strife. If Hong Kong goes on chaos, the whole society must pay for the bill.
The central government firmly supports the Chief Executive of HKSAR, Carrie Lam, in leading the HKSAR government to rule according to the law, the Hong Kong police in enforcing laws rigorously, the HKSAR government and the judiciary body in meting out punishment to violent criminals according to the law, and patriots and people who love Hong Kong in safeguarding the rule of law in Hong Kong.
Nothing is more beneficial than stability, and nothing is more detrimental than chaos. Maintaining Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability is in the interests of not only China but also the rest of the world. Ghana is one of the first African countries to establish diplomatic relations with China. China is a good friend, good brother and good partner of Ghana. I firmly believe that Ghanaians from all walks of life can empathise with China, clearly recognize the truth, uphold an objective and fair position, fully understand and support China’s determination and efforts to safeguard national sovereignty and dignity, and uphold ‘One Country, Two Systems’.
Justice lies in the hearts of the people. We believe that with the support of central government and the forces of justice in the international community, and under the leadership of the SAR government, the ship of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ will overcome any obstacles and sail steadily and further.
The Pear of the Orient will have a better tomorrow!
The writer is the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana