Hong Kong is well-known to the world. It is not only an important international financial, trade, shipping hub and international innovation and technology center, but also one of the freest economies and the most competitive cities in the world. Its unique position bridges mainland China and West world. Hong Kong enjoys a reputation as the Pearl of the Orient. Recently, however, against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government’s proposed amendment bills to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance, a series of demonstrations and violent incidents in Hong Kong have caused widespread concern in the international community. Friends in Pakistan may have questions about what is happening in Hong Kong? I would like to share my views in the following aspects.
Why does the Chinese central government implement “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong has been Chinese territory since ancient times. After the Opium War of 1842, the United Kingdom ruled Hong Kong as a colony for over 150 years by signing a series of unequal treaties with the Qing Dynasty. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese government and the British government signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration through negotiations. On 1st July 1997, China resumed its sovereignty over Hong Kong and Hong Kong returned to the embrace of the motherland. Considering the existing ideological, moral and lifestyle differences that the people of Hong Kong have formed under the capitalist system for a long time, the Chinese central government has decided to implement “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong and set up the Hong Kong SAR. The Chinese central government governs Hong Kong in accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR. Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of autonomy only exclusive of national defense and foreign affairs, keeping the capitalist system and way of life unchanged for 50 years. Other countries, including the United Kingdom, have no sovereignty, no power to rule, no power to supervise over Hong Kong after its return.
During the 22 years since the return of Hong Kong, the practice of “one country, two systems” has achieved universally recognized success. In 2018, the total economic volume of Hong Kong was $360 billion, more than twice that of 1996; the number of visitors to Hong Kong exceeded 65 million, six times that of 1997; the international ranking of legal environment jumped from lower than 60th in 1996 to 16th in 2018. Hong Kong has been voted as the world’s freest economy for 20 consecutive years. After the return, Hong Kong’s own characteristics and advantages have been maintained. It enjoys the harmony between Chinese and Western culture, and the charm of the metropolis is better than ever. The people of Hong Kong enjoy more extensive democratic rights and freedom than ever. Under the system of “one country, two systems”, the central government and mainland China has been a strong support to Hong Kong’s development. Hong Kong SAR will usher in a better future with the “One Belt, One Road” initiative and the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
Why does the government of Hong Kong SAR propose to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance?
The proposal by the government of Hong Kong SAR to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance results from an ordinary criminal case. In early 2018, a Hong Kong resident killed his pregnant girlfriend in Taiwan, China and escaped back to Hong Kong. Since Hong Kong has no criminal jurisdiction, in this case, the SAR government proposed to amend the above two ordinances to extradite the suspect to Taiwan and charge him for murder there. The amendments will allow Hong Kong to cooperate with the Mainland, Macao and Taiwan that haven’t signed the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance with Hong Kong to transfer suspects and fugitives through special arrangements. Such a step will be conducive to make up for the loopholes in the existing laws, jointly combat crimes and manifest the rule of law and justice.
However, since the beginning of amending the two ordinances in this February, some citizens of Hong Kong had various doubts due to lack of knowledge about law and judicial systems in mainland China. Some people and media with ulterior motives took the opportunity to spread rumors or create social panic in order to thwart the amendment of the ordinance. Since June, Hong Kong has witnessed several large-scale rallies against the amendments of the ordinance. The government of Hong Kong SAR suspended the amending procedure on 15th June and stopped relevant legislative work after consulting people from various walks of life in order to restore tranquility to the society as soon as possible.
Was what happened recently a peaceful assembly or a violent incident?
After the Hong Kong SAR government decided to suspend the amendments, the situation has not subsided. On the contrary, it became more radical and violent. Since 12th June, the protests in Hong Kong have completely gone beyond the freedom of assembly, demonstration or protest. The situation has escalated into extremely violent incidents. The protesters use various violent measures with intensified destructiveness. The facts are startling and horrifying. Over the past two months, 461 people have been injured in violent conflicts, including 139 police officers. What is even more indignant and highly vigilant is that some violent radicals have torn up The Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR, defamed Chinese national emblem and the national flag, which seriously violated the law. Their behaviors have openly offended the national dignity and challenged the bottom line of the “one country, two systems” principle. The protests and violent attacks have also caused serious negative impacts on Hong Kong’s economy and people’s livelihood. According to the statistics of the government of Hong Kong SAR, the economic indicators of Hong Kong in the first six months of this year have rarely fallen across the board except for few industries. The gross domestic product of Hong Kong in the second quarter increased by only 0.6 percent in real terms year on year. 18 countries and regions have issued travel safety reminders against Hong Kong. The current situation in Hong Kong has seriously eroded the confidence of international investors who have publicly expressed their deep concern about the business environment in Hong Kong.
It is worth noting that external forces have played a very disgraceful role in the evolving of the situation in Hong Kong. Since the start of the amendments process to the two Ordinances in February, some western politicians have publicly stood at the forefront and been backseat drivers, calling white black, making a lot of groundless and irresponsible remarks and allegations, and interfering with Hong Kong affairs. How could the situation in Hong Kong has deteriorated to the point as it is today? Why did some violent radicals dare to unscrupulously carry out illegal activities and openly challenge the bottom line of the “one country, two systems” principle? It is inseparable from the irresponsible remarks of some Western politicians.
How do the Chinese central government and the government of Hong Kong SAR respond to the situation in Hong Kong?
The Chinese central government unswervingly safeguards national sovereignty and Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and resolutely stand by the government of Hong Kong SAR in its administration according to the laws and regulations, supports the Hong Kong police in law enforcement and the Hong Kong Judiciary to punish violent criminals in accordance with the law, and appreciates the action of the patriotic citizens of Hong Kong to defend the rule of law in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong. Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs. China will not tolerate the intervention of external forces. The Chinese central government has solemnly demanded that certain countries should abide by the basic norms of international law, international relations, and their own commitments not to intervene in Hong Kong affairs, and stop supporting violence and interfering in Hong Kong affairs in any form.
Justice naturally inhabits a man’s heart. With the support of the Chinese central government and the efforts of the government of Hong Kong SAR, with the assistance of the vast number of patriotic Hong Kong people, we believe that Hong Kong will soon return to the normal track of prosperity and stability.
The writer is China’s ambassador to Pakistan.