Hong Kong has been a Chinese territory since ancient times.
By Zheng Zhuqiang, Chinese Ambassador to Uganda
Uganda is known as the "Pearl of Africa". As a coincidence, there is another place — a city — in the world that enjoys the reputation as the "Pearl" — the "Pearl of the Orient". That is Hong Kong.
As a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, Hong Kong is not only an important international financial, trade, shipping hub and international innovation and science/technology centre, but also one of the freest economies and most competitive cities in the world. It is a unique place where the Chinese and Western cultures come together.
Recently, however, against the backdrop of the Hong Kong 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 that took place in Hong Kong caused broad concern among the international community.
Many friends in Uganda are also closely following the recent developments in Hong Kong and wondering, "What is happening in Hong Kong?" I would like to take on this question from the following perspectives.
I. Why has the Chinese Central Government implemented the policy of "One Country, Two systems" in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong has been a Chinese territory since ancient times. In 1840, the UK started the Opium War and invaded China because of their advanced military strength. Subsequently, in 1842, the UK forced the Government of Qing Dynasty of China into signing an unequal treaty, forcing the latter to cede Hong Kong. Since then, the UK had ruled Hong Kong as a colony for over 150 years by subsequently forcing the Qing Dynasty into signing a series of unequal treaties.
After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese and the British governments negotiated and signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and on July 1, 1997, China resumed her sovereignty over Hong Kong, and Hong Kong returned to the embrace of her motherland.
Considering the already existing ideological, moral and lifestyle differences that the people in Hong Kong had formed under the capitalist system for the long period of time, the Chinese Central Government decided to set up the Hong Kong SAR and implement the policy of "One country, Two systems, Hong Kong People Governing Hong Kong with a High Degree of Autonomy" in the SAR.
The Chinese Central Government governs Hong Kong in accordance with the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR, while a high degree of autonomy, except only for issues defence and foreign affairs, keeping the existing capitalist system and way of life unchanged for 50 years. Other countries, including the UK, have no sovereignty, no power to rule, no power to supervise over Hong Kong after her return.
Twenty-two years since the return of Hong Kong, the policy and practice of "One country, Two systems" has scored universally recognised success. In 2018, the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Hong Kong amounted to $360b, more than doubled that of 1996. The number of tourists travelling to Hong Kong exceeded 65 million in 2018, six times as many as that of 1997.
The international ranking of legal environment of Hong Kong leaped 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 her return, Hong Kong's own features and advantages have been well maintained.
Chinese and Western cultures blend fantastically there, and her charm and vigour grew even more than the older days. The people of Hong Kong enjoy extensive democratic rights and freedom, more than any time in history.
With the support that she enjoys within the framework of "One country, Two systems", with the strong support of the Central Government as well as the mainland of China, Hong Kong SAR will usher in an even brighter future with the "Belt and Road Initiative" and the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong- Macao Greater Bay Area, a recently released mega plan.
II. Why did the Hong Kong SAR Government propose to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance?
The proposal by the Hong Kong SAR government to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance was prompted by an ordinary criminal case. In early 2018, a Hong Kong resident suspected of killing his pregnant girlfriend in the Taiwan area of China escaped back to Hong Kong from Taiwan.
Since Hong Kong court has no criminal jurisdiction in this case, the SAR government proposed to amend the above two ordinances so as to extradite the suspect to the Taiwan area and charge him there.
The amendment would allow Hong Kong to co-operate with the Mainland, as well as Macao SAR and Taiwan of China, all of which had not signed the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance with Hong Kong SAR, so that suspects and fugitives could be transferred through a set of special arrangements, on the basis of case by case. Such a step would have been conducive to making up for the loopholes in the existing legal systems, so that relevant parts of China could jointly combat crimes and uphold rule of law and justice better.
Some citizens of Hong Kong had some doubts when the amending process of the two ordinances started last February, due to the lack of knowledge and understanding on the general situation and legal/ judicial systems in the mainland of China.
Some people and media with ulterior motives took advantage of that to spread rumours and create social panic in order to thwart the amendment of the ordinances. Since last June, there have been several relatively big-scale protests and demonstrations against the amendment of the ordinance.
In order to listen more broadly to the views from various walks of life on the amendment and to restore the good order in Hong Kong at an early date, the Hong Kong SAR government had decided to suspend the amending procedure on June 15 and halted relevant legislative work.
III. Peaceful Assembly or Violent Activities?
But the situation did not calm down as a result, it became more radical and violent instead. The opposition and some radical forces in Hong Kong continued to make excuses of "opposing the amendment" to undertake various radical street protests, wherein the scale of violence kept on escalating, with broadening social effect.
The rioters in Hong Kong have, by employing extreme means, crippled the airport, damaged public property and set fire, besieged and attacked police stations, brutally bitten off a finger of a police officer, and brazenly hurled petrol bombs at police stations to cause serious burns to police officers. They even assaulted the police with offensive high-powered laser pointers. Some went so far as to illegally detain and arbitrarily beat up visiting tourists and journalists covering the demonstration.
The rioters fought against the police law enforcement efforts with violence, assaulted the police officers, and blocked police cars and ambulances, among other things. What else would have these countless astonishing and humanitydefying activities been called but "violent crimes"?
What raised more indignation and high vigilance was that some violent radicals even tore up the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR, defamed Chinese national emblem and national flag, seriously violating the laws. They have openly offended the national dignity of China and seriously challenged the bottomline of the "One country, Two systems" principle.
While facing the atrocities mentioned above, the Hong Kong Police Force has since maintained maximum restraint.
The protests and demonstrations, especially the violence and attacks, have also caused serious negative impacts on the Hong Kong economy and her people. Statistics of the Hong Kong SAR government showed that economic indicators of Hong Kong had fallen across the board last June.
The number of tourists travelling to Hong Kong in June was about 5.14 million, 770,000 — or nearly 15% — less compared to the previous month. About 18 countries and regions issued travel safety reminders out of concern of the current situation in Hong Kong.
The value of total retail sales was HK$35.2b last June, 6.7% down on year-on-year basis. The Hong Kong GDP in the second quarter of the year increased only 0.6% in real terms over the same period last year, against the 3% growth in 2018, showing that the Hong Kong economy is facing significant downward pressure. Current development in Hong Kong has seriously eroded the confidence of international investors who have publicly voiced their profound concerns on the business environment in Hong Kong.
IV. Who is the black hand meddling Hong Kong to her current chaos?
Piles of evidence show that the situation in Hong Kong would not have deteriorated in such a serious way, had it not been for the interference and incitement from foreign forces.
Some Western politicians and institutions publicly or covertly provided various types of support to back up the violent radicals, trying to interfere with the judicial independence of Hong Kong and obstruct Hong Kong police from bringing the violent offenders to justice.
The US Vice-President, Mike Pence, for example, uttered on August 19:"For the US to make a deal with China (in trade talks), Beijing needs to honour its commitments, including the commitment China made in 1984 to respect the integrity of Hong Kong's laws through the Sino-British Joint Declaration. It will be harder for the US to reach trade deals with Beijing if there is violence in the city."
The US State Department spokesperson also, shamelessly, said during a news briefing on August 8: "American diplomats meet with opposition protesters, not just in Hong Kong."
The US was talking the laws of Hong Kong, when it ranks even lower than Hong Kong in terms of the level of rule of law. The US and other Western politicians are distorting the truth, calling black white, applying double standards and inciting violent crimes. They have clearly demonstrated to the entire world that they are exactly the black hands behind the violent extremists in Hong Kong.
The Western media have also played a disgraceful role in what took place in Hong Kong. They did not report the situation in an objective and just manner; they kept on misleading the general public instead. They ran massive coverage on so-called "right to peaceful protests", while keeping a blind eye on the violent offences by the extremists and radicals in disturbing social order, in attacking and injuring police officers and bystanders, and in defacing and defaming the national emblem and flag of the country.
There was insufficient coverage on the extensive public support expressed to the SAR government. They also rarely covered the just voice calling for the upholding of law and justice in Hong Kong.
On top of that, some media went so far to whitewash the lawless and violent offenders undermining the rule of law in Hong Kong, calling the lawless and violent offenders "pro-democracy activists" in media reports. By doing so, these media houses were ignoring their basic consciousness and forgetting about the reasonable actions taken by the police force in their own countries when confronting the similar provocation.
They even labelled the just and legitimate law enforcement efforts of the Hong Kong SAR government and the police to uphold law and order and protect life and property of the people as "repression". Such selective silence and distortive reports helped the flow of wrong information and misled the public, especially young people in Hong Kong, for the worse.
It is fair to say that Western media have inescapable responsibility for the current situation in Hong Kong!
The essential nature of the current situation in Hong Kong is not about human rights, freedom or democracy. It is, instead, about the attempts of certain violent extremists to ramp up violent crimes at the excuses of opposing the amendment of the two related ordinances, to seriously trample upon law and social order in Hong Kong, to threaten the security of the citizens, and to undermine the prosperity and stability in Hong Kong.
It is about the opposition and violent extremists trying to overturn the legitimate SAR government, to challenge the authority of the Central Government, and to undermine the constitutional basis of "One country, Two systems" in Hong Kong, through violence and other illegal means, and by coercing those who know not the truth.
It is about the foreign forces which trampled on international laws and basic norms governing international relations, trying to undermine China's sovereignty and security, grossly interfered with China's internal politics, Hong Kong affairs included, and trying to sabotage the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong — in a general effort to turn Hong Kong into a pawn in holding back China's national rejuvenation efforts.
V. How will this end in an orderly way?
The Central Government of China and the Chinese people, the people of the Hong Kong SAR included, will never allow few violent offenders to drag Hong Kong down to a dangerous abyss. We will never allow anyone to sabotage the rule of law and sound development in Hong Kong.
We will never allow anyone to undermine "One country, Two systems", at any excuse.
Hong Kong is part of China. Hong Kong affairs are China's internal affairs. No interference from any foreign country will be tolerated. We urge those foreign forces to respect China's sovereignty and security and immediately stop interfering with China's internal affairs, the Hong Kong affairs included, in any way.
We urge them to immediately stop conniving in those violent offences. They must not misjudge the situation to go down the wrong path. Otherwise, they will find themselves lifting the stone only to drop it on their own feet.
As Hong Kong faces with the most dangerous and gravest situation since her return 22 years ago, the top priority now is to stop violence, end the chaos and restore order. The Central Government firmly supports the SAR government led by Chief Executive Carrie Lam in governing Hong Kong according to law, firmly supports the Hong Kong police and judiciary in decisively and strictly enforcing the law, and firmly supports the majority of Hong Kong compatriots in their just cause in opposing violence, upholding the rule of law, and supporting the police.
Any violent act to undermine the rule of law of Hong Kong, to damage the city's prosperity and stability, to challenge the principle of "One country, Two systems", will meet with severe legal punishment. Any interference with Hong Kong affairs by foreign governments, institutions or individuals will be resolutely fought back by the entire Chinese people, our Hong Kong compatriots included. And any plot to hinder China's national rejuvenation process is doomed to fail.
We are fully convinced that Hong Kong will surely overcome the temporary difficulties, sweep off the current black clouds and dust, and the "Pearl of the Orient" will shine even brighter.
Back in Uganda recently, some foreign forces keep making irresponsible remarks on the internal affairs of Uganda, a sovereign state, by way of fabricating fake news, in which they accused wrongly, among others, that Huawei Technologies Co. helped the Ugandan Government to "spy on opposition politicians".
As pointed out by Mr. Ofwono Opondo, spokesperson of the Ugandan Government, and Mr Don Wanyama, senior press secretary to President Museveni, these are "false stories", "total hogwash" with "no evidence".
It is, therefore, fair to say that the black hand of these foreign forces does not stop at one place, as they openly admitted, and their disgraceful behaviours of interfering with other countries' internal affairs go on endlessly.
It is my belief that every government of an independent country that takes up the responsibility of her sovereignty, safety and development rights, will stay fully aware of those black hands, and will tackle those hands in a resolute and decisive way, according to the laws and tradition of the sovereign country, so as to protect the fundamental interests of herself from being violated or interfered with.