For the past few weeks the world has been witnessing protests, including violent acts in Hong Kong, threatening its economic prosperity it has enjoyed for years. Sunday News Special Correspondent has interviewed Chinese Ambassador to Tanzania Wang Ke on the unfolding events in Hong Kong.
QUESTION: Over the past few days, violent acts by radical demonstrators in Hong Kong have been escalating. What is the background and nature of this matter? What is the Chinese central government's attitude and position on this issue?
ANSWER: Recently, a string of protests and violent incidents occurred in Hong Kong after the government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), tried to discuss the amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance. The situation has drawn widespread attention both domestically and internationally.
The HKSAR government decided to amend the two ordinances because of a simple criminal case. Last February, Hong Kong resident Chan Tong-kai was suspected of killing his pregnant girlfriend in Taiwan and fled to Hong Kong. Since the HKSAR government has no jurisdiction over the case, it proposed to amend the two ordinances.
This would allow the local government to cooperate with the mainland, Macao and Taiwan on extraditing criminal suspects and fugitives in individual cases through a special arrangement. This was because it has not signed an agreement with the latter on extraditing fugitives and seeking legal assistance in criminal cases.
This would be helpful in handling the case and would seal an existing legal loophole to jointly combat crime and uphold law and justice. Unfortunately, some Hong Kong residents have insufficient knowledge about the mainland's situation and its legal and judicial systems. They began to doubt the HKSAR government's decision on amending the ordinances.
Worse still, some ill-intentioned individuals and media outlets took this opportunity to spread inflammatory views, thus causing panic among members of the public and obstructing the discussion of the amendments in the HKSAR Legislative Council. In this context, since June, several rather large protests over the amendments have occurred.
On June 15, in order to listen to public opinion more widely, and to restore normal social order, the HKSAR government postponed work on the amendments and hence all related legislative activities came to a stop.
The central government fully supports, respects and understands the HKSAR government's decision.
As to peaceful protests against the proposed extradition law amendments the HKSAR police have granted approval and provided protection in accordance with the law. However, the intentional violent activities by some radical protesters since June 12 have gone far beyond the proper scope of peaceful demonstrations.
They surrounded the Legislative Council building, blocked roads and halted traffic. They hurled bricks, metal rods and petrol bombs at the police and even charged the police cordon lines. They blockaded the Hong Kong Police Headquarters twice, and disturbed the operations of Hong Kong's Inland Revenue Department and Immigration Department, further worsening the situation.
On July 1, the day on which the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland was being celebrated, radical protesters stormed the Legislative Council building, vandalised facilities, smeared the emblem of the HKSAR, and tore up copies of the Basic Law of the HKSAR. In a series of violent activities, they fanned hatred towards the police, assaulted and attacked them with corrosive liquids or toxic powders, and even bit off part of a police officer's finger. Such violent acts are outrageous.
On July 21, some radical protesters blocked the building of the Liaison Office of the Central Government in Hong Kong, defaced the national emblem and painted insulting words on the wall.
Their behaviour is extremely serious in nature and has caused very bad influence. In addition, the HKSAR police have raided a homemade-explosives manufacturing lab in a factory building, seizing a large cache of TATP explosives and other materials intended for use in the violent demonstrations.
So far, violence has not ceased. some radical protesters staged illegal rallies in Yuen Long District and committed a series of violent acts, some radical protesters rallied illegally injuring over 20 people.
Recently, Hong Kong Island and charged the police cordon lines there. The marches and demonstrations and violent clashes have lasted more than one month in Hong Kong, impinging on the rule of law, social order, economic and social activities, people's life and international image of Hong Kong.
Q: Recently, some individuals in the Hong Kong society advocated using violence and "achieving justice by violating the law." Could you, please, give your views on this stance?
A: Laws must be obeyed and offenders punished, which I think is the fundamental requirement for any society ruled of law. Moreover, the rule of law is the core value of which Hong Kong citizens have long been proud. What we want to say is that, no claim can be expressed illegally no matter how lofty its claimed goal might seem, let alone a resort to violence. Violence is violence and unlawful practice is unlawful practice, whose nature won't change because of any disguised claim or advocacy. We have noted that, recently, all sectors in the Hong Kong society repeatedly launched large rallies, calling for protecting Hong Kong, upholding the rule of law, and opposing violence. They represent the real mainstream public opinion in the Hong Kong community. The Chinese central government firmly supports the Hong Kong police, relevant departments and judicial institutions in punishing violent and illegal acts according to the law, ascertaining criminal responsibility of violent offenders, restoring normal social order as soon as possible, and ensuring public personal and property safety.
Q: Many Hong Kong people are worried about the principle of "one focusing more on "one country" rather than "two systems." How can the Chinese central government reassure that there are “two systems" in one country?
A: I think the core of your question is how to understand the principle of "one country, two systems." This is a complete concept and an integrated set of guidelines and policies requiring comprehensive and precise understanding. Implementing the "One country" in Hong Kong and Macao, we should not attempt to endanger or hit the three bottom lines.
The bottom lines are: national sovereignty and security, challenge the power of the central government and the authority of the Basic Law of the HKSAR or use Hong Kong to carry out infiltration and sabotage activities against the mainland is absolutely impermissible. Only based on "one country" can we talk about "two systems."
The Chinese central government will unswervingly implement the principle and make sure it is fully applied in Hong Kong without being bent or distorted. Since Hong Kong's return to the motherland, the implementation of the principle of "one country, two systems" there has achieved widely recognised success.
The principles of "one country, two systems," "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy in the HKSAR have been fully implemented. Hong Kong has maintained its prosperity and stability, and is generally recognised as one of the world's freest economies.
Its outstanding business environment and global competitiveness are widely recognised by the international community. The people of Hong Kong enjoy unprecedented democratic rights and a broad range of freedoms rarely seen across the world. Hong Kong also continues to rank high in the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index.
Q: What do you think of the role that some Western countries played in the recent turmoil over the proposed legal amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance in Hong Kong?
A: Regarding a series of demonstrations and violent incidents that happened in Hong Kong, some irresponsible remarks and played irresponsible Western individuals have played a disgraceful role.
Some remarks display perverse logic that violent offenders deserve sympathy, understanding and forgiveness, while the police discharging their duties to protect public order and security, and safeguard the rule of law in Hong Kong, should face criticism, even outright condemnation and be held to account.
Such logic is absurd and ludicrous. As I have said just now, the nature of violence and unlawful acts will never change because of any hypocritical claim. This is the bottom line based on the rule of law, and must not be challenged.
Hong Kong is part of China, and its affairs are of domestic issue. The Chinese government absolutely does not allow any foreign forces to interfere in Hong Kong's affairs.
Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi and spokespersons of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have reiterated our unwavering stance many times.
Some Western politicians have time and again made irresponsible remarks and even backed some certain people.
Their ulterior motives are to disrupt Hong Kong, change Hong Kong into a troublesome sore for China and in turn constrain Chinese development. These attempts will get them nowhere.