The rule of law must be upheld for Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability

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Ambassador Zhang Ming. [Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the European Union]

The recent demonstrations in China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) have been closely watched by many. Some European friends care about Hong Kong’s future, and hope that its long-term prosperity and stability could be well maintained. Enduring prosperity and stability in Hong Kong is indeed in the interest of Europe, and is also what the Chinese Central Government and the HKSAR Government have been striving for all along.

Zhang Ming is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Head of Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the European Union.

However, some voices in Europe, in disregard of abundant facts, have failed to tell the difference between right and wrong. Such voices constitute an infringement on China’s sovereignty, interference in China’s domestic affairs, and departure from the basic principle of the rule of law. To that, we must categorically say NO.

Since the return of Hong Kong, the policy of “one country, two systems” has been implemented in good faith. Hong Kong residents enjoy democratic rights and freedom in accordance with law as never before. However, the serious offences committed during the demonstrations, such as the assaults on the police and the ransacking into the Legislative Council building, went far beyond peaceful expression of views.

In any civilized society, violence is always to be condemned and shall not be tolerated. Some in Europe have chosen to turn a blind eye to those offences, and have gone even so far as to call on the HKSAR Government to drop all charges against the offenders and to investigate into the police’s exercise of duties. This is a typical act of confounding white with black and inciting violence.

We have seen continued escalation of violence in Hong Kong, including such egregious behaviors as attacking the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong and hoarding extremely powerful explosives for ill purposes. One could hardly say that such developments have nothing to do with the connivance and support of external forces.

Earlier this year, the European Parliament passed a resolution on the right to protest, considering what was happening in some parts of Europe around that time. The resolution did not single out any European country by name, and underlined duties of the police and law enforcement authorities.

It argued that the right to protest and freedom of expression are not without boundaries, It cited the European Convention on Human Rights as stating that the freedom of assembly “shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the state”, and that these rights could be subject to legitimate, proportionate and necessary police measures.

Since I arrived in Brussels about two years ago, I have seen various protests and demonstrations in Europe, as well as the way in which those violent protestors are dealt with by European police. We do not interfere in other countries’ internal affairs. We respect other countries’ sovereignty and judicial independence.

Still, I keep wondering what European police would do if the violence in Hong Kong took place in Europe. I also wonder if the European Parliament came under attack, would those who have made wanton remarks on Hong Kong applaud violence.

The European Parliament’s resolution on the situation in Hong Kong selectively turned a deaf ear to the public call for peace, law and order in Hong Kong, and even denounced the HKSAR Government for its law-based administration.

Some European politicians, though having repeatedly voiced their support for “one country, two systems”, encouraged the European Parliament to write into a resolution such wordings as the EU’s commitment to democracy in Hong Kong and “strongly condemning” the constant and increasing interference by China in Hong Kong’s internal affairs.

That is apparently “double standard”, and we cannot help but ask what they are really up to. In the urgency debate on the resolution, some MEPs said that the European Parliament is not the United Nations and that Europe should better teach itself before it teaches others. Such objective voices could provide some food for thought for the European Parliament.

The days have long gone when Hong Kong was a concession or colony. The policy of “one country, two systems” aims to uphold democracy, and more importantly, the rule of law.

Maintaining prosperity and stability in Hong Kong calls for a mind of peace and reason. Keeping China-EU relations on track calls for the observance of international law and the basic norms governing international relations, and genuine respect for China’s sovereignty. This is a principle that we value and keep.

China has unwavering resolve to safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests, and to maintain prosperity and stability in Hong Kong. This is also in the interest of European countries. The very few European politicians with ulterior motives are doomed to fail in their attempt to instigate confrontation within Hong Kong’s society.

I hope that the vast majority of people in Europe will continue to work with China to safeguard Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability and to promote the sound and steady growth of China-EU relations.

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