BEIJING: China will ensure Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability and protect national security in the face of unrest there, Beijing said on Thursday (Oct 31) after a meeting of its senior leadership.
The former British colony, which reverted to Beijing’s rule in 1997, has been convulsed by often-violent protests over the past five months, prompting China’s central government to issue strict warnings that it will not allow the turmoil to continue.
Last month Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam invoked a colonial-era emergency powers to ban face masks, which have been widely used by the protesters to hide their identities.
What started as opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition Bill has grown into a wider movement against what is seen as Beijing’s tightening grip on the city, which protesters say undermines a “one country, two systems” formula promised when Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule, guaranteeing freedoms not found in mainland China.
It represents the biggest popular challenge to President Xi Jinping’s government since he took over the leadership in late 2012.
China denies meddling and has accused foreign governments, including the United States and Britain, of stirring up trouble. Beijing says it is committed to defending Hong Kong’s system of autonomy and the Basic Law, the mini-constitution that guides Hong Kong’s relations with Beijing.
In a statement issued after a four-day, closed-doors meeting of the party’s 370 or so top officials in Beijing, the party said that the “one country, two systems” must be “upheld and perfected”.
“We must strictly govern the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Macau Special Administrative Region in strict accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law, and safeguard the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macau,” it said.
Neighbouring Macau was returned to China from Portuguese rule in 1999.
“Establish a sound legal system and enforcement mechanism for safeguarding national security in special administrative regions,” the ruling party added, without providing details.
CALLS FOR RESTRAINT
Britain’s foreign minister Dominic Raab on Thursday called on protesters and authorities in the city to show restraint.
“There must be a meaningful dialogue between all parties, with a credible political track to protect the rights and freedoms set out in Hong Kong’s Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which reflects and respects China’s avowed ‘one country, two systems’,” Raab said in a foreword to a report on Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and rule of law is what guarantees its future prosperity and success. It is incumbent on all sides to respect it,” Raab added.
As part of normal procedures, the British government presents to parliament every six months a report on the implementation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong.
Although the latest report, issued on Thursday, covers only the first six months of this year, Raab’s foreword addressed the events of the past five months, which he described as “one of the most turbulent times in Hong Kong’s recent history”.
“Protesters must end the violence. The police response must be proportionate in their handling of protesters and safeguard the right to peaceful protest,” Raab said.
“INTERNATIONAL DOMINATION”: POMPEO
China’s comments came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stepped up recent US rhetoric targeting China’s ruling Communist Party, saying Beijing was focused on international domination and needed to be confronted.
“They are reaching for and using methods that have created challenges for the United States and for the world and we collectively, all of us, need to confront these challenges … head on,” Pompeo said in an address to a gala dinner in New York of the conservative Hudson Institute think tank.
“It is no longer realistic to ignore the fundamental differences between our two systems, and the impact that … the differences in those systems have on American national security.”
Pompeo said US President Donald Trump, who is seeking re-election next year, had sounded the alarm about China from his first day in office. He added that Washington had long been too easy on China in hopes that it would transform.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Thursday that Pompeo’s comments expose the “political bias and dark anti-Communist mindset of some US politicians”.
“Pompeo’s remarks were a vicious attack on the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government. It drives a wedge between the party and our people and it smears our domestic and foreign policy,” said Geng.
Pompeo added that the United States did not seek confrontation but rather still wanted to encourage a more “liberalised” China.