The Hong Kong National Security Law was passed unanimously and signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping on June 30th, right before the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong's return from the UK to China. While passing the new legislation is completely China's domestic affairs, it has triggered another round of false accusations against China which may mislead some of our Bangladeshi friends. As China's Ambassador, I feel obliged to lay out some basic facts about the legitimacy of the new legislation and illustrate how security and prosperity go hand in hand in Hong Kong.
China officially resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong on July 1st, 1997. Since then, Hong Kong has become a special administrative region (SAR) of China under the "One Country, Two Systems" policy, which guarantees that the HKSAR can retain its capitalist system while integrating into the whole of China. Throughout the world, no other country has such political courage and tolerance to allow two political systems to exist at the same time. The policy is not a compromise but a demonstration of China's determination towards peaceful reunification.
From the very beginning, the Central Government of China has left the right, and obligation at the same time, of national security legislation to the people of HKSAR by stipulating in Article 23 of the Basic Law that Hong Kong "shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People's Government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies." But two decades on, the legislation is still not there due to the obstruction of some actors with ulterior motives, making HKSAR the only place in the world without the protection of national security law. The chaos and violence in the past year have proved how vulnerable Hong Kong is in the face of infiltration, incitement, and foreign interference.
Safeguarding national security is the first and foremost factor of national sovereignty. No country would ever leave acts endangering national security on its territory unchecked or allow loopholes in its national security mechanism and legislation to remain exposed. Hong Kong is a special and local administrative region of China. As Hong Kong is unable to resolve the problem on its own, it is only just, legitimate and in line with the Constitution for the Central Authorities to legislate on national security for the HKSAR at the state level. Nearly 3 million Hong Kong citizens signed a petition endorsing the legislation
Some western politicians say that by passing the new law, the Central Government of China has undermined the high degree of autonomy of the HKSAR. This is groundless. No one is more earnest and determined than the Chinese Government to fully implement "One Country, Two Systems", and no one cares more than the Chinese Government about Hong Kong's prosperity, stability, and its people's well-being. At the core of "One Country, Two Systems" is the mission to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests. "One Country" is the prerequisite for and the foundation of "Two Systems", while "Two Systems" derives from and is subordinate to "One Country". Should the "One Country" principle be undermined, "Two Systems" would be out of the question. Without national security, how can we talk about autonomy?
Some western politicians also say that with the new legislation, human rights have been endangered in the HKSAR. While proclaiming themselves as champions of human rights, these people have falsely pitted the protection of human rights against the protection of national security. They frequently cite the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, but ignore that the ICCPR mentions at least seven times that human rights, including freedoms of expression, assembly, and association, can be subject to restrictions for the protection of national security. While targeting a small handful of criminal acts and activities endangering national security, the new law will protect the legitimate rights and freedom of the majority of Hong Kong citizens so that they can enjoy freedom without fears caused by violence, freedom to use the metro and visit shopping malls without worries, and freedom to speak the truth in public without being lynched by rioters.
Some western politicians even say that with the new legislation, the Central Government of China has deserted the rule of law. I think these people have shown no respect for the principle of non-interference, a principle of international law and a basic norm governing international relations. They frequently cite the Sino-British Joint Declaration but ignore that in its eight paragraphs and three annexes, there is no single word or clause that grants other countries any responsibility for Hong Kong after the city's return to China. Since 1 July, 1997, no country other than China has sovereignty, jurisdiction, or the right of supervision over Hong Kong. No foreign country shall meddle with Hong Kong affairs, which are purely China's internal affairs, under the pretext of any legal document.
As we know, Hong Kong is one of the most open and competitive cities in the world and a major global financial, trading, and shipping center. Hong Kong has been rated as the world's freest economy consecutively for more than two decades. As a highly-developed economy, Hong Kong was able to sustain the blast of a few economic crises and maintain an annual GDP growth rate of 3% to 4%. However, the outbreak of chaos one year ago has plunged Hong Kong's economy into recession. In the third quarter of 2019, Hong Kong's GDP shrank by 2.9% for the first time since 2009. In the first quarter of 2020, Hong Kong's GDP decreased by 8.9%, and its total import and export volume dropped by 8% during the first five months of 2020. Without stability and security, there is no prosperity. The new national security legislation is not only about upholding national sovereignty and delineating political jurisdiction, but also about ensuring people's livelihood, sustaining an economic legend, and saving the "Pearl of the Orient".
As Strategic Partners of Cooperation, China and Bangladesh have always supported each other's core interests in the international arena and stayed away from interfering in each other's domestic affairs. Amid ongoing turmoils in the HKSAR and ungrounded finger-pointings against China, many Bangladeshi politicians, journalists and experts have voiced their support to the righteous side, to which I am deeply grateful. Hong Kong is also important to Bangladesh. For so many years, a significant portion of export goods from the country are shipped first to Hong Kong and then to the world, and many Hong Kong-based companies have contributed their shares to the remarkable economic trajectory of Bangladesh. Guided by "Vision 2041" and the dream of "Sonar Bangla", Bangladesh is now seeking more FDI and enhanced business ties with the world to recover faster and stronger in the post COVID-19 era, and I am sure that Hong Kong will play a big part in that story. With the national security legislation coming into effect, the HKSAR will embark upon a new leg of journey towards prosperity. It is our sincere hope that Bangladesh, our time-tested friend, would stand by us to embrace a securer and better Hong Kong.
H.E. Mr. Li Jiming is the Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to Bangladesh.
(The views and opinions expressed herein are of the author’s own)