HK's romantic fusion of East and West evaporating: Chinese envoy

He says Beijing has final duty to uphold city's security and protesters have crossed red line

MR CUI TIANKAI, China's Ambassador to the US, on quelling social unrest in the city.

HONG KONG • China's ambassador to the US wrote in a Bloomberg editorial that the central government has the ultimate responsibility for upholding national security in Hong Kong, and that proposed legislation for the city "will protect law-abiding citizens".

Ambassador Cui Tiankai wrote last Saturday that Hong Kong was "a romantic fusion of the East and the West".

"To our regret, such romance is evaporating," the envoy noted.

The violent actions of protesters against the police, citizens and property there had crossed "a red line" for Beijing, he said.

"Hong Kong is in disarray. China's national security is at risk. That is why the central government has chosen to act."

China's rubber-stamp legislature last Thursday approved a proposal for a sweeping new national security law for Hong Kong that will ban subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign interference.

Beijing says the law will help quell months of social unrest in the semi-autonomous city, marked by often violent pro-democracy protests last year.

The controversial legislation, which critics say will fetter dissent and undermine Hong Kong's autonomy under the "one country, two systems" formula by which Beijing governs the city, has sparked fresh protests in recent weeks.

Mr Cui, however, said in his editorial that the decision to introduce a security law enjoys extensive support from Chinese people, including in Hong Kong, and that it will bolster the "one country, two systems" policy, in place since Hong Kong was returned to China by Britain in 1997.

"National security is the basis of 'one country, two systems', whose strengths can only be maximised in a secure and stable society," he said.

"Hong Kong's underlying economic and social problems cannot be resolved by disrupting social order, and there can be no development and long-term prosperity if national security is undermined."

He added that the law is aimed only at actions which jeopardise China's national security.

"People who have nothing to do with these should have no worries," he said.

Details of the legislation remain unclear, but it is expected to be enacted by China's Parliament this summer.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's government said last Saturday that actions threatened by US President Donald Trump in the wake of the new security law are "unjustified".

Mr Trump last Friday pledged to "take action to revoke Hong Kong's preferential treatment as a separate Customs and travel territory", and to impose sanctions on unspecified individuals over Beijing's new law on the financial centre.

The US move comes as tensions simmer between the world's two biggest economies over the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and how the Trump administration characterises China's role in its spread.

Officials from Hong Kong wrote in a 949-word statement that they are "not unduly worried" about the sanctions and trade restrictions proposed by Mr Trump.

Hong Kong will continue to rely on rule of law, judicial independence and a free and open trade policy, according to the statement.

Mr Trump has vowed "strong" and "meaningful" actions, while providing few specifics.

A senior Hong Kong official, Mr Erick Tsang, said he could not care less if he were sanctioned by Washington.

"I wouldn't even go to Canada, just in case they try to catch me" there, Mr Tsang told local radio.

The coronavirus pandemic had, until recently, kept protesters at home.

More protests against the security law and legislation to criminalise disrespect towards China's national anthem are planned in the coming weeks.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2020, with the headline HK's romantic fusion of East and West evaporating: Chinese envoy. Subscribe