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The German Government is following developments in Hong Kong extremely closely. With the decision by the National People’s Congress, the People’s Republic of China announced that it would enact a security law for China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
This law – we do not yet know all details in full – has been a topic of political conflict for a long time.
Hong Kong’s Basic Law stipulates that a security law shall be enacted to prohibit, inter alia, treason, secession and sedition. Furthermore, political activities by foreign political organisations in Hong Kong are to be banned.
An attempt was already made in 2003 to introduce a security law of this kind. You will all remember that this attempt ended in mass demonstrations and was abandoned.
Foreign Minister Maas spelt out yesterday that:
“Hong Kong’s high level of autonomy must not be eroded. The people of Hong Kong enjoy freedoms and rights that are guaranteed to them under the Basic Law and the principle of ‘one country, two systems’. We expect these principles of the rule of law to be upheld.”
Last Monday, there was an EU démarche to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in which all 27 EU member states made the following concerns clear.
- We have a strong interest in stability and prosperity in Hong Kong in line with the principle of “one country, two systems”.
- We place great value on Hong Kong’s high level of autonomy, which is guaranteed both by the Basic Law and international commitments.
- We regard a democratic debate that includes all relevant forces, as well as respect for rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, as the best way to introduce a security law.
A severe threat to Hong Kong’s stability is given as the reason for the planned security law. Beijing apparently hopes to stabilise the situation in Hong Kong by enacting this law.
The German Government does not see a severe threat. On the contrary, our assessment is that the situation in Hong Kong will only be calmed by the spirit of “one country, two systems”.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has stated that the people of Hong Kong will continue to enjoy the same high level of autonomy, as well as the same fundamental rights and freedoms, and that the legitimate interests of foreign investors will be upheld.
This statement is to be welcomed. Europe will take Foreign Minister Wang Yi at his word.
Under the principle of “one country, two systems”, important laws on internal order in Hong Kong are to be adopted by Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. The implementation of the law by Hong Kong’s authorities and the interpretation of the law should be conducted by Hong Kong’s courts, and freedom of opinion and assembly should remain protected.
Furthermore, our understanding is that the usual contacts which foreign diplomats, members of parliament and civil-society organisations have with political forces in Hong Kong will not be curtailed.
As the Federal Chancellor said not long ago, “China is not just any partner or competitor, but a country with which we have profound differences concerning the rule of law, freedom, democracy and human rights”, and that is why close and substantive relations between Germany, the EU and China are so important.
In the end, no one will benefit from a new global confrontation. We therefore do not want Hong Kong’s high level of autonomy to be given up prematurely.
In the coming weeks and months, we will have numerous opportunities to conduct dialogue with Beijing, including at the EU-China Summit at the end of June and the EU-China Summit that we hope to hold in Leipzig.
We will do everything we can to find a good solution that will make it possible to preserve stability, the rule of law and freedom in Hong Kong in accordance with the principle of “one country, two systems”.