In an exclusive interview Chinese Ambassador to the State of Qatar Zhou Jian tells Ashraf Siddiqui China’s reasons to extend the term of Hong Kong’s Sixth Legislative Council.
Doha, Qatar August 18, 2020
Could you explain why China’s National Peoples Congress decided to extend the term of Hong Kong’s Sixth Legislative Council?
This decision follows the HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s report sent to the central government on July 28. She sought postponing the 2020 Legislative Council (LC) elections because of the Covid-19 pandemic. She told the central government to ask the NPC Standing Committee to arrange for the LC vacancies because of the postponement.
On behalf of the central government, the State Council presented on August 8 a draft bill to Chinese lawmakers. It told the NPC Standing Committee to decide on extending the term of the sixth LC. The council explained the details of the bill to lawmakers at its 21st session. The lawmakers reviewed the bill and approved Carrie Lam’s decision to postpone the LC elections because of the pandemic.
The Standing Committee lawmakers agreed it is proper to decide on matters about the sixth LC.
Lawmakers voted to adopt the decision on extending the sixth LC’s term for no less than a year until the seventh LC elections. The Standing Committee of the 13th National People’s Congress took this decision at its 21st session on August 11. According to the decision, the sixth LC will continue to work after September 30.
The NPC Standing Committee’s decision is conducive to upholding constitutional law and order in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). This decision, which conforms to the constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law, will ensure the region’s normal governance and routine functioning.
The LC plays an important role in Hong Kong’s political arena. It frames, amends and abolishes laws. It reviews, approves decisions on budgets, taxation and public spending.
This decision has attracted global interest; please explain its primary concern?
Carrie Lam deferred LC election in consonance with Hong Kong’s Emergency Regulations Ordinance. Extending the sixth LC is constitutional and Hong Kong Basic Law backs it. The lawmakers based their decision on the pandemic in Hong Kong. It will ensure public health safety and security as well as justice and fair election. It conforms to international practice of postponing elections during emergencies like a pandemic. This decision serves public interest. It shows the central government is responsible for the overall interests of Hong Kong. The decision will ensure normal administration of Hong Kong.
Second, the decision was necessary because of the spread of the pandemic. In July, a new round of COVID-19 broke out in Hong Kong. The sudden and rapid spread of the virus poses severe challenges. Health experts have warned the risk of a major community outbreak is rising. Hong Kong’s public health will be on the verge of collapse, if not controlled in time. The pandemic has a serious impact on the LC election. Holding elections would entail gathering many voters in small polling stations. This has high risk of cross-infection. Hong Kong’s health safety measures of restricting the assembly of more than two people would restrict candidates from holding election campaigns.
Data shows Hong Kong has 527,000 residents living in the mainland for the last the months, Tens of thousands people are stranded overseas. The pandemic makes it difficult for them to return to Hong Kong to cast votes. More than 600,000 elderly voters over age 71 are unlikely to vote because of health concerns.
Many political groups, social groups and public figures think that holding election as scheduled is difficult. It cannot ensure fairness and transparency. It will also increase risks of infections, endangering the health and safety of voters, supporters and polling staff. These groups have urged the government to follow other countries’ practices and postpone the election.
Third, the decision to postpone the election will lessen social instability and enable the whole society to focus on the most pressing task of curbing the pandemic. I wish to emphasise that as the pandemic in Hong Kong remains a challenge, Hong Kong residents are eagerly awaiting an early victory over it. We are confident that with the support of the central government, the joint efforts of the Hong Kong SAR government and all sections of society, we will win the battle against the pandemic.
What is China’s stand on global criticism of Hong Kong’s national security law?
Separatists promote “Hong Kong independence” since the turmoil last year. They have ramped up violence and terrorism. Some external forces also meddled with Hong Kong’s affairs. This has turned Hong Kong into an unstable, insecure region and defenceless from acts that endanger national security.
The newly passed national security law in Hong Kong has clear targets and objectives. It targets precisely acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and external interference.
— Ambassador Zhou Jian
To fix the loopholes in Hong Kong’s national security legislation, to ensure the long-term prosperity and stability, the Central Government decided to enact and implement the national security law in Hong Kong. This protects the legitimate rights and interests of seven million Hong Kong residents, and safeguards “one country, two systems” policy. This move has won broad support from Hong Kong residents and 1.4 billion Chinese people.
The central government is responsible for national security affairs in China, as is the case in every other country. National security laws in the United States are extensive and complex, only codified laws mount as many as 20. Britain, too, has specialised national security laws. The newly passed national security law in Hong Kong has clear targets and objectives. It targets precisely acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and external interference, which would be a small minority of criminals jeopardising national security, and protects law-abiding Hong Kong residents. Implementing the law will neither infringe the fundamental rights and freedoms enjoyed and exercised by Hong Kong residents under the law, nor the existing capitalist system in Hong Kong, its high degree of autonomy, and the independence of legal system will change.
Hong Kong is part of China’s territory, and Hong Kong affairs fall within China’s internal affairs. Recently, western politicians have hyped up and attacked China’s national security law in Hong Kong, introducing so-called Hong Kong bills, and announcing sanctions on Chinese government officials in charge of Hong Kong affairs. This is a blatant interference in China’s domestic affairs, an act of hegemony and a gross violation of international law and basic norms of international relations.
I would like to stress the Chinese government is firm in its determination to safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests, to implement the principle of “one country, two systems” and to oppose any external interference in Hong Kong affairs.
We firmly reject anyone meddling in Hong Kong affairs. We will not allow the US and other foreign forces to use Hong Kong to carry out their infiltration and subversion against China.