Yang Guang, spokesperson of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council
Xu Luying, spokesperson of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council
Xi Yanchun, spokesperson of the State Council Information Office
July 29, 2019
Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Welcome to attend this press conference. Recently, the public have paid great attention to the situation in Hong Kong. Today, we are delighted to invite the spokespersons of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council --Mr. Yang Guang and Ms. Xu Luying -- to introduce its position and views on the current situation of Hong Kong. They will also answer some of your questions.
Now, I'll give the floor to Mr. Yang.
Friends from the media, good afternoon. It was raining heavily when I came to attend the conference. Thank you for coming out in such bad weather. Today's press conference is held by the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council. This is the first time for Ms. Xu Luying and myself to meet you as spokespersons for the office. Please allow me to extend our warm welcome and great thanks to you for your attendance here.
Recently, a string of protests and violent incidents have occurred in Hong Kong after the government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) tried to discuss the amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance. The situation has drawn widespread attention both domestically and internationally. The central government is also paying close attention to the developments.
The HKSAR government decided to amend the two ordinances because of a simple criminal case. Last February, a Hong Kong resident, Chan Tong-kai , was suspected of killing his pregnant girlfriend in Taiwan, and fleeing back to Hong Kong. Since the HKSAR government has no jurisdiction over the case, it proposed to amend the two aforementioned ordinances. This would allow the local government to cooperate with the mainland, Macao and Taiwan on extraditing criminal suspects and fugitives in individual cases through a special arrangement. This was because it has not signed agreement with the latter ones on extraditing fugitives and seeking legal assistance in criminal cases. This would be helpful in handling the aforementioned case, and would close an existing legal loophole to jointly combat crime, and uphold law and justice.
Unfortunately, some Hong Kong residents have insufficient knowledge about the mainland’s situation and its legal and judicial systems. They began to doubt the HKSAR government’s decision on amending the ordinances. What is worse, some ill-intentioned individuals and media outlets took this opportunity to spread exaggerated or false views, thus causing panic among the public, and obstructing the discussion of the amendments in the HKSAR Legislative Council. In this context, since June, several rather large protests over the amendments have occurred. On June 15, in order to listen to public opinion more widely, and to restore normal social order, the HKSAR government postponed work on the amendments and hence all related legislative activities came to a stop. The central government fully supports, respects and understands the HKSAR government’s decision.
As to peaceful protests against the proposed extradition law amendments, the HKSAR police have granted approval and provided protection in accordance with the law. However, the intentional violent activities by some radical protesters since June 12 have gone far beyond the proper scope of peaceful demonstrations. They surrounded the Legislative Council building, blocked roads and halted traffic. They hurled bricks, metal rods and petrol bombs at the police and even charged the police cordon lines. They blockaded the Hong Kong Police Headquarters twice, and disturbed the operations of Hong Kong’s Inland Revenue Department and Immigration Department, further worsening the situation.
On July 1, the day on which the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland was being celebrated, radical protesters stormed the Legislative Council building, vandalized facilities, smeared the emblem of the HKSAR, and tore up copies of the Basic Law of the HKSAR. In a series of violent activities, they fanned hatred towards the police, assaulted and attacked them with corrosive liquids or toxic powders, and even bit off part of a police officer's finger. Such violent acts are outrageous.
On July 21, some radical protesters blocked the building of the Liaison Office of the Central Government in Hong Kong, defaced the national emblem，and painted insulting words on the wall. Their behaviors are extremely serious in nature and have caused very bad influence. In addition, the HKSAR police have raided a homemade-explosives manufacturing lab in a factory building, seizing a large cache of TATP explosives and other materials intended for use in the violent demonstrations. So far, violence has not ceased. The day before yesterday, some radical protesters staged illegal rallies in Yuen Long District and committed a series of violent acts, injuring over 20 people. Yesterday, some radical protesters rallied illegally on Hong Kong Island and charged the police cordon lines there.
The marches and demonstrations and violent clashes have lasted more than one month in Hong Kong, impinging on the rule of law, social order, economic and social activities, people's life and international image of Hong Kong. This has saddened all the people who love and care about Hong Kong. I have three points to make.
First, it is hoped that people from all walks of life in Hong Kong will clearly oppose and resist violence. What has happened recently, especially the acts of violence committed by a small number of radicals, has undermined Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, challenged the rule of law and social order, threatened the personal and property safety of the residents of Hong Kong, and hit the bottom line of the principle "one country, two systems," and will not be tolerated. Violence will not be tolerated in any civilized society and society of rule-of-law. It is hoped that the general public of Hong Kong will be aware of the seriousness of the current situation and jointly condemn the evil and criminal acts committed by the radicals so as to prevent them from sabotaging Hong Kong.
Second, it is hoped that Hong Kong people will resolutely uphold the rule of law. This is the core value that Hong Kong people take pride in, a foundation for a favorable business environment, and an important cornerstone for prosperity and stability. We will not do nothing about the outrageous behaviors by a small group of people. Once the rule of law is undermined, Hong Kong cannot retain its prosperity and stability. The central government firmly supports Chief Executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Carrie Lam in leading the HKSAR government to rule according to the law, the Hong Kong police in enforcing laws rigorously, the HKSAR government and the judiciary body in meting out punishment to violent criminals according to the law, and patriots and people who love Hong Kong in safeguarding rule of law in Hong Kong. Aware of the huge pressure that the Hong Kong police and their families are suffering, we give our solute to the fearless and excellent Hong Kong police who have been sticking to their posts, fulfilled their duties, and endured humiliation.
Third, it is hoped that Hong Kong will get out of the political contentions as soon as possible, and concentrate on developing its economy and improving people's livelihood. Development is crucial for Hong Kong, and it holds the key to resolving various local issues. Although Hong Kong, endowed with favorable conditions and enjoying unique advantages, has laid a pretty good foundation for its development, it can't stand turmoil and riots, which would leave dent on its prosperity and stability. If the chaos continues, the whole society of Hong Kong will bear its brunt. The HKSAR government and the whole society should explore ways and adopt efficient measures to promote local economic growth and improve people's livelihood, especially help young people to cope with difficulties in issues such as housing, education, employment and starting businesses, so as to alleviate their grievances. The central government is willing to join hands with the HKSAR government and people from all walks of life in Hong Kong to create favorable conditions for the development of young people.
Since Hong Kong's return to the motherland, the implementation of the principle of "one country, two systems" there has achieved widely recognized success. The principles of “one country, two systems,” “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and a high degree of autonomy in the HKSAR have been fully implemented. Hong Kong has maintained its prosperity and stability, and is generally recognized as one of the world’s freest economies. Its outstanding business environment and global competitiveness are widely recognized by the international community. The people of Hong Kong enjoy unprecedented democratic rights and a broad range of freedoms rarely seen across the world. Hong Kong also continues to rank high in the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index.
Practice fully demonstrates the principle of "one country, two system" provides the best institutional arrangement to ensure Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability. The central government will unswervingly stick to and implement the policy of "one country, two systems," ensure its practice, and will not deviate from its expected direction.
It's believed that, with the strong support of the central government and all the people of the Chinese mainland, under the leadership of the HKSAR government led by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, our compatriots in Hong Kong will be bound to do a good job in administering, building and developing Hong Kong by bravely coping with all kinds of difficulties and challenges. The policy of "one country, two systems" will be bound to show its continued vitality and tenacity.
Next, my colleague and I will answer your questions.
Thank you, Mr. Yang, for your opening remarks. Now, the floor is open for questions. As we have many foreign media in attendance today, simultaneous interpreting is available throughout the press conference. However, consecutive interpreting will be provided when a question is raised so that everyone understands it. Please identify the news organization you represent before asking questions.
Presently, some individuals in the Hong Kong society advocate using violence and "achieving justice by violating the law." Could you please give us your views on this stance? Thank you.
Thank you for your question. Laws must be obeyed and offenders punished, which I think is the fundamental requirement for any society ruled of law. Moreover, the rule of law is the core value of which Hong Kong citizens have long been proud. What we want to say is that, no claim can be expressed illegally no matter how lofty its claimed goal might seem, let alone back by a resort to violence. Violence is violence, and unlawful practice is unlawful practice, whose nature won't change because of any disguised claim or advocacy. We have noted that, recently, all sectors in the Hong Kong society have repeatedly launched large rallies, calling for protecting Hong Kong, upholding the rule of law, and opposing violence. They represent the real mainstream public opinion in the Hong Kong community. The central government firmly supports the Hong Kong police, relevant departments and judicial institutions in punishing violent and illegal acts according to the law, ascertaining criminal responsibility of violent offenders, restoring normal social order as soon as possible, and ensuring public personal and property safety. Thank you.
Many Hong Kong people are worrying about the principle of "one country, two systems" existing in name only, or focusing more on "one country" rather than "two systems." How can the central government reassure them? Thank you.
Thank you. I think the core of your question is how to understand the principle of "one country, two systems." This is a complete concept and an integrated set of guidelines and policies requiring comprehensive and precise understanding. "One country" is like the roots of a tree. For a tree to grow tall and luxuriant, its roots must run deep and strong. Implementing the principle in Hong Kong and Macao, we should never hit the three bottom lines. The bottom lines are: Any attempt to endanger national sovereignty and security, challenge the power of the central government and the authority of the Basic Law of the HKSAR or use Hong Kong to carry out infiltration and sabotage activities against the mainland is absolutely impermissible. Only based on "one country" can we talk about "two systems." The central government will unswervingly implement the principle and make sure that it is fully applied in Hong Kong without being bent or distorted. Since Hong Kong's return to China, whenever the central government exercises its power in accordance with the law, questioning always emerges as to whether it would undermine the high degree of autonomy in the HKSAR. In my opinion, such comments are due to some people either not being able to understand the principle of "one country, two systems" comprehensively and precisely, or through deliberate misinterpretation.
South China Morning Post:
Since controversy arose concerning the HKSAR government's amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance, Hong Kong has seen a protracted period of massive demonstrations. According to a University of Hong Kong opinion poll, the public approval rating for Carrie Lam has hit a new low. How does the central government judge her performance in the past one or two months, including her handling of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance amendment bill? Is she still fit to run Hong Kong? Will the HKSAR's high-ranking officials including Carrie Lam be held accountable? Thank you.
Thanks for your question. Since taking office in 2017, Chief Executive Carrie Lam has led the HKSAR government to actively govern Hong Kong. She has done a great deal of work developing the economy, improving people's well-being and integrating Hong Kong into the national development course. This is obvious to all. All along, the central government has fully recognized the work of Carrie Lam and the HKSAR government. The amendment bill aims to plug loopholes in the HKSAR's existing legal framework, jointly crack down on crimes and uphold justice. It has the support of the central government. After big differences and demonstrations arose in regard to the amendment bill, the HKSAR government decided to suspend work on it to restore public peace and order as soon as possible. The central government has expressed its support, understanding and respect for this. We notice that the HKSAR government has summed up and reflected on its shortcomings in handling the amendment bill. At the July 1 reception to mark the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that the HKSAR government would change its style of governance to become more open and inclusive to public opinions. We also notice that quite a few Hong Kong citizens have been quietly supporting the chief executive and the HKSAR. The central government will continue to firmly support Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the HKSAR government in governing Hong Kong in accordance with the law and uniting and leading all sectors of Hong Kong to jointly maintain prosperity and stability. Thank you.
First question is (that) does the situation in Hong Kong affect the financial industry's daily operations or the future development. I'm interested in what's the central government' view on this. Second is (will) Carrie Lam is going to resign as many have reported and third is what is the central government doing to ensure public security and what kind of cooperation is the government doing with the local operations, whether it's individuals or organizations and whether the debate around electoral reform will be reopened as a way to relieve tensions. Thank you.
Thank you for your question. A favorable business environment is crucial to Hong Kong. So far, we have seen that Hong Kong maintains a good business environment, even though the recent radical violence has impinged on the social order and international image of Hong Kong. We have noticed that the Hong Kong Retail Management Association recently stated that most of its members have seen a significant sales decline over the past month. The data released by the City University of Hong Kong also revealed the consumer confidence index in Hong Kong had fallen to its lowest level in five years. The tourism industry has also reported the number of tourist groups visiting Southeast Asia has been declining recently. It is expected to drop by more than 70% at most. I believe this is only part of the situation but it is a warning and deserves deep thought by the Hong Kong community.
As for the impact on the financial sector you mentioned, it is not obvious from the data. However, I think that for an export-oriented small-scale economy like Hong Kong, in such a complex and volatile international economic environment, if the business environment and confidence level decline, the external risks faced by the financial sector will naturally increase. Therefore, we also maintain that the top priority is to punish violent criminals according to law, restore social order as soon as possible, and maintain a favorable business environment in Hong Kong. This is of paramount importance.
As for your second question, the reporter with the South China Morning Post has asked about that just now. so, I will not repeat my answer.
Regarding the third question, whether the central government will change the election mode, the electoral method in Hong Kong is stipulated by the Basic Law of the HKSAR and the relevant supporting laws. We must abide by the law, now and in the future, in order to continue developing a democratic system suitable for the actual situation of Hong Kong by stages. The central government's standpoint on this issue will not change. Thank you.
I want to ask two questions. First, I have heard opinions that the team of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has lost the prestige of governance. If her administration is not dismissed and is held accountable, will you be worried that fingers will be pointed to the central government in the final analysis? Will the central government support the establishment of an independent committee to thoroughly investigate responsibility for the entire extradition bill incident? Second, there are claims that some white-clad thugs attacked citizens in the MTR station of Yuen Long on July 21, which was an indiscriminate terror attack. The public has questioned police abilities to fight against mobs and gangs, which may also indicate that some policemen are working with them. Also, a Hong Kong police officers association has written a letter expressing disapproval of the statement made by Chief Secretary for Administration. How to deal with the situation where the citizens are being attacked? Thank you.
Thank you. Your first question is about a commission of inquiry. In our point of view, the most dangerous part in the current situation in Hong Kong is that violent criminal acts have not been effectively stopped. The most important task of the Hong Kong administration at present is to resolutely punish violent crimes in accordance with the law, restore social stability as soon as possible, and safeguard Hong Kong's rule of law. I believe that, with the efforts of the Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the HKSAR government, under the strict enforcement of the Hong Kong Police Force and the concerted efforts of the Hong Kong people who love the city and the motherland, the community will be able to stop these violent crimes as soon as possible and help the Hong Kong society to return to normal.
Your second question is about the violent incident in Yuen Long. I have nothing to add on this question, because the chief of the Hong Kong Police Force and the head of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR have already made clear responses to this question. These rumors are unfounded slanders. We should pay special attention to the tremendous efforts made by the Hong Kong Police Force in maintaining public security and social order for more than a month. They have undergone many painful sacrifices. They personally have been under tremendous pressure, and their families are also under great pressure, suffering from various kinds of internet bullying. Despite this, the Hong Kong police have still shown restraint and their professionalism. We believe that with the efforts of the HKSAR government and the Hong Kong police, the various difficulties and challenges at present will certainly be resolved. Thank you.
Macao Daily News:
This year, the Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR) will elect its fifth Chief Executive. Ho Iat Seng obtained a total of 378 nominations, which makes him the only qualified candidate. Will the central government support him to assume office as the next Chief Executive in MSAR? Thank you.
The MSAR will elect its fifth Chief Executive in August. In accordance with MSAR Basic Law and other relevant laws, the Chief Executive will be elected through a set of legal procedures and appointed by the central government. The standards formulated by the central government for nomination as the Chief Executive are consistent. They are required to be patriotic in regard to the motherland, trustworthy in the eyes of the central government, capable of administering regional affairs and be recognized by the entire local society. We believe the election of a new Chief Executive who meets these criteria will proceed smoothly. That's all I wish to say about the election of the Chief Executive in MSAR.
Now, I would like to add a few words to my previous answer to the question about the HKSAR, which was raised by a Hong Kong journalist, because both questions are concerned about elections. The HKSAR’s election is based on its Basic Law, the resolutions made by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and relevant local laws. Thank you.
Xinhua News Agency:
What do you think of the role that some Western countries played in the recent turmoil over the proposed legal amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance in Hong Kong? Thank you.
Thank you for your question. Regarding the series of demonstrations and violent incidents that happened in Hong Kong, some irresponsible Western individuals have made irresponsible remarks and played a disgraceful role. Some remarks display a perverse logic that violent offenders deserve sympathy, understanding and even forgiveness, while police fulfilling their duties to protect public order and security, and safeguard the rule of law in Hong Kong, should face criticism, outright condemnation and be held to account. Such logic is absurd and ludicrous.
As I said just now, the nature of violence and unlawful acts will never change because of any hypocritical claim. This is a bottom line of a society based on the rule of law, and must not be challenged.
Hong Kong is part of China, and its affairs are of domestic concern alone. The Chinese government absolutely does not allow any foreign forces to interfere in Hong Kong's affairs. Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi and spokespersons of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have reiterated our unwavering stance many times. Some Western politicians time and again have made irresponsible remarks and even backed some certain people. Their ulterior motives are to disrupt Hong Kong, change Hong Kong into a troublesome sore for China and in turn constrain Chinese development. These attempts will get them nowhere. Thank you.
For the situation in Hong Kong to have come this far, there must been serious concern about possible intervention of the PLA. Just last week, a journalist asked the spokesperson of the Ministry of National Defense about such intervention, but the spokesperson referred him to the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Garrisoning of the HKSAR. Could you just tell us directly on what premises and in what ways the PLA Hong Kong Garrison would be deployed and what possible international impact that would have. A follow-up question: what has happened in Hong Kong cannot be merely explained by the collusion between radical elements and external forces, and there are people who wonder if there has been a miscalculation by the central government on the deep-rooted structural social and political problems in Hong Kong. What is your response to this? Will the central government adjust its policies in this regard?
Thank you. As for your first question, I refer you to the Basic Law of the HKSAR, so I don't need to add anything. Your second question has been mentioned in my previous remarks and my answers to other questions. The priority now is to punish violent acts and safeguard the rule of law. Thank you.
The last question.
Hong Kong Ta Kung Wen Wei Media:
Some people believe there is a widespread mood of complaint in Hong Kong society. Deep-seated issues like land, housing and upward social mobility of the young generation have not been addressed. What will the central government do to help Hong Kong solve these problems? Thanks.
Thanks for your question. Deep-seated issues, including land, housing and upward social mobility of the young generation, do exist in Hong Kong. The reasons behind these issues are profound and multi-faceted, and are closely related to complex historical elements, the social roots of the population as well as the international background. These problems will not be solved in one day. Instead, we need to tackle them through comprehensive and multiple measures. The central government has been paying close attention to the deep-seated problems revealed in Hong Kong, and the government of the HKSAR has been working hard in this regard. Just as was emphasized in the statement, development holds the key to solving various problems facing Hong Kong, and its deep-seated problems will have to be resolved in the process of development. The central government will continue to support Hong Kong to develop its economy, improve the public livelihood, integrate the city with the overall development plan of the motherland. The relevant departments in the central government will continue to introduce a series of favorable policies and measures for the residents of Hong Kong to pursue their careers on the mainland. In particular, we will consider expanding opportunities and giving new impetus to Hong Kong in the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, which will provide Hong Kong residents, especially the young, with more opportunities. However, development cannot be realized without a harmonious and stable society. Therefore, we hope all sectors in Hong Kong can work together to walk away from the political turmoil as soon as possible, and seize major opportunities to achieve better development. Thanks.
It is the first time for the two spokespersons to speak here. Do both of you want to add any further comments?
Thanks for your attendance. Time is limited today and many media outlets have not had the opportunity to ask a question. However, I believe we will have more opportunities to continue our conversation in the future. You can also submit your questions to our colleagues and we will communicate with you in due time.
Thanks to everyone. This press conference is concluded.
Translated and edited by Chen Xia, Liu Qiang, He Shan, Zhu Bochen, Li Jingrong, Lin Liyao, Yuan Fang, Wang Yiming, Zhang Rui, Wu Jin, Zhang Liying, Li Huiru, Wang Qian, Zhang Junmian, Wang Wei, Wang Yanfang, Geoffrey Murray