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Ambassador Zhang Ming Speaks to BBC on the Situation in Hong Kong
2019/08/10

On 9 August 2019, Ambassador Zhang Ming, Head of Chinese Mission to the EU, had an interview with BBC. The following is the transcript:

BBC: How do you see the situation now in Hong Kong?

Ambassador: I think it’s extreme violence, not peaceful demonstration. Some radicals defaced the national emblem and flag, stored explosives, set fire on public buildings, smashed cars, and so on. So this is law-breaking. Should the chaos and violence continue, prosperity and stability in Hong Kong would be put to ruins. And so would “One Country, Two Systems”. The top priority at the moment is to stop violence and chaos and restore law and order.

BBC: You say that. But certainly earlier in these protests some two million people were taking to the streets. That’s a quarter of the population of Hong Kong. That’s a significant number of people dissatisfied with the way in which the territory is being run.

Ambassador: But now, as we saw, it is turning into riots and chaos. So we have to stop the chaos.

BBC: You don’t say that violence is growing out of frustration by a younger generation of Hong Kongers, who weren’t even born when Hong Kong was returned by Britain to China, who feel that they want more control over their own destinies, and who perhaps have different aspirations than those who were around in 1997.

Ambassador: There are some people who are plotting behind the scenes and who are trying to use the youngsters as a political pawn, which is very dangerous. I believe that, as their real motives are laid bare, more and more young people would come to realize this and change course.

BBC: This week, Head of Chinese Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office Mr Zhang Xiaoming told reporters, and I quote, that if the situation worsens further, and there’s turmoil that the Hong Kong government is unable to control, the Central Government will absolutely not just watch without doing anything. Could you maybe expand on that?

Ambassador: As we know, Hong Kong is part of China. All Chinese people, including people in Hong Kong, treasure and uphold peace and stability in the Hong Kong SAR. The Chinese people would not allow the situation to get out of control.

According to the Basic Law, the Central Government has sufficient means and capabilities to maintain stability and prosperity and a peaceful life for people in Hong Kong, and to safeguard the “One Country, Two Systems”.

BBC: Are you referring here to the possible deployment of the People’s Liberation Army in Hong Kong?

Ambassador: The Central Government, as I mentioned, has sufficient means and capabilities to maintain Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity.

BBC: But does the Central Government in Beijing have any red line when it comes to maintaining stability? You yourself have been speaking about the chaos and violence in Hong Kong.

Ambassador: In any country, any society, such chaos and riots are not allowed. So that is the red line.

BBC: So the red line has been crossed already according to you.

Ambassador: I think some rioters are touching (the red line).

BBC: So the protesters, in your view, are getting very close to crossing that red line, which would then prompt the Central Government to send in the People’s Liberation Army.

Ambassador: I think some people are acting very dangerously. They are violating the Basic Law and ruining the order and system in Hong Kong. So they are playing fire.

BBC: How important is it to your government to maintain the “One Country, Two Systems”?

Ambassador: That’s the basic policy for the Central Government and the Hong Kong SAR. We will try our best to safeguard the “One Country, Two Systems”.

BBC: Because a couple of years ago, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in uncertain terms that the “One Country, Two Systems” was not binding on Beijing. It was only, and I quote, “a historical document that lacked practical significance”.

Ambassador: At the moment Hong Kong was handed over in 1997, the British rights and obligations under the document were fulfilled. Now, Britain has no sovereignty, no jurisdiction, and no right of supervision over Hong Kong.

BBC: So China could tear up that joint declaration at any time? They could say, “Sorry, the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ no longer exists. We are not interested in it.”

Ambassador: We’ll try our best to safeguard the “One Country, Two Systems”.

BBC: Why? Why should you?

Ambassador: This is for the interest of Hong Kong, for the interest of China, and for the interest of people all over China.

BBC: Are you worried, Ambassador, about the possibility of what might be described as “contagion” that these pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong might spread to the Chinese mainland? What the people are asking for in Hong Kong, which is a greater say in the election of their leaders, might be copied in China itself.

Ambassador: The people in Hong Kong are asking for stopping riots and chaos in Hong Kong.And no one would allow such acts to spread into the mainland.

BBC: But you’re worried that might happen.

Ambassador: No worry.

BBC: Ambassador, thank you very much!

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