Chinese Foreign Ministry: Hong Kong Had No Freedom or Democracy Under British Rule

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin takes a question during the daily Foreign Ministry briefing in Beijing on July 24, 2020. - China on July 24 ordered the US consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu to close in retaliation for one of its missions in the United States being …
GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin unleashed a tirade against the British on Tuesday, railing that the current U.K. government has no right to criticize China for extinguishing liberty and autonomy in Hong Kong because the British allegedly granted the island no freedom or dignity during their 150 years of colonial rule.

Wang erupted when asked about British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s statement Monday that China’s oppressive Hong Kong National Security Law, which effectively destroyed what was left of the island’s autonomy, was a violation of China’s commitments to the United Kingdom when Hong Kong reverted to Chinese control in 1997.

Raab made his comment while demanding an end to the persecution of Jimmy Lai, charged Friday with violating the national security law and facing at least ten years in prison — effectively a life sentence for the 73-year-old dissident media mogul.

“This highlights the authorities’ continued attacks on the rights and freedoms of its people,” Raab said Monday. “We have raised this case with the authorities in Hong Kong and call on them to end their targeting of Lai and other pro-democracy voices.”

Wang exploded Tuesday when asked to respond to Raab. It should be noted that the question came from the “Beijing Youth Daily,” a Chinese Communist Party newspaper, so it is clearly a question Wang wanted to answer, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry rushed to publish a video of his response on Twitter.

Wang began by insisting that China and Hong Kong are societies “under the rule of law” and Lai is being prosecuted because “all people are equal before the law, and no one has impunity.”

Wang then argued Raab lacks the moral high ground to criticize Beijing for using an iron fist to maintain control of Hong Kong, given the history of British colonial administration:

During the 150-year or so British colonial rule over Hong Kong, Governors of Hong Kong were chosen and appointed in London by the British government. When ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1976, the British government made a reservation not to apply to Hong Kong the periodic elections provisions. Both the Public Order Ordinance and the Societies Ordinance during the British rule imposed draconian restrictions on assembly, procession, and association in Hong Kong. 

The British side’s interference in Hong Kong affairs and undermining of Hong Kong’s rule of law under the pretext of democracy and freedom is just an old trick of the colonists, who habitually apply double standards to stir up troubles in another country. It was not until Hong Kong’s return to China that the residents in Hong Kong have enjoyed unprecedented democratic rights and freedoms. 

I want to stress that the Chinese government governs Hong Kong in accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law, and it has nothing to do with the Sino-British Joint Declaration. With Hong Kong’s return to China, all the rights and obligations related to the British side under the Sino-British Joint Declaration have been completed. The British side has neither the right to supervise Hong Kong nor moral responsibility towards Hong Kong whatsoever.

“What the British side should do is to discard its colonial mentality, stop applying double standard, earnestly respect the HKSAR government and judiciary’s fulfillment of official duties and handling of the case in accordance with law, respect Hong Kong residents’ aspiration to live a life as normal as ever with stable social order, respect the fact that Hong Kong is China’s Special Administrative Region and respect the basic principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs in international relations,” Wang concluded.

The British government will begin offering expedited visas in January to Hong Kongers who have British National Overseas (BNO) citizenship status from the colonial era, and would therefore know from personal experience that Wang’s claims of superior “freedom” under Chinese rule are utterly absurd. 

According to a recent survey, nearly four out of five Hong Kongers eligible for the program are interested in emigrating, a much higher number than originally estimated by the British Home Office.

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