Remarks by Deputy Commissioner Song Ru'an at the Briefing for Foreign Media in Hong Kong


Remarks by Deputy Commissioner Song Ru'an at the Briefing for Foreign Media in Hong Kong


25 September 2019, Hong Kong


Friends from the media,


It is a pleasure to have you with us. I am told by my colleagues that some of you call China a rich resource for journalism, which shows how much you value your work here. In the briefing, I'd like to talk about three issues: the 70th anniversary of the PRC, China's diplomacy over the seven decades, and the current situation in Hong Kong.


First, on the 70th anniversary of the PRC. For media veterans like you, China's achievements under the CPC leadership since 1949 must be an all too familiar story: it is the world's second largest economy, the largest industrial producer and trader of goods, and the holder of the largest foreign exchange reserves. So today, I'd like to offer a fresh insight into China's miracle - with three keywords.   


The first one is PROGRSS. In seven decades, China has made historic progress in industrialization, accomplishing what took developed countries hundreds of years. According to World Bank, China ranked 71st among 192 economies in terms of per capita GDP in 2018, up by 104 places from 1978. Since 2006, China has contributed the most to global growth for 13 years in a row. As the first developing country to meet the MDG poverty alleviation target by lifting over 700 million people out of poverty, 70% of the world's total, China has contributed immensely to global poverty reduction.


The second one is SPEED. Every hour in China, tens of billions of yuan of GDP are created, about 75 million kilograms of food produced, nearly 500 meters of high-speed railway built, about 6 million packages handled, and cargo worth over $500 million traded. By the end of 2018, China had a total length of nearly 30,000 kilometers of high-speed railway lines, accounting for more than two-thirds of the world's total, making it the first country with a complete high-speed rail network in operation. A foreign netizen marveled that "The infrastructure maniac has just blown my mind!" 


The third one is DIMENSION. China goes high, with the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System providing services for the world, and the Long March rockets having completed 300 launches. China goes deep. Haidou-1, China's domestic underwater glider, doves 10,767 meters below sea level. Earth's Crust 1, our domestic super drilling rig, reaches a depth of 7,018 meters, breaking the Asian record for the deepest borehole. China goes far. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge completed last October is 55 kilometers long with a 6.7-kilometer undersea tunnel, making it the longest sea crossing bridge-tunnel system in the world.


And these are only the tip of the iceberg. So what has led to the "China miracle"? Let me share with you a story, which says a lot. The Kubuqi Desert in Inner Mongolia is China's seventh largest desert and the source of sandstorms closest to Beijing. It used to be called a "sea of death" that even birds could not cross, and experts at home and abroad declared it uninhabitable, for either human or plants. But thanks to the tireless efforts of several generations to combat desertification, we have seen a mission impossible accomplished: the desert has been turned into an oasis, and humans are not only surviving but thriving there. At the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015, the Kubuqi desert greening project was praised by UNEP as an "eco-pioneer". According to the first UN eco-wealth report in 2017, 6,253 square kilometers of the Kubuqi desert have been reclaimed, generating a return of over 500 billion yuan and lifting over 100 thousand farmers out of poverty. General Secretary Xi Jinping acclaimed it in 2018 as a "Green Great Wall in North China".


So why has China achieved so much in seven decades? The social system, development path, history and culture all have played a role. Here I'd like to highlight two points in particular:


Firstly, China's development is not granted by nature or other countries, nor achieved by plundering others' resources or taking advantages of others. Instead, it is attributed to the toil and perseverance of Chinese people, who, like those in Kubuqi, have passed the baton from generation to generation to see development blueprints through.


Secondly, China's development is people-centered, aimed at fulfilling the people's aspiration for a better life, and ensuring that all Chinese share in the outcomes of reform and development. As a Chinese axiom goes, "He who wins the people's hearts makes the best leader." That is what has enabled us to mobilize the 1.4 billion Chinese people to focus on development.  


Second, on the accomplishments of China's diplomacy over the seven decades, which are part and parcel of the national development. As a diplomat, I feel it necessary to talk about them in brief.


Over the past seven decades, China's diplomacy has gone through an extraordinary journey. We now have diplomatic ties with 179 countries, up from around 10 when the PRC was newly founded.


 In the new era, amid profound changes in the world never seen in a century, we have been advancing major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics with a pioneering spirit. Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy, established through major innovations in theory and practice, has set the fundamental course for China's diplomacy. Over the past seven years, President Xi visited 70 countries in 38 trips to different parts of the world, covering all the five continents. Guided by head-of-state diplomacy, we have pursued peace and development, attached importance to both multilateral and bilateral diplomacy and to both major countries and the neighborhood, followed the principle of mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation, and sought a new model of international relations featuring dialogue and partnership instead of confrontation and alliance. We have broken new ground on the diplomatic front, shared Chinese initiatives on global issues, and demonstrated China's strong sense of responsibility as a major country. China is now the second largest contributor to the UN general and peacekeeping budgets, and the biggest contributor of peacekeepers among the permanent members of the Security Council.


In the new era, China has contributed its wisdom to shaping global governance. In 2013, President Xi laid out the vision of forging "a community with a shared future for mankind", pointing the right way forward. In the same year, President Xi also put forward the Belt and Road Initiative featuring extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. Since then, China has signed cooperation documents with over 160 countries and international organizations, successfully held two Belt and Road forums on international cooperation, and yielded more than 550 outcomes of cooperation, injecting fresh impetus in domestic opening-up and development and improving people's well-being around the world.


In the new era, China has boosted global confidence by successfully hosting major international events. Since 2016, we have held the G20 Hangzhou Summit, the BRICS Xiamen Summit, Boao Forum for Asia annual conferences, the SCO Qingdao Summit,the FOCAC Beijing Summit, the first China International Import Expo, the International Horticultural Exhibition 2019 Beijing, and the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations. All these highlight events have sent a strong signal of championing multilateralism and economic globalization, and opposing unilateralism and trade bullying.


Going forward, China will embrace the world more openly, make more contribution with its vibrant civilization, and remain a positive force in safeguarding world peace, boosting global growth, and maintaining the international order.


Third, on the Hong Kong situation, I think it is important to grasp at least four things.


Firstly, we need to grasp the nature of the situation. In February, the SAR Government proposed the amendments for the purpose of plugging the legal loophole, upholding justice and improving the rule of law in Hong Kong. It is completely reasonable, legitimate and necessary. Unfortunately, the opposition members spread rumor, caused panic and provoked confrontation, politicizing and demonizing what should have been a legal issue. In order to resolve the differences, the SAR Government suspended the bill in June and later formally withdrew it, which should have settled the concerns of the opposition. But what we have seen is that the situation has escalated instead of the other way around. Over the past 100 days and more, the opposition and radicals have ramped up actions on the pretext of anti-amendment. They clamored for the resignation of Chief Executive and other principal officials so as to paralyze the government. They stormed government headquarters, LegCo, police stations and even the Central Government's Liaison Office here. They waved British and American flags while desecrating Chinese national flag and emblem. They instigated students to form "human chains" and sing independence songs, openly sought Hong Kong independence with slogans like "Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times" and "Learn from Ukrainians", and moved the Lennon Wall in Prague to Hong Kong. The rioters not only assaulted the police with dangerous weapons such as molotov cocktails, but also intimidated and even attacked their family members by doxxing them. They ran amok, carried out wildcat-style violence, deliberately spread violence to commercial and residential areas, and frantically vandalized public property and commercial facilities. Such outright malicious acts are simply astonishing and unacceptable. These rioters have openly challenged the red line of "One Country, Two Systems", showing increasingly features of a "color revolution" and localized terrorism.


Secondly, we need to see the true colors of the "five demands". The four actions announced by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, including formally withdrawing the bill, have demonstrated utmost good faith. But why have the opposition members refused to be satisfied and continued to insist on the "five demands" instead? I suggest we take a closer look at their demands. In terms of an independent commission of inquiry, the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) has already launched an investigation. As Mrs. Carrie Lam announced, the IPCC has increased the number of its members, invited international experts, and extended the coverage of the events it looks into. In terms of retracting the classification of protesters as"rioters" and granting amnesty to all arrested protesters, the demands are evidently at odds with the rule of law and judicial independence of Hong Kong. Violence is violence, and crime is crime, which cannot be justified by any excuse. If law is not respected and criminals not held accountable, it will seriously undermine law and order and weaken international confidence in Hong Kong. In terms of "dual universal suffrage", it is a goal provided for in the Basic Law. The Sino-British Joint Declaration only says that "The chief executive will be appointed by the Central People's Government on the basis of the results of elections or consultations to be held locally", so it provides no grounds for the demand. Dual universal suffrage should be pursued in accordance with the Basic Law and the relevant interpretation and decision of the NPC Standing Committee - that is under "the framework set down under the 31 August Decision". With the concerted efforts of the Central and SAR governments, there was a good momentum in 2015 for adopting the proposal for selecting Chief Executive by universal suffrage, which would pave the way for the selection of Chief Executive in this manner in 2017. But the proposal was obstructed by the opposition members and failed to materialize, so the responsibility lies completely with them. As the Hong Kong public are far from reaching consensus on the issue, forcibly advancing dual universal suffrage at such a moment will only invite more trouble. Response does not mean concession. Chief Executive and the SAR Government have responded to the so-called "five demands" many times. It will be blatant political blackmail and coercion if anyone believes only acceptance of each and every demand of the opposition counts as response.


Thirdly, we need to realize that external forces are behind the chaos in Hong Kong. Since the amendments were launched, the US and some other Western countries have played a negative and disgraceful role. Heads, congressmen and politicians of some countries have made remarks of interference now and then. For instance, American senior officials had high-profile meetings with and spared no effort to cheer the anti-China forces who intend to mess up Hong Kong, and the US Congress has put pressure on the SAR and Central governments with the Hong Kong human rights and democracy act. They have distorted the truth, condoned the rioters and claimed support for the right to peaceful protests, but turned a blind eye to the crime of the rioters, who undermined law and order and assaulted the police and citizens. They have sided with anti-China forces and urged "restraint", but turned a deaf ear to the growing call of the Hong Kong public, who support the government in punishing violence and defending the rule of law. They have been vocal, but have fallen silent when it comes to condemning the violence by the rioters. They show no mercy and never hesitate to use all kinds of weapons to quell protests in their own countries, but have smeared the efforts by the SAR Government and police to maintain the rule of law with restraint as a "crackdown". All these reflect typical arrogance, prejudice, and double standard. Their true intention is to fish in troubled waters, use Hong Kong to sow trouble in China as a whole, and hold back China's development in every possible way. What they have done constitute a grave violation of international law and norms governing international relations. I'd like to reiterate here, as we have warned them once and again, that Hong Kong affairs are China's internal affairs, which allow no interference by any foreign countries, organizations or individuals.


As we speak, the US is threatening to pass the Hong Kong human rights and democracy act with a view to justifying its interference in other countries' internal affairs with its domestic law. This is the epitome of hegemony. Over the past 22 years since Hong Kong's return, "One Country, Two Systems" has been an immense success in the SAR, and the people of Hong Kong are enjoying unprecedented democratic rights and freedoms under the law. This is a fact anyone without bias will recognize. The US enjoys its highest trade surplus with Hong Kong, which stood at $31.1 billion in 2018. Thus, Hong Kong-US trade is mutually beneficial, instead of favoring Hong Kong alone. If the act is passed, it will undermine the confidence of international investors in Hong Kong, and stakeholders including American businesses will suffer. We don't want to see that happen, and we urge the US to immediately stop the process which does nobody good.


Fourthly, we need to realize what damage the extremist violence has inflicted on Hong Kong. The chaos lasting over 100 days has dealt a heavy blow to both Hong Kong's rule of law and its economy. Bearing the brunt are industries like tourism, catering, retail and transportation. It is estimated that each day of paralysis costs the airport cargo worth over HK$10 billion. The occupancy rate of the hotels plummeted further to 30% in July and August, as the number of tourists were down by 31% year on year. The catering business lost HK$3.5 billion revenue from June to August. Cargo export fell by 5.4% in the second quarter. The SAR Government has slashed its 2019 growth forecast from a previous estimate of 2% to 3% to a range of 0% to 1%. The status and credibility of Hong Kong as an international aviation hub have been undermined. The MTR, the lifeblood of the metropolis, has been again and again vandalized. Horse racing, a tradition of the city, was forced to be suspended. As Secretary for Finance Paul Chan warned, the deteriorating external environment and continued violent protests in Hong Kong are creating an "economic typhoon". Should violence continue and the business environment further worsen, the export-oriented economy and people's livelihood in Hong Kong would surely be severely influenced, and entire society would have to pay the price. The rioters are claiming for "freedom from fear", but it is exactly what they have been doing that has caused "the greatest fear since Hong Kong's return" among the majority of citizens here. As the situation remains grave, the top priority is stop violence, end the chaos and restore order, which is also the strong aspiration of the public. The Central Government remains firmly committed to the policy of "One Country, Two Systems", and firmly supports the SAR Government and the public in rejecting violence, defending the rule of law, maintaining tranquility and boosting development. We trust the SAR Government has the capability to calm down the situation in accordance with law.


Before I finish, there is one more point I want to say. Media should be the conscience of society, and should be a positive force by being rational, just and impartial. Unfortunately, some foreign media have confounded right with wrong, applied double standard and acted selectively in reporting the Hong Kong situation. Instead of telling the truth, they have fanned the flames and cheered the opposition and violent extremists by offering them a platform to spread rumor, thus causing very bad impacts. Friends, it is needless to say that Hong Kong's prosperity and stability serve the interests of not only the city but also all of you. An important reason why you have regional headquarters in Hong Kong is because of its free and stable environment. If the unrest continues, it will do no good to your work or life either. It is our hope that you will report what is truly going on here in an objective, comprehensive and accurate way, and do more to help stop violence, end the chaos, and promote prosperity and stability of the city.


Thank you.

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