Henry Ho: Interference under guise of human rights reprehensible

Edmond Sy: HK’s future role in national development

China's Minister for Foreign Affairs Qin Gang appears on a screen as he delivers a remote statement, during the High-Level Segment of the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, Feb. 27, 2023. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly leveled ungrounded accusations against China at a United Nations Human Rights Council session last week. In particular, he claimed that the implementation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong (NSL) has suppressed freedom of speech in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. His irresponsible remarks are tantamount to smearing Hong Kong’s rule of law and are blatant interference in China’s internal affairs, which should be condemned.

For a long time, the US-led West has had a negative perspective of China’s path of human rights development as it contrasts with the individualism-oriented Western approach. It’s important to note that human rights development is a complex and multifaceted process that cannot be imposed from outside. Rather, it needs to be developed in a way that reflects the specific needs and circumstances of each country. There may be differences in values and priorities among societies, and the concept and approaches of human rights should take these differences into consideration.

As China’s foreign minister, Qin Gang, pointed out at the same session, there is no one-size-fits-all model in human rights protection. China’s path to human rights development dovetails with the nation’s realities; it recognizes and affords comprehensive protection to human rights, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. This is reflected by China’s significant progress in eradicating poverty, building a moderately prosperous society, and establishing the world’s largest education, social security and healthcare systems. Under its new development philosophy, China aims to promote high-quality development and create a new paradigm for achieving common prosperity for all. The international community is strongly urged to uphold the principle of respecting the diversity of human rights development paths.

I have spoken at the UN Human Rights Council four times, clearing up misunderstandings over China’s whole-process people’s democracy and unveiling the West’s double standards in human rights. Western politicians always nitpick over China’s human rights, failing to realize they have an inherent bias for Western values and interests while overlooking the needs and aspirations of non-Western societies. Under the Western approach, economic, social and cultural rights, such as access to healthcare, education and housing, are often downplayed or overlooked. Unsurprisingly, they turned a blind eye to the fact that the implementation of the NSL has helped restore social order, peace and stability in Hong Kong, ensuring the rights of the absolute majority.

China has been a fervent advocator and protector of common values of humanity, including peace, development, fairness and multilateralism. A week before the UN meeting, Wang Yi, director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, reaffirmed China’s commitment to peaceful development and vowed to maintain global security through dialogue and cooperation at the 59th Munich Security Conference.

Today, international order has been greatly challenged by power politics and hegemony. The desire of some nations to expand their power and influence will inevitably lead to a series of alliances, territorial disputes and military confrontations that ultimately result in catastrophic wars. It’s important for nations and international institutions to work together to promote greater cooperation, understanding and stability in the face of competing interests and rivalries.

China’s approach to strengthening global governance through coordinated efforts is rooted in its foreign policy principles, which prioritize peaceful development, cooperation and mutual benefits. This “win-win” diplomacy reflects China’s adherence to the United Nations Charter while rejecting the “Cold War” mentality. As a major country, China has actively participated in multilateral organizations such as the UN and World Trade Organization; advocates an inclusive and equitable global governance system; and supports regional cooperation frameworks, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS group, which aim to promote economic development and political stability.

Such a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable development is of great value and significance, especially in the context of increasing flare-ups of regional security hot spots and a resurgence of unilateralism and protectionism. The Russia-Ukraine conflict not only has broad implications for regional and global security but has also provoked significant humanitarian concerns.

In such a changing era, China’s choice of peaceful development and a win-win cooperation strategy not only demonstrates its sense of responsibility as a major country but is also a calming pill to the international community. In the face of China’s rise, some Western countries, especially the United States, are busily peddling the “China threat” theory.

However, irrefutable facts, such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)and its newly released Global Security Initiative Concept Paper (Paper), clearly demonstrate the country’s proactive role in enhancing connectivity and multilateral cooperation. The BRI supports numerous infrastructure development projects in various countries, including high-speed railways, ports and power plants, which will increase connectivity and facilitate economic growth in participating countries, as well as create jobs and investment opportunities. The Paper further demonstrates China’s efforts in advocating new security architecture based on mutual trust and cooperation, reflecting its sincerity in safeguarding world peace.

Hong Kong has been a victim of geopolitical rivalry since Washington designated China as its major strategic rival in 2018. The US-led West has been interfering in the city’s affairs under the guise of “human rights” in their attempt to contain China. China’s commitment to peaceful development does not imply that it is “timid” or “weak”, or that it tolerates foreign interference in its internal affairs. Sovereignty and national security are China’s red lines. Anyone who tries to cross these red lines should be ready to bear the severe consequences, and their attempts will end in vain.

Instead of smearing Hong Kong’s rule of law, Western politicians should value the city’s unique role as a superconnector and facilitator in boosting international cooperation and contributing to human development. Hong Kong can help foster global and regional cooperation by participating in various international organizations. The city is also encouraged to leverage its expertise to provide financial support for BRI projects, serving as a fundraising and investment platform to attract capital from global investors and channel it to BRI projects in different regions. As a major international transportation hub, Hong Kong’s strategic location, world-class port facilities and efficient logistics network can help strengthen the connectivity between the Chinese mainland and the rest of the world. This can help to build stronger ties and partnerships, fostering economic development and reducing the risk of conflicts.

It’s not the first time, nor will it be the last time, that Western politicians used the so-called human rights issues to slander China and intervene in Hong Kong affairs. This even though time has proved that China is advancing on the right path of development that not only suits its national conditions but also contributes to a safer world under a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable development.

The author is a member of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and founder and chairman of the One Country Two Systems Youth Forum.