Monday

28th Sep 2020

Interview

Chinese ambassador: We must safeguard Hong Kong security

  • China's ambassador Cao Zhongming is outspoken on Hong Kong, disinformation, Huawei and EU's role in the world. (Photo: Chinese embassy)

In an interview with the EUobserver's editor-in-chief Koert Debeuf, Chinese ambassador Cao Zhongming, talks about Hong Kong, disinformation, "unabashed bullying by the United States on Huawei and on the role of the EU in the world.

EUobserver: The European Commission is accusing China and Russia of disinformation campaigns. What is your reaction to this?

I have taken note of the report, which caught me by surprise. I am surprised it says China is a source of disinformation. Quite on the contrary, China is a victim of disinformation. I think China always had the same position, opposing disinformation on the internet, certainly after the recent Covid-19 disinformation on China. We are concerned about these kind of accusations as they create the wrong perception about China and they mislead the European public. On social media, it will, maybe, be difficult to totally eliminate disinformation. But some countries or politicians deliberately spread malicious rumours about China. In any case, China is willing to work together with the EU to stop the spreading of disinformation. 

In a similar allegation, people - but also governments - are warning of increasing Chinese espionage, specifically through Huawei.

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The US have been fabricating rumours about the so-called backdoor in the Huawei equipment but has failed to provide any concrete evidence up to today. After these allegations by the US, many European countries have run the most rigorous tests on Huawei products. So far, they haven't found any security loopholes or backdoors. Huawei has said publicly that it is willing to share its source code with any country or sign any security agreement on its equipment with any country. It proves Huawei's openness and transparency, and it proves it has nothing to hide.

Huawei is 100% a private company that has prospered thanks to its hard work and its R&D. What we are seeing is unabashed bullying by the United States against a private Chinese company. Of course, the so-called security issues are only a pretext. The US cannot accept it has been overtaken by Huawei in the 5G domain. On top, the US wishes to stop the involvement of China in this area to maintain its own technological dominance. This immoral practice by the US violates free trade and fair competition principles and undermines the legitimate development rights and interests of China. 

Also, I wish to emphasise that the US is doing this on a Chinese company today, but tomorrow it might do it to companies of other countries as well. Therefore, I hope European countries will continue to provide a fair environment for Chinese companies in Europe. Again, the allegations that there is a security risk in Huawei equipment are completely false.

The idea that China is spying in Europe is not limited to Huawei.

I remember that some time ago EUobserver published a story on Chinese espionage. These stories lack any factual basis and are instead subjective conjectures. In the end, they proved not to be true. I mean, saying one country is conducting espionage in another country is a serious allegation. Therefore, solid proof should be given. If not, it is fake news.

On 22 May, China's National People's Congress agreed to install a non-sedition law on Hong Kong. Should the people of Hong Kong be concerned?

The decision to introduce a national security law in Hong Kong is a priority, and cannot be delayed. When Hong Kong came back to the motherland in 1997, the Chinese central government had authorised Hong Kong to enact a security law of its own. However, this legislation is yet to be introduced today. Since last June, Hong Kong independence organisations and radical "localists", in collusion with foreign forces, have created insecurity in Hong Kong, and jeopardised China's national security, and challenged the essence of the 'one country, two systems'. 

This is why the National People's Congress decided to close this security loophole and safeguard the security and stability of Hong Kong. However, the congress reaffirmed the 'one country, two systems' and a high degree of autonomy of Hong Kong. Also, the legislation is only targeting sedition, criminal activities, subversion and terrorist activities. The rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents will not be affected. The decision will guarantee more security and social stability in Hong Kong and protection of business, including those from EU countries. I think the decision is in line with the interest of EU countries. No need to worry. 

When you say "subversion of state power", do you mean the state power of Hong Kong, or the central government in Beijing?

The central government in Beijing. 

So, Hong Kong is not able to guarantee its own security and stability?

The fact that, after 23 years, Hong Kong still has no security law, leaves Hong Kong unprotected with regard to the national security. This has made possible the increasing violence which started in June. It's not normal that a part of China has no security legislation.

Does this mean that from now on the security of HK will be executed by China?

The National People's Congress adopted a decision to guarantee the security of Hong Kong, but it still has to work out the details. In other words, the details are not clear yet.

There was reaction from the US and EU to this decision. Will it make China's relationship not more difficult and complicated?

Hong Kong is part of the Chinese sovereign territory. Hong Kong matters are part of China's internal affairs and that doesn't allow for any foreign interference. I noticed that EU stated support for the "one country, two systems", and the National People's Congress adopted the decision for building a legal system and enforcement mechanisms in Hong Kong to fully and faithfully implement the "one country, two systems". In addition, the UK is also a stakeholder in Hong Kong's prosperity and stability as it enjoys close economic and financial ties with Hong Kong. As long as the UK respects China's legitimate rights on its own territory and the 'one country, two systems', there will be no confrontation between China and the UK on Hong Kong related matters. Also, national security is the responsibility of the central government. That is so everywhere in the world. 

Last week Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, but also the European Commission, labelled China as a threat. The congress decided to increase the budget by 6.6 percent. Do you understand that the EU and Nato see China as an increasing threat?

China is committed to its peaceful development and is not intending to pose a threat to any country on earth. I wish to say that the growth rate of China's military budget has gone to a downward trajectory in the last three years, from 8.1 percent over 7.5 percent to 6.6 percent. China's national defence expenditure is 1.3 percent of GDP, much lower than the global average of 2.6 percent. The United States urged Nato members to increase their defence budget to 2.0 percent of GDP. Also, the US military budget was 3 percent of GDP in 2019, and its total budget is four times than that of China. On top of it, in 2019 the US military budget exceeded the combined defence budget of the nine countries that are following on the ranking. 

Additionally, part of China's defence expenditure will be used for international peacekeeping missions or humanitarian assistance. China is ready to take more responsibility and contribute more to world peace and stability. As China's economy is growing, and as it is prepared to take more international obligations, it is quite normal that its military budget grows at a certain stable rate. 

China's foreign minister Wang Yi said two weeks ago the world is heading toward a new Cold War. Is China serious about this?

China is not interested at all in a new Cold War. Cold Wars are against the tide of history. It will not enjoy public support and it will undermine prosperity. However, all countries need to stay vigilant and work together so that it will not happen. As the world's largest developing and developed countries, China and the US are both benefiting from cooperation and are both losing from confrontation. We should work together to build more cooperation based on mutual respect. We hope the US leaves behind this Cold War mentality and zero-sum thinking. 

What lessons has China learned from the corona crisis?

Covid-19 is a new virus we have not encountered before. After the outbreak both China and the EU have appeared to be strong advocates for giving the WHO a stronger, more important role, and also the role of the vaccine alliance, GAVI, in the distribution of the future vaccine. China's president Xi Jinping announced that if China will develop a vaccine, it will be provided to the world as a public good. 

What we also learned from Covid19 is that humanity has never been so closely connected. Viruses don't discriminate between nationality, colour or gender. No country can stay isolated. Only in solidarity will humanity prevail. That's why Xi Jinping said that we should build a global community for health for all. 

How do you see the position of the EU in the future?

As the world is encountering many instabilities and uncertainties, I think the EU should have an in-depth discussion on its position in the international landscape. A few days ago, I had a discussion with a former senior official of an EU country. His view is that EU and European leaders are quite sensible and rational in handling EU -China and EU-US relations and that they are contemplating a new relationship with the US and China.

I appreciate that. Just like China, Europe has a long-standing history and is an old civilisation. The EU has the wisdom to cope with complex issues in an ever-changing international environment. While Europe is gaining more strategic independence, it also gives great importance to multilateralism, rule of law and free trade. For Europe, the best option would be a pragmatic and foreign policy rather than being limited by ideology. As long as the EU stays united, it will remain an important pole in a multi-polar world. China will always welcome a more active role of the EU in the world.

EU prepares response to China over Hong Kong

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday that the European Union is preparing a "coordinated" package of EU-wide and national measures in response to China's new security law on Hong Kong.

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