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Minister Chen Wen talks about China's achievements and Hong Kong in a live interview on BBC World Service "News Hour"
2019/10/04

On 3rd October, Minister Chen Wen gave a live interview on BBC World Service “News Hour” hosted by Julian Marshall, during which she talked about the tremendous achievements in China’s development over the past 70 years and answered questions about Hong Kong. The transcript goes as follows:

Marshall: With me in the studio is Chen Wen, Minister and First Staff Member of Chinese Embassy here in London. Thank you for being with us, Minister.

Chen: Thank you.

Marshall: This week is a momentous one for your country. China is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. Just tell me, first, what do you think is the most important and significant accomplishment of China over the past 70 years?

Chen: Maybe 70 years are just a fleeting memory in human history, but for the Chinese people the 70 years are of epoch making changes. First of all, the economy. We started from a very low level and now we are the second largest economy in the world, biggest trading nation with 120 countries in the world and people’s livelihood has been greatly enhanced. I still remember when I was in my teenage years, we just had our first TV set, a white-and-black one, and now people’s lives have undergone tremendous changes: Per capita GDP has increased 70 times, GDP increased about 174 times. These are really great changes in China.

Marshall: So if there is so much to celebrate in China, why wasn’t there similar celebration in Hong Kong? I know that there was some, but I think the overwhelming sentiment of people on the streets was very much anti-Beijing and anti-Chinese government. Why is that, do you think?

Chen: Well, first of all, I would say there were celebrations in Hong Kong. There were flag-raising ceremonies, parties. They were held indoor because of the weather and situation on the street.

Marshall: There were. Yes. Right.

Chen: There were big celebrations, big parties, light shows, and as such. There were indeed celebrations. For Hong Kong, Hong Kong has been returned to China for 22 years, but it had been under British colonial for over 156 years. It takes time, I think, for people to establish this identity. I think the majority of Hong Kong people love their motherland. They are happy to return to the embrace of their motherland. Of course, there are some deep-seated problems Hong Kong is facing today. It takes time to address them. But whatever the demonstrators are calling for, they are not excuses for violence. There should not be any excuses for violence.

Marshall: But the people of Hong Kong aspire to autonomy. They aspire to having a say in running their own lives. And that is what they are demonstrating about at the moment: The right to choose the people they want to sit in the legislative council, their right to choose their very own Chief Executive, rather than one that is nominated by Beijing. Can you understand that frustration?

Chen: Two points. First of all, Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. We exercise “One Country Two Systems”, “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and “a high degree of autonomy” in Hong Kong. That is the name of the whole concept. The high degree of autonomy does not come from nowhere. It comes from the authorization of the central government. So under the framework of “One Country Two Systems”, one country is the prerequisite. It is the basis.

Marshall: So they are only allowed as much freedom as the Chinese government is willing to permit them. Is that what you are saying?

Chen: Well, their freedoms are guaranteed by the Basic Law. And since the return of Hong Kong, their freedom, rights, has been fully protected by the Basic Law, by the Constitution. If you were talking about democracy development in Hong Kong, political and constitutional development in Hong Kong Hong, I can tell you that Hong Kong people enjoyed unprecedented freedom and democracy in the past 22 years. Under British rule, no governor was elected. But now we have 5 elections of chief executives, and 6 legislative councils have been elected. These elections were very successful. All of them, all these elections, are done in accordance with the Basic Law and the Constitution.

Marshall: There is an awful lot to talk about but can I just zero in to the shooting of that young teenager by a police officer this week at point-blank range? Can you understand why that must have had echoes from a lot of people in Hong Kong of Tiananmen Square where hundreds of people were shot dead because they disagreed with the Chinese government?

Chen: I think we had long gone conclusions on that incident. That was very clear. But as for the young man, he definitely was attacking the police. And he was sued for attacking the officer. The Hong Kong police has made it very clear.

Marshall: But there have been the views that the police could defend themselves other than by drawing a gun and shooting a young person point-blank in the chest.

Chen: What if the policeman’s life was under threat. At that time the policeman was rounded up, jostled and attacked by different lethal weapons. Apparently the policeman felt threatened. I think any policeman under the same circumstances around the world would do the same thing.

Marshall: OK, Chen Wen, Minister and First Staff Member of the People’s Republic of China in the UK. Many thanks for joining us.

Chen: Thank you very much.

* * *

News Hour, started in 1988, is a flagship news and current affairs programme of BBC World Service.

Web link of the interview:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w172wq4x78lxztf

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