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Liu Guangyuan, commissioner of the Chinese foreign ministry’s Hong Kong office, briefed foreign officials and local media on the country’s plans for Hong Kong’s democratic development. Photo: Dickson Lee

Hong Kong must wake up from ‘myth of American-style democracy’, says top Beijing diplomat

  • Liu Guangyuan makes remarks during briefing session for consul generals, foreign business chambers and selected media
  • One diplomat calls event ‘very awkward’ and says China and West are ‘just talking past each other’

Beijing’s top diplomat in Hong Kong has said the city’s democratic development must be guided by the central government, adding it was time to wake up from the “American-style democracy myth”.

Liu Guangyuan made the remarks during a briefing session on Wednesday for consul generals, foreign business chambers and selected media, in which he explained the State Council’s white paper on the subject.

One consul general present at the event, said China and the West were now “just talking past each other and a real dialogue has become very difficult”.

Liu Guangyuan delivers a briefing on the ‘Hong Kong Democratic Progress Under the Framework of One Country, Two Systems’ white paper. Photo: Dickson Lee

Liu, the commissioner of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, said other countries had fallen into a “democracy trap” laid down by “certain countries”.

“For quite a long time, certain countries have imposed their own political systems and values on others, staged ‘colour revolutions’, interfered in others’ internal affairs wilfully, and even subverted the political power of some other countries,” Liu said.

“As a result, these countries and regions are in misery and the democracy pie has become a democracy trap. The 1.4 billion Chinese people, including Hong Kong compatriots, are all clear-eyed about it. We will never want or accept such a democracy trap.”

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On Monday, the State Council issued its Hong Kong Democratic Progress Under the Framework of One Country, Two Systems white paper, which renewed the central government’s pledge to pursue the ultimate goal of electing the city’s leader and legislature by universal ­suffrage.

Made available the day after the city’s first Legislative Council election under a revamped electoral system imposed by Beijing, the document, the second such white paper on Hong Kong affairs since 2014, highlighted China’s determination to ­develop democracy with “Hong Kong characteristics”.

“The central government will … work with all social groups, sectors and stakeholders towards the ultimate goal of election by universal suffrage of the chief executive and all members of the Legislative Council,” the white paper said.

According to Articles 45 and 68 of the Basic Law, the method for selecting the chief executive and lawmakers shall be specified “in light of the actual situation” in Hong Kong, and “in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress”.

The two articles also stipulate the election of all Legco members and the chief executive by universal suffrage as “the ultimate aim”, although critics have questioned Beijing’s commitment to such a goal after the 2019 protests and the ensuing political shake-up.

Liu lashed out at “anti-China” forces he claimed had colluded with external forces to cause disruption in Hong Kong in recent years.

“The development of Hong Kong’s democracy reminds us that it is time to wake up from the American-style democracy myth,” he said.

“In developing democracy with Hong Kong features, we will ensure that democracy is guided by the central government. Safeguarding national security must be a focus in developing democracy in Hong Kong, and all latent threats and risks that could undermine national security must be neutralised.”

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Unlike a similar briefing in May last year on Beijing’s plan to install the national security law in Hong Kong, no question and answer session was arranged at Wednesday’s event.

The consul general, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the briefing’s organisation was “quite awkward”.

“It was awkward in the sense of having to listen to China’s narrative attacking Western-style democracy, without any possibility for questions or comments,” the consul general said. “It was clear that China has its narrative and the West has its own.”

One foreign diplomat described the briefing as ‘awkward’. Photo: Dickson Lee

In discussing Sunday’s Legco election, Liu Guangyuan said Hong Kong residents had exercised their civil rights under an “improved electoral system” that removed the chaos of previous years.

“It demonstrates the broad representation, political inclusiveness, balanced participation and fair competition of the election,” he said. “It is a successful model of quality democracy and substantive democracy.”

Using the Chinese phrase “five lights and 10 colours”, the top diplomat said the newly elected members were “diverse, balanced, professional” and Legco had “taken on a fresh look”.

A US State Department spokesman said the United States had joined 33 countries who had signed on to statements regarding the election released on Monday.

“The statements reflect the broad concerns of many countries about the erosion of the city’s promised autonomy and the deterioration of the fundamental rights and freedoms for people in Hong Kong. These statements speak for themselves,” the spokesman said.

The mostly Western governments had characterised Beijing’s “patriots-only” overhaul of the local electoral system in March as an unacceptable restriction of voter choice, with the governments of Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the US jointly faulting Sunday’s poll for “severely” limiting the range of political views represented.

Beijing and Hong Kong authorities issued a slew of statements in response hitting back at foreign governments.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong accused the US and Britain of depicting themselves as “teachers” in the classroom of democracy and smearing the Legco election.