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Ambassador Liu Xiaoming Holds the Third Press Conference on the Situation in Hong Kong at the Chinese Embassy
Chinese Embassy, 18 November 2019
2019/11/18

On November 18, 2019, Ambassador Liu Xiaoming held a press conference at the Chinese Embassy expounding on China's principle and position on the escalating violence in Hong Kong. About 50 journalists from 22 media agencies attended the press conference, including BBC, ITV, Sky News, Channel 4, Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Reuters, Xinhua News Agency, CCTV, China News Service, CGTN, China Daily, Science and Technology Daily, Global Times, AFP, RT, Phoenix Infonews, South China Morning Post, European Times, UK Chinese Times, and UK Chinese Journal. The following is the transcript of the press conference.

Ambassador Liu: Good morning! Welcome to the Chinese Embassy.

This is the third press conference that I have held on the Hong Kong question. In the past five months, the incident arising from relevant amendments has evolved into incessant violence. The recent escalation of illegal, violent activities pushed Hong Kong into an extremely dangerous situation.

Those who truly care about Hong Kong would ask these questions:

  • What is happening in Hong Kong?
  • How shall we see the current chaos?
  • What would be the way out?

Four days ago, during the 11th BRICS Summit in Brazil, President Xi Jinping made clear the solemn position of the Chinese Government on the situation in Hong Kong. He said,

"The incessant extreme violent offences in Hong Kong trampled on the rule of law, disrupted public order, severely undermined the prosperity and stability in Hong Kong, and gravely challenged the bottom line of 'One Country, Two Systems'."

He pointed out: "The top priority for Hong Kong is to end violence and restore order. We will continue to firmly support the SAR Government under the leadership of the Chief Executive in governing Hong Kong in accordance with law. We firmly support Hong Kong police in strict and rigorous enforcement of the law. We firmly support the judicial institutions of Hong Kong in bringing violent offenders to justice in accordance with law."

He further emphasized: "The Chinese Government remains unwavering in its determination to safeguard China's national sovereignty, security and development interests, implement 'One Country, Two Systems', and oppose any interference from external forces in Hong Kong affairs."

This important statement is the most authoritative voice from the Central Government of China on the current situation and future of Hong Kong. Every word carries weight.

First, President Xi Jinping's speech reveals the nature and severe consequence of the extreme violent offences.

The current situation in Hong Kong has nothing to do with the so-called democracy or freedom. The nature of the issue is that extreme violent offenders have disrupted law and order in Hong Kong, attempted to destabilize Hong Kong and undermine "One Country, Two Systems". Their activities are extreme, violent and illegal.

The extreme violent offences have trampled on the rule of law and disrupted public order in Hong Kong.

For the past five months, the self-labeled peaceful protesters have resorted to senseless beating, smashing and arson; they have carried out premeditated attacks against police officers and a failed assassination of a member of the Legislative Council; and they have turned many universities into their strongholds and besieged and attacked students from Chinese mainland.

While claiming they stand with the weak, the rioters have indiscriminately hurt ordinary citizens and even doused a citizen who opposed their vandalism with inflammable liquid and set fire to him.

While claiming they safeguard democracy and freedom, the rioters have restricted or even deprived others of personal freedom and freedom of speech.

Such inhuman, murderous violence in broad daylight trampled on the bottom lines of law, morality and civilization and must not be tolerated!

The anti-China extremists have also taken such violence abroad and into the UK. Some of them, wearing black masks, created trouble in front of the Chinese Embassy in the UK. They defaced the Embassy gate and painted "Hong Kong independence" slogans on both sides of the gate. Some besieged the Secretary for Justice of Hong Kong SAR, who was invited to an event in London. She was pushed to the ground and sustained arm injury.

We express the strongest indignation and condemnation over these violent acts!

The extreme violent offences have severely undermined the prosperity and stability in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is known for its free and open economy, inclusive and diverse culture, professional and efficient management, and law-abiding and safe society.

But today,

  • Hong Kong citizens live under "black terror" created by violent extremists, with their life and property under severe threat.
  • Hong Kong's GDP, after contracting for two quarters in a row, shrank by 2.9% year-on-year in the third quarter. It is now in a technical recession. The Office of the Government Economist of Hong Kong SAR revised down its growth forecast for the full-year to negative 1.3%.
  • Hong Kong's international rating has been downgraded. Its international image and business environment are under severe impact.

In media reports, Hong Kong is now associated with incessant violence and disorder. The success and achievements of the past 22 years since the handover are being eroded. The once "oriental pearl" is turning into an "oriental scar". Hong Kong the "fragrant harbour" is sliding into "an abyss of chaos". The future of Hong Kong, if such situation continues, would be unimaginably dreadful.

The extreme violent offences have challenged the principled bottom line of "One Country, Two Systems".

The opposition and the violent extremists in Hong Kong have advocated "Hong Kong independence" and publicly clamoured for the "liberation of Hong Kong".

This reveals their true, sinister political agenda behind the so-called social appeals. They are actually aimed at undermining "One Country", which is the basis of "One Country, Two Systems". They attempt to destabilize Hong Kong and paralyze the SAR Government, so that they could seize administrative power and separate Hong Kong from the motherland.

"One Country, Two Systems" is one complete concept. "One Country" is the precondition and basis of "Two Systems". Without "One Country", "Two Systems" will no longer exist. Violent offences that undermine "One Country, Two Systems" will never be tolerated.

Second, President Xi Jinping's speech points a way out for ending the chaos in Hong Kong, namely, the top priority for Hong Kong is to end violence and restore order.

The basic requirement of the rule of law is that laws must be observed and offenders must be brought to justice. No society would in any way tolerate or indulge extreme violence.

To restore law and order, violence must end and violent perpetrators must be brought to justice. This is the only way to safeguard the interests of the public, ensure a better future for Hong Kong, and cement the foundation of "One Country, Two Systems".

The SAR Government, the police and the judicial institutions of Hong Kong should be given strong support in upholding the rule of law, and in taking forceful measures to curb and combat all types of violent offences and terrorist activities. We firmly support them in bringing the offenders to justice as soon as possible, and in safeguarding the rule of law and public order, so as to bring stability to Hong Kong and tranquility to the people.

Third, President Xi Jinping's speech demonstrates the strong determination of the Chinese Government to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests and implement "One Country, Two Systems".

At the fourth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China concluded last month, it was reiterated that "One Country, Two Systems" is an important policy of the Communist Party of China in leading the Chinese people to realise the peaceful reunification of the motherland.

The Chinese Government will continue to implement fully and faithfully "One Country, Two Systems", "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong", and a high degree of autonomy. For this formula to work in Hong Kong, there are three bottom lines, namely, no tolerance for any activity that,

  • one, undermines national sovereignty and security;
  • two, challenges the authority of the Central Government or the Basic Law;
  • and, three, uses Hong Kong for infiltration or sabotage against the Chinese mainland.

At the same time,

  • The Chinese Government will improve the system of overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong in accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law.
  • We will also improve the arrangements for Hong Kong to integrate into the overall development of the country, match complementary strengths with the mainland and achieve coordinated development.
  • And we will work to address deep-seated problems hampering social stability and long-term development.

Fourth, President Xi Jinping's speech shows the firm resolve of the Chinese government to oppose external interference in Hong Kong affairs.

External forces that have indulged and fanned violence in Hong Kong cannot absolve themselves of the responsibility for the recent escalation of violence in Hong Kong. They confuse right and wrong, and refer to the extreme violent offenders as "peaceful demonstrators" and "pro-democracy protesters". At the same time, they are piling blames on Hong Kong police who are performing their duty, safeguarding the rule of law and protecting the safety of life and property of Hong Kong citizens.

Some Western countries have publicly supported the extreme violent offenders.

  • The US House of Representatives adopted the so-called "Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act" to blatantly interfere in Hong Kong affairs, which are China's internal affairs.
  • The British Government and the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons published China-related reports, making irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong.
  • What is worse, certain British politicians even planned to present an award to a chief propagandist for "Hong Kong independence" who has instigated extreme violence.

To those who question external interference in Hong Kong affairs, aren't these facts enough to address their doubt?

We would like to tell these external forces solemnly that the Chinese Government remains unwavering in its resolve to oppose any external interference in Hong Kong affairs! We urge these forces to immediately stop any form of interference in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs, and immediately stop condoning violent offences. Otherwise, they would lift the stone only to drop it on their own feet!

Like what we did at my last press conference, we have made a short video clip to help you see the extreme violent offences in Hong Kong. This would show you the true face of the so-called "peaceful demonstrators" and "pro-democracy protesters", and how dangerous the situation in Hong Kong has become.

[Play video clip]

After watching this clip, I hope you will agree with me that facts and truth will prevail.

I have said to British people from all walks of life on many occasions that a prosperous and stable Hong Kong under "One Country, Two Systems" is in the interests of both China and the world including the UK. There are 300,000 British citizens and more than 700 British companies in Hong Kong. Continued chaos in Hong Kong will bring nothing but harm to the UK.

I sincerely hope that British people who have the larger picture in mind will have a clear understanding of the current situation. I hope they will support the SAR Government in ending violence, restoring order and upholding the rule of law, resist and oppose any words or deeds that interfere in Hong Kong affairs, and do more things that are conducive to the prosperity and stability in Hong Kong, so that chaos will end as soon as possible and the "oriental pearl" will shine brightly again.

Now I would like to take your questions.

BBC: My name is Richard Bilton. I'm a reporter for BBC Panorama. I wrote an email to you this week, actually, about the labour camps in Xinjiang. And I know that they are prison camps. Why won't you tell me the truth about those camps?

Ambassador Liu: You jump to Xinjiang. Please sit down. I'll answer your question. First of all, I would say there are no so-called labour camps, as you described. There are what we call the vocational education and training centres. They are there for the prevention of terrorism.

BBC: With respect, Sir. I'm sorry to interrupt you, but I've seen the orders that are sent to the prison camps, and they areā€¦

Ambassador Liu: What orders have you seen? You mean the orders said these are prison camps?

BBC: There are orders from the people who run the camps.

Ambassador Liu: No, I think this is pure fabrication.

BBC: Sir, it's true. What is happening?

Ambassador Liu: Let's do this. You finish all your questions. Don't interrupt my answer. Is that all right?

BBC: Yes.

Ambassador Liu: OK. What's your question? What do you want to say?

BBC: I have two questions for you, Sir, and then I'll go away. But the first question is I have seen the orders sent to camps. They changed the way people behave, what they believe and the language they speak. So they are brainwashing camps, aren't they?

Ambassador Liu: This question? Okay. I think there's no such order for prison camps. What is happening is that... I don't know how much you know about Xinjiang. Xinjiang is a very beautiful, very peaceful and prosperous region in China. Three years ago, this was not the case. It had become a battle ground. You know, thousands of terrorist incidents happened in Xinjiang between 1990s and 2016. Thousands of innocent people got killed. So there's an enormous uproar among the Xinjiang people for the government to take resolute measures to tackle this issue. So since the measures have been taken, there's no single terrorist incident in the past three years. Xinjiang again turns into a prosperous, beautiful and peaceful region. If the same thing happened in the United Kingdom, would you - let me ask you this: if a certain region has rampant terrorist extremist activities, and people suffer severely and call for actions from the UK government, what are you going to do? Sit back and watch? And remember what we're doing, what we called preventative measures, have nothing to do with the eradication of religious groups. You know, religious freedom is fully respected. Have you ever been to Xinjiang?

BBC: I haven't, Sir.

Ambassador Liu: I hope that in the future you'll have an opportunity to visit Xinjiang. You will see with your own eyes what is happening in Xinjiang, and the people enjoy the freedom, enjoy a prosperous life. You know, in Xinjiang there are about 28,000 religious sites and 30,000 clergymen. There is one mosque for every 530 Muslims in Xinjiang, much more than many Muslim countries in terms of ratio, much more than here in Britain. In Britain, the church and Christian ratio is 1:2000. So there's no such thing as repression of freedom of religion. People's religious believes are fully respected, and their ethnic traditions are fully respected. The purpose to set up these Training Centres is because some young people who committed minor crime, are not serious enough to be tried and sent into prisons. The government gave them the opportunity to learn Mandarin. Uygur people have their own language, but if they want development, they want to prosper, they want to communicate with the other parts of the country, they need to have Mandarin language skills and also they need to learn some professional skills. Because you know, the lack of education and the lack of basic legal knowledge make them the victim to the extremist forces.

BBC: Final question. Alternatively, it would be: if they don't learn Mandarin, they're not allowed out of the camps.

Ambassador Liu: What was your question?

BBC: The documents. If they don't learn Mandarin, they won't leave the camps. That's a different view.

Ambassador Liu: Mandarin is widely used. So that's why we're saying it's an education and training centre. Language is just one of the courses. They also learn professional skills; they also know legal knowledge, so that they can live on their own profession. That's the purpose. This measure has been successful. First, Xinjiang as I said is much safer. Last year, the tourists increased 40%, and GDP increased more than 6%.

BBC: Can I just challenge one of the things you said? Just to be clear. The documents I've seen make it quite clear.

Ambassador Liu: What documents?

BBC: The documents that I've seen that would be sent to the people who run the camps. Now they make it quite clear that people are held there -- hundreds of thousands of people are held in these camps across Xinjiang. They are held there without sentence, without even charge, and they will be there for at least a year before they are released.

Ambassador Liu: How many years?

BBC: They will be in those camps at least one year. That is a sentence from a document. They will be there at least one year. This does chime in with what you are telling me, sir.

Ambassador Liu: I'm telling you the documents, the so-called documents you are talking about, is pure fabrication. If you want to have documents about this vocational education and training centre, we have many. We have seven white papers published. So before you leave the Embassy, I hope you will carry some documents, the official documents. Don't listen to fake news. Don't listen to fabrications.

BBC: Thank you for your patience.

Channel 4: Thank you Sir. Lindsey Hilsum from Channel 4 news. To continue with that question. If it's for young people, why are there so many elderly women and elderly men in the camps in Xinjiang that has been documented? Yes, I have been to Xinjiang. Yes, I have talked to people who were in the camps. And, on Hong Kong, is it now your intention, you talked about integration to the mainland with developments, with all that's happening in Hong Kong, is it your aim to integrate Hong Kong more into Mainland China to make it more "one country, one system"?

Ambassador Liu: So, Xinjiang again. I think I already said those students who are taking courses in the centre are those who have committed some minor crimes, not serious, not to be tried. So that's what I'm saying. So we want to give them better opportunities. We hope that they will not make a serious crime that ended them up in prison. That's the purpose. And it turned out this has been very successful. I think most of them are young people, and also some elderly people. Age is not a big issue. The issue is about their behaviour. Do they constitute a potential threat and risk to the society?

On Hong Kong, I think I said earlier in very clear-cut terms that the Chinese government is committed to "One Country, Two Systems", and this policy has been successful in the past 20 years. There's no reason for us to change this policy. This policy has been reaffirmed in the very official document by the Party during the Fourth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee and reiterated by the President on so many occasions including when we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. When we say integration,we mean that the Mainland will provide more opportunities to Hong Kong. You know, especially in terms of economic development. You know this Greater Bay Area project that includes Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau. It offers enormous opportunities. The opportunities will bring more development in Hong Kong that will address some deep seated problems. You know, we all heard the voice in the recent incidentsin Hong Kong to address this disparity of the income, to address the problem of opportunities for young people, to make Hong Kong more prosperous. That's the basic idea. We will certainly continue with "One Country, Two Systems", which has been very successful. But what is happening now is "One Country, Two Systems" has been eroded by this violent extremist offenders. As I said, in my opening statement, "One Country, Two Systems" is a complete concept. You can't separate the two. And "One Country" means Hong Kong is now part of China. Hong Kong has returned to China, it is part of China. Period. So we can't agree to external interference in Hong Kong affairs. So "One Country" is the precondition. It is the basis for "Two Systems". If "One Country" is undermined, there will be no "Two Systems". I hope you understand this.

South China Morning Post: Stuart Lau from the South China Morning Post. Mr. Ambassador, just now you mentioned you urge the international community to support SAR government in ending violence. What we've seen so far is the SAR government has not been successful in ending violence, and to the contrary, violence is escalating. May I ask if the deployment of PLA troops would be part of the Chinese government's consideration? That's my first question. Thank you.

Ambassador Liu: I would say the SAR government including Chief Executive herself tried very hard to communicate with the local community and reached out to other citizens in Hong Kong. I think according to my count, they have had more than 100 events, engaging, communicating with local people, and I think they have tried very hard. You need to give them an opportunity. You need to give them time. But in order to have a civilized dialogue, you need to have an environment. The current violent situation in Hong Kong is not conducive, is not favourable for the SAR government to have a serious, productive communication with local people. You can't put the cart before the horse.

With regard to the deployment of PLA, they are already there, you know, in the Hong Kong Garrison. They are there to show China's sovereignty, and they are responsible for defence. As I said in my previous press conference, and I'm still behind this statement now, we have full trust in Hong Kong SAR government. When President Xi met the Chief Executive two weeks ago, President Xi spoke highly of the performance of SAR government, Chief Executive, and her team. We have full acknowledgement of their performance and expressed a high degree of trust in her and her team. So I think now the Hong Kong government is trying very hard to put the situation under control. But if the situation becomes uncontrollable, the Central Government certainly would not sit on its hands and watch. We have enough solutions and enough power to end the violence.

South China Morning Post: And I have a second question if I may. Just a few days ago, Mr. Jasper Tsang, who used to be the Chairman of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong and former Chairman of the DAB, the biggest pro-China party in Hong Kong, gave an interview and he supported the idea of pardoning those who committed a crime that is not serious and an independent inquiry into the police. He is one of the most respected pro-China figures in Hong Kong. What do you think of his opinion?

Ambassador Liu: I will leave this to the Hong Kong SAR government to handle and respect the independence of judicial institutions in Hong Kong. I would not comment on the judicial procedures in Hong Kong. Thank you!

Sky News: Deborah Haines from Sky News. You have kind of repeated what you said in your previous press conference in terms of that question about whether there will be PLA involvement, and about how the Chinese government won't sit on its hands. But what does uncontrollable chaos look like? It seems that we've had five months now, it's not getting any better. Isn't the policy of allowing the Hong Kong authorities to deal with this actually failing and either there's going to have to be some serious compromises made and demands met of the protesters, or the Chinese government's going to have to actually get involved and send troops on the ground? And a second question. Just to follow up my colleagues about Xinjiang, do you have a comment on the New York Times' reports over the weekend?It's released hundreds of documents that it says shows the coercive nature of the crackdown on the Uygur community, and also released quotes that it says were from President Xi Jinping back in 2014 talking about the need to use the organs of dictatorship in order to control the threat. Thank you.

Ambassador: First question first. I think Hong Kong government is still effective in dealing with the situation. But the important thing is, while the Hong Kong government is handling the situation, I would call on external forces to stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs. Stop inciting further violence. Stop adding fuel to the violence. We should respect the Hong Kong SAR government in governing Hong Kong in accordance with the law. Your second question is about New York Times' so-called report. I can categorically deny that there is such a documents. Sch a story is a sheer, pure fabrication. And this is not the first time New York Times made up stories. I think the story was made up with ulterior motives, and it's not worth making any substantial comment. Thank you.

Daily Telegraph: Thank you. Roland Oliphent from the Daily Telegraph. You've spoken very forcefully about external forces fueling violence. You spoke about the true agenda being independence for Hong Kong among the protesters and then you talked about the British government, specifically the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. You keep talking about external forces inciting violence. Are you accusing the British government of A. inciting violence, and B. promoting Hong Kong independence?

Ambassador: I will say that we have made our position known to the British side when they made irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong. I think when the British government criticizes Hong Kong police and criticizes Hong Kong SAR government in handling the situation, they are interfering into China's internal affairs. And it looks like they are balanced, but as a matter of fact, they are taking sides. That's our position. With regard to independence, we appreciate British government's position that they oppose Hong Kong independence. I think the senior officials said on several occasions that independence is not an option. Of course, I would like to see more strong condemnation on this so-called independence. That's number one. Number two, I hope the British side will live up to their words. So I said we do not want to see they pay lip service,I want to see they take actions against so-called Hong Kong independence.

ITV News: Hello. Juliet Bremner from ITV News. We've just seen a sharp deterioration in the last 24 hours regarding the situation in Hong Kong. Are your words now some kind of warning that a crackdown may be imminent?

Ambassador: I'm not talking about crackdown. I think Hong Kong police is carrying out their duties. Many people complained about Hong Kong police. As a matter of fact, I see that they are the most professional police in the world. And they exercised with great restraint. Let's take for an example, if similar thing happened in a British campus, if similar thing happened in the Palace of Westminster or its surrounding areas, what do you expect the British police to do? I'll leave you to answer it. But it is exactly because the Hong Kong police tried very hard to avoid casualties, of the students who have been, I would say, brainwashed by some extremists. So they tried very hard. If it were not for this, we would probably have a different picture, different situation.

The Guardian: Thank you very much. Patrick Wintour from The Guardian Newspaper, a liberal newspaper.

Ambassador: I am not sure whether you are liberal or conservative. It depends on what you read.

The Guardian: Could I just ask you, given the mayhem you've described going on in Hong Kong at present, do you think it's feasible that the local elections can go ahead next week? And secondly, can you tell me why the Chinese government opposes the idea of British National Overseas passport holders being given a right of abode and a right to work permanently in the UK? Is that correct?

Ambassador: I will start with the last question. According to China's nationality law, all Hong Kong compatriots, born in Hong Kong, are regarded as Chinese nationals. And also in China, we do not recognize dual citizenship. So I think that's my answer to your last question. What is your first one? Election. We certainly would like to see the election to go ahead. I think it's up to the Hong Kong SAR government. I do hope that situation will improve and people will go to the poll, the ballot, without fear. I do hope that the order will be restored and people can have the freedom to select their council members. So that is certainly our hope.

BBC: Paul Adams from the BBC. Two questions, Mr. Ambassador. First of all, you showed us a very emotive edit of violence on the streets of Hong Kong, violent scenes that we've all seen on our TVs, on social media for months. What you didn't show us was any violence being committed against the protesters, violence which has been going on for months and started a long time before.

Ambassador: You are talking about the police?

BBC: I'm not actually just talking about the police. I'm talking about police, but I'm also talking about unknown groups of people, the famous white shirts who attacked people on Hong Kong Metro back in the summer. In other words, the violence is occurring on both sides. And I just wondered whether you would acknowledge that there has been violence used on both sides, and that what we're seeing in some ways is a response to that process. And my second question is, back in 2008, slightly more people in Hong Kong saw themselves as Chinese than Hongkonger. It was at the time of the Beijing Olympics. People expressed enormous pride. That number has gone down ever since to the point now where very, very few people describe themselves as Chinese and more and more people described themselves as Hongkonger. Are you worried that you are losing the faith, the trust, the citizenship if you like, of 7 million Hongkongers?

Ambassador: First, I would say we are opposed to all kinds of violence. That's number one. Number two, you have to understand the cause of this violence. So if you do not understand the cause, you do not know how to handle it,so you do not know how to address this problem. I think these extreme forces, they are the starters of all violence. They should be brought to justice. And all the law breakers should be brought to justice. There is no doubt about that if you want to have rule of law in a city, a society. With regard to the Hongkongers versus Mainlanders, I think people would reflect. I can't say we are going to lose a generation. You know these rioters do not represent the young generation, even the students. As I said, some of them do not understand the full picture. I think we have a responsibility to communicate with them to tell them about their motherland and what has changed since handover. We should compare Hong Kong today with Hong Kong 22 years ago. When Hong Kong was under British colonial rule, it has no liberty, no freedom, and no rights. The governor of Hong Kong was appointed by the British government. But now Hong Kong has their fifth Chief Executive elected by the Hong Kong people. Though the system is not perfect, as I said on many occasions, the largest room in the world is the room for improvement. We are open. We are committed to doing a better job to make Hong Kong a more beautiful, safe, and democratic place. Thank you.

It seems to me that time's up, and I have taken all the questions? Thank you for your attention.

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