Beijing backs Hong Kong leader as pro-democracy protests continue

Robie de Guzman   •   December 16, 2019   •   552

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (L) greeted by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (R) in Beijing, China, Dec.16, 2019. EFE-EPA/INFORMATION SERVICES DEPARTMENT

Beijing on Monday said it supports Hong Kong’s leader and is committed to the “one country, two systems” policy that gives autonomy to the Asian financial hub rocked by months of pro-democracy protests.

Chinese President Xi Jinping praised embattled Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s leadership during her official visit to Beijing and said she had done well in “difficult situations”.

“Facing difficulties and pressure, Chief Executive Lam has stood firm on the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, governed in accordance with the law, and remained dedicated. You did plenty of work in difficult situations,” Xi said, according to Hong Kong media outlets.

Xi also reiterated support to Hong Kong police, which has faced accusations of abuse of power and brutality in handling the months-long protests in the former British colony.

The Chinese president said the city was facing its “most critical and complicated” situation since it was returned to China in 1997.

Lam, who arrived in Beijing on Saturday, also met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and received his backing during her visit.

“The central government will continuously uphold one country, two Systems steadfastly, as always. As in the past, we support you and the SAR (semi-autonomous region) government administering Hong Kong in accordance with the law,” Li told Lam in a meeting at the Great Hall of the People.

Radio Television Hong Kong broadcast the opening remarks of the meeting.

Lam acknowledged that Hong Kong had been suffering an economic crisis since the first half of this year.

“There has been an obvious economic downturn. It was caused by some external factors, including the US-China trade dispute,” she said.

This was the second meeting between Xi and Lam within two months and marks her first Beijing visit since opposition groups swept the Hong Kong district council elections last month.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong on Sunday, thousands of demonstrators returned to the streets to reiterate their demands and express their discontent with Lam’s government.

In the middle of the pre-Christmas shopping season, groups of masked protesters, dressed in black, the color chosen by the pro-democracy side, visited several shopping malls in the former British colony, chanting slogans for freedom and justice.

There were acts of vandalism and minor clashes with the police recorded at least at one mall.

Also on Sunday, several hundred people, many of them social workers, gathered to reiterate their demands of the pro-democracy movement.

The demands include direct universal suffrage to elect a chief executive and other representatives, freeing of almost 6,000 detainees, protests not to be considered unrest and an independent investigation into alleged police brutality.

Among those attending the gathering, some called for more mass strikes, while others sat down to write Christmas cards to the demonstrators who have been imprisoned, along with other small acts of protest.

The Hong Kong protests, which have been drawing massive crowds since June have mutated into a movement that seeks to improve the democratic mechanisms that govern Hong Kong and safeguard the region’s partial autonomy from Beijing.

However, some demonstrators have opted for more radical tactics than peaceful civil disobedience, and violent clashes with the police have been frequent.

The months of protests have put Hong Kong’s economy in recession for the first time in a decade, having contracted by 2.9 percent in the third quarter, due to falling imports and exports, retail sales and declining tourism. EFE-EPA

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Duterte: I asked Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping for help on COVID-19 vaccines but no talks on WPS

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday disclosed that he asked help from his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in obtaining COVID-19 vaccines but insisted that they did not discuss issues on the West Philippine Sea.

During his Talk to the People public address on Monday night, Duterte recalled how he called Xi when the Philippines had yet to get any supply of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Let me just also say na itong history na… for public consumption na ito. Tumawag ako kay President Xi Jinping, sinabi ko kasi noong kasagsagan ng walang dumating talaga, walang makapkap si Secretary (Carlito) Galvez (Jr.), tumawag ako, sabi ko, ‘Mr. President (Xi), I would like to ask for your help until now Philippines is at a loss on how to get vaccines,’” he said.

“Sabi niya, ‘it’s okay we will help you.’ Ganoon lang. Hindi naman sinabi na kalimutan mo yung Scarborough Shoal, bigyan kita… Sinabi niya lang as simple as that,” he added.

The Philippines first received 600,000 doses of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines that were donated by the Chinese government on February 28. The national government used this supply to roll out its vaccination program on March 1.

In total, the Philippines has received 1 million donated Sinovac vaccine doses from China, including the 400,000 doses that were delivered in March.

Duterte stood by his earlier statement that the Philippines owes a debt of gratitude to China for all its help but emphasized that there would be no compromise on the West Philippine Sea issue.

“It’s never, never wrong to say that I owe you a debt of gratitude. Totoo eh, binigyan tayo, tinanggap natin, ginamit natin,” he said.

“But it does not mean na tanggapin ko ang bakuna tapos sabihin ko kalimutan ko na yung claim diyan sa West Philippine sea, okay na yun dahil sa bakuna… It was never like that, the world does not operate like that,” he added.

He said there would be no compromise on the issue and that China knows it.

“Maski bahain tayo dito ng vaccine, gagamitin ko pa rin pero sabihin ko ‘hindi ito kabayaran’. Iba ito. This is a Philippine national interest, this is not a health issue that nagpasalamat ako,” he said.

Correction:
An earlier version of this article misstated that “they did discuss issues.” 

PH diplomatic protest vs China law won’t affect COVID-19 vaccine procurement — Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   January 28, 2021

MANILA, Philippines Malacañang on Thursday expressed confidence that the diplomatic protest filed by the Philippines, questioning China’s new coast guard law, will not affect the country’s plan to procure vaccines developed by Chinese firms.

“Walang pong epekto yan, dahil ibang usapin naman ang bakuna. Ang bakuna po is actually humanitarian act of the entire planet earth in response to humanitarian disaster,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in an online press briefing.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Wednesday said Manila filed a protest against Beijing’s move to pass a new law allowing its coast guard to undertake all necessary measures, including the use of weapons, when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.

Locsin said that while enacting a law is a sovereign prerogative, the new law – given the area involved which is the South China Sea – is a verbal threat of war to any country that defies it.

Malacañang has welcomed the filing of the diplomatic protest, saying that this is consistent with the country’s position that while states can enact laws as part of their sovereignty, this must be done in compliance with the United Nations (UN) charter which prohibits the use of force unless by way of self-defense or when authorized by the UN Security Council.

“We welcome the diplomatic protest of the DFA, and this will prove that the Philippines is fully committed to the rule of law and will assert all its right available under existing principles of international law to defend its interests,” Roque said.

China’s new law is expected to stoke tensions anew in the disputed waters where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes the Philippines and three other South China Sea claimants, are currently negotiating for a more binding code of conduct in the contested waters. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Chinese projects in PH to continue, China envoy says

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 2, 2020

China on Tuesday (September 1) said Chinese projects in the Philippines will continue amid the sanctions imposed by the United States on several Chinese firms involved in the reclamation and militarization in the South China Sea.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian made the statement during a radio interview reiterating the continuation of projects in the Philippines under the Build Build, Build program.

Ambassador Huang Xilian: All Chinese projects will continue as plannedOn 1 September 2020, Chinese Ambassador Huang…

Posted by Chinese Embassy Manila on Tuesday, September 1, 2020

“The pragmatic cooperation between China and the Philippines has always been based on mutual respect, mutual benefit and win-win results, and all projects are all conducted in compliance with the existing laws and regulations,” he said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque also said President Rodrigo Duterte also want the infrastructure projects with China would continue, including the Sangley Airport project.

“Sangley project will continue, all other projects involving Chinese companies that are banned in the United States can continue in the Philippines. We are not a basal state of any foreign power and we will pursue our national interest,” he said. AAC

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