Peters ‘admires courage’ of Hong Kong protesters

The Government has finally issued a response on the Hong Kong protests, with Foreign Minister Winston Peters saying he admired the courage of the protestors and that the “one country, two systems” rule must be upheld.

New Zealand has yet to issue a formal response to the unrest in Hong Kong, which was sparked by an extradition law that appeared to violate the territory’s autonomy by allowing Hong Kongers to be extradited to mainland China to face trial.

Since Hong Kong was handed back to China from the United Kingdom in 1997, it has been governed by “one country, two systems”. This means that while Hong Kong is technically a part of China, it has been allowed to preserve its own freedoms like freedom of the press, freedom of association, and an independent judiciary.

That agreement was meant to expire 50 years after handover in 2047, when Hong Kong will be fully absorbed into China. 

Winston Peters was present at the handover ceremony in 1997, when Prince Charles, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the last Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, formally handed the territory back to China. 

Patten’s speech touched on the political independence of Hong Kong, and has often been harked back to during the protest. 

“Hong Kong people are to run Hong Kong,” Patten said.

“That is the promise. And that is the unshakeable destiny,” he said. 

Peters said he remembered the speech. 

“That’s what this protest is about and you have to admire their courage.

“I recall what was promised to them in 1991 [the first Legislative Council election] and that’s all they expect and I’m sure that’s all the world expects,” he said. 

Asked why New Zealand had yet to make a formal statement on the protests in Hong Kong - unlike Australia, the United Kingdom, and the Untied States - Peters said his remarks constituted a formal statement.

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