Possibilities and limits of our work
The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) works for the promotion of liberal values worldwide: democracy, the rule of law and a liberal market economy. The foundation does this by having offices in Germany and abroad, that manage, coordinate and organize projects in the country concerned and beyond. However, this work is only possible if the conditions on site allow for it. One thing is clear: the conditions are seldom ideal anywhere in the world. The basic prerequisite, however, is the safety of our employees on site. If this is not guaranteed, we cannot begin or continue our work.
In 2018, we opened our representation in Hong Kong. I visited the office back then which was superbly managed by Armin Reinartz. One very special project of our Hong Kong office was the Global Innovation Hub that accentuated the importance of globalization and digitization in a rapidly growing and dynamic economic region. It was a successful project.
In April 2020, the Chinese People's Congress passed a so-called security law for Hong Kong. The law came into force in July 2020. According to the unanimous opinion of independent lawyers and other observers, this law gives the government in Beijing free reign to take criminal action against foreign organizations operating in Hong Kong as well as against their partners and employees. In particular, there are four vague and undefined offences that could lead to arbitrary arrests and charges: Separatism, subversion, terrorism and cooperation ("collusion") with foreign countries.
Especially the offence of "cooperation with foreign countries" poses a massive threat to our work as a foundation, because FNF is a "foreign" organization. Anyone who cooperates with FNF in the promotion of democracy, the rule of law and a liberal market economy can be arbitrarily prosecuted as an "agent of a foreign country". This potentially affects all of our partners. What is more, this affects our employees - especially if they are Chinese. This fear has already led to a resignation by one of our colleagues in Hong Kong even before the office was officially closed. Our commitment not to endanger our partners and employees makes it impossible for us to continue working in Hong Kong. This became especially apparent after the first arrests in Hong Kong at the end of August that also affected partners of ours.
In the Chinese understanding, the security law applies worldwide. This means that if the Naumann Foundation organizes an event on China in Germany or in one of our other offices abroad, our employees in Hong Kong could be prosecuted for this. This, in turn, could be used by the Chinese government to suppress criticism against China - these circumstances therefore also make our work in other countries extremely difficult.
As a political foundation that explicitly advocates the liberal principles of democracy, the rule of law and a market economy, we simply cannot do our work there without endangering partners and staff. We must therefore leave Hong Kong with the greatest regret. Of course, the closure of our representation in Hong Kong does not mean that we are no longer working on the issues that our office has advocated. With our regional office in Bangkok (Thailand) and our other offices in Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, South Korea and Vietnam, our presence and work in the East Asian region will continue.