Hong Kong’s Protests Linked to Libya War in Only-at-the-UN Spat
File Photo: Demonstrators march with giant banner during a protest in Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong, China. (Photographer: Kyle Lam/Bloomberg)  

Hong Kong’s Protests Linked to Libya War in Only-at-the-UN Spat


(Bloomberg) -- The insular world of UN politics has spawned another spat, this one linking the continuing protests in Hong Kong to Libya’s protracted civil conflict with Germany caught in the middle.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’s decision to hold a meeting with 22-year-old Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong is reverberating through the United Nations’ hallways, where China appears to have retaliated by denying Germany credit for its central role in mediation efforts in Libya.

In an only-at-the-UN moment, the words “Berlin process” were unexpectedly chopped from the text of a Security Council statement on Libya early this month at China’s insistence, diplomats say. While the document flagged contributions from the African Union, the League of Arab States and the European Union to help end the conflict, there was no mention of Germany, a key mediator.

Diplomacy at the UN can sometimes veer into the absurd, yet China’s success in excising Berlin from the Libya text also underscores how Beijing is increasingly flexing its muscles behind the scenes at the global body. China has grown more assertive in its efforts to fend off criticism of its treatment of Uighurs, an ethnic minority, and of its effort to quell protests in Hong Kong.

Officials at China and Germany’s UN missions didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Earlier this year, diplomats say, China threatened some countries that didn’t side with Beijing during a UN tussle, when 54 countries signed on to a statement commending “China’s remarkable achievements in the field of human rights.” That document came in response to a statement from 23 mainly Western countries, including the U.S., criticizing its human rights record in Xinjiang province.

“We must stand up for our values and for human rights,” U.K. Deputy Permanent Representative Jonathan Allen tweeted on Oct. 29, the day of the diplomatic clash. “Important that this statement was made.”

Germany has taken on a leading role in Libya recently, partly because it’s seen as a relatively neutral player. Berlin has sought to bring major powers on the Security Council together for discussions with Egypt, Italy, Turkey and the U.A.E. In a briefing to the council last month, UN envoy Ghassan Salame sounded an optimistic note on the so-called Berlin process and said a summit in the German capital expected early next year could serve to jump-start negotiations between the warring sides.

On Hong Kong, Wong, arrested in August for his role in protests, was received by Maas and later met with German lawmakers as well. Germany is also home to Dolkun Isa, a Uighur activist who is president of the World Uyghur Congress. Maas called on China last month to clarify its position on interning Muslim minorities in prison camps, days after leaked documents published by the New York Times revealed how China used systematic surveillance on its Muslim minority population in Xinjiang.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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