Hong Kong city was bad
The last British governor of Hong Kong calls for action : "The world simply cannot trust this Chinese regime"
Chris Patten was the last UK governor of Hong Kong and EU commissioner for foreign affairs. He is the Chancellor of Oxford University. Translated from the English by Jan Doolan.
In my last speech as Governor of Hong Kong on June 30, 1997 - a few hours before I left the city on the British Royal Yacht - I said, “Now the people of Hong Kong should run Hong Kong. That's the promise. And that is the unshakable fate. "
This is what the 1984 Joint Declaration, a treaty signed by China and the United Kingdom and deposited with the United Nations, promised.
The deal was clear, and the guarantee to Hong Kong's citizens was absolute: the city's return from British to Chinese sovereignty would be subject to the one country, two systems principle.
Hong Kong would have a high degree of autonomy for 50 years - until 2047 - and would continue to enjoy all the freedoms associated with an open society and the rule of law.
China's president ruthlessly disregards agreements
However, in his recent decision to impose a draconian new security law on Hong Kong, Chinese President Xi Jinping has ruthlessly defied the Joint Declaration and directly threatened the city's freedom. The defenders of free democracy must not just stand by and watch.
After handing over the city in 1997, China largely kept its promise of “one country, two systems” for more than a decade. Not everything was perfect.
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China broke its promise that Hong Kong could determine its own democratic government on the Legislative Council, and at intervals the Chinese government interfered in urban life.
For example, in 2003, in the face of mass protests, it gave up an attempt to introduce a riot control law - a strange priority in a peaceful and moderate community. Overall, however, even skeptics admitted that things were going quite well.
The promises worked for decades - until Xi came
But after Xi became president in 2013 and dusted off the tactics manual of aggressive and brutal Leninism, relations between China and Hong Kong deteriorated.
Xi reversed many of the political innovations made by his immediate predecessors, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) reasserted control over all aspects of Chinese society, including economic governance.
Xi tightened the party's grip on civil society and universities and cracked down on any signs of dissidence. He demonstrated that the words of his regime could not be trusted internationally, for example by breaking his promise to US President Barack Obama that China would not militarize the atolls and islands that the land in the South China Sea was illegally occupying.
In addition, Xi's regime interned more than a million predominantly Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang and eradicated all traces of their culture wherever possible. And Xi tightened the thumbscrews across from Hong Kong.
The demonstrations last year were poorly managed by the police
Protests in the city last year were sparked by an attempt by the Hong Kong government to pass an extradition law that effectively removed the line between the rule of law within the territory and communist law in mainland China.
The demonstrations were poorly handled by the Hong Kong police and their actions - including the rampant use of tear gas and pepper spray - resulted in a small minority of protesters resorting to unacceptable violence.
An independent investigation into the reasons for the demonstrations, their mismanagement by the police and the behavior of the demonstrators (the overwhelming majority of whom were peaceful) could have helped calm the situation in the city and foster reconciliation.
But the proposal was rejected. In November's local elections, Hong Kong's citizens showed whose side they were on by voting overwhelmingly for candidates who supported democracy.
Beijing's fear of the legislative council elections in September
In recent months, the protests had stopped as a result of the corona pandemic, which the city successfully fought. However, the Chinese authorities apparently assumed that they would be revived, for example on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, 1989.
And they are undoubtedly concerned that Hong Kong's democratic parties would do whatever it takes to win a majority in the legislative council elections in September.
This prospect has apparently terrified the Chinese government and the hardliners in the agencies to which it has recently delegated jurisdiction over the territory.
The latter had already declared their determination to restrict Hong Kong's autonomy. And they've interfered at will in matters that should have been reserved for the government and city officials.
China's puppet parliament bypasses Hong Kong's legislative assembly
Now Xi's government has landed its toughest blow to date. Taking advantage of the world's current focus on combating COVID-19 (the rapid global spread of which is also a result of the CCP's secrecy and mendacity), China's puppet parliament bypassed Hong Kong's legislative assembly and passed a national security law on the city.
The law covers unspecified crimes such as riot and secession and would allow the Ministry of State Security (China's version of the KGB) to operate in Hong Kong - presumably using its usual coercive methods.
The city stands for everything that Xi's regime hates
But what alleged national security threat does Hong Kong pose to China's communist regime? China's leadership fears the very things that it promised Hong Kong in the Joint Declaration: the rule of law and the freedoms it protects.
The city stands for everything that Xi's regime hates about free democracy. Therefore, the recent events are not only an enormous challenge for Hong Kong and its people, but also an immediate threat to open societies around the world.
We are Hong Kong
The world simply cannot trust this Chinese regime. The liberal democracies and the friends of Hong Kong around the world must show that they will stand up for this great, free and dynamic city.
Following China's announcement of the new law, over 512 parliamentarians and senior policy makers from 32 countries signed a declaration supporting Hong Kong. The freedom and prosperity of the city are at stake, as are the values and interests of open societies around the world.
As a signatory to the Joint Declaration, the UK has a special responsibility to show leadership. First of all, Prime Minister Boris Johnson should demand that Hong Kong be put on the agenda at next month's G7 meeting.
He could be inspired by a piece of advice in the doctrinal conversations of Confucius: "A gentleman would be ashamed if his deeds do not live up to his words."
Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2020.www.project-syndicate.org
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