Hong Kong Hypocrisy

As Grumpy has written before, the history of the British in Hong Kong is not one which brings them any respect. Britain went to war with China twice to enforce their role as a state driven narcotics dealer, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Chinese citizens. Having acquired control of the territory by acts of war, its citizens were then subject to rule by a foreign power without any democratic participation.

So for a century and a half no Hong Kong citizen ever had the right to vote for those who ruled them. The British, in an extraordinary act of breathtaking hypocrisy, then sought at the end of their occupation to dictate to a state recovering its own lands that its citizens should have freedoms that they never had for 156 years under their British oppressors.

China is now the latest scapegoat rolled out by Donald Trump to avoid taking any responsibility for the deaths of 100,000 Americans. The US (and other countries) point to Beijing implementing by edict laws covering “treason, secession, sedition, subversion”, as being indicative of the sort of repressive laws that could be expected from a communist government. Grumpy is no apologist for China or communism, but the facts deserve to be stated in an balanced rather than Trumpian way.

1 Article 23 of the ‘Basic Law’ (essentially a constitution for Hong Kong) states that the HKSAR Legislative Council “… shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of
treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government
(CPG) …”. Critically, the UK government agreed this term in the hand over arrangements. However, the Legislative Council have failed to implement this agreed provision in Hong Kong Basic Law, so after 17 years of inaction Beijing has stepped in to implement the joint agreement.

2 The Basic Law also sets out in Articles 27 and 39 the freedoms that citizens would enjoy for 50 years, which are no less than the denizens of the UK or the USA have, bar universal suffrage. The lack of laws covering treason etc. (which every country has) was because the Basic Law supplanted the then PRC law, which is why Article 23 was included.

3 Trump and UK detractors have focused on the words of Article 23 as representing a repressive regime. Yet (for example) sedition remained a crime on the UK statute books until 2009, and treason remains a crime. In the US, the legal code in Chapter 115 covers “Treason Sedition and Subversive activities” , essentially identical to those proposed by Beijing. The man (to use his own words), seems to be “as dumb as a rock”.

4 The US and elements in the UK push a scenario where it was envisaged the end situation in Hong Kong from ‘one country, two systems’ would be universal suffrage. This is pure sophistry; surely no-one, including the last governor, Chris Patten, surely imagined that there would be universal suffrage in 2047. This is certainly not part of the Basic Law. Hong Kong is, and has been for 20 years, both ‘Chinese’ and ‘China’.

5 Britain retains a colonial mindset and an attitude of arrogance which should have gone with the ending of Empire. Perhaps it is because the transfer of Hong Kong was the last vestige of empire that approach this still lingers. The initial acquisition of Hong Kong was a shameful episode in a long list of acts of war undertaken to brutally subjugate foreign peoples for domestic commercial gain by both successive sovereigns and the aristocracy, albeit ennoblement was generally the result of such acts.

6 The UK, with little land and few natural physical resources and now no empire to pillage, must look to see its future evolve by the soft resource of intellect, where it has a history of which it can be proud.

Footnote : Lest the reader might venture that Grumpy had no knowledge of the region or of Chinese culture, he would note that he was a director of a Group headquartered in Hong Kong, and he travelled there frequently over the years. His general impression of the mindset of the Chinese staff was that they were less interested in politics than having a good job and the opportunity to earn high wages,