Bid for outside help a failure Hong Kong’s ‘opposition’ camp is discovering how little support it has in the international community for its unconstitutional cause
Martin Lee and Anson Chan, two fading “stars” from the “opposition” camp in theHong Kong Special Administrative Region, visited Britain in mid-July. Their London trip coincided with the release of the SAR government’s public consultation report on Hong Kong’s constitutional development. It also came at the same time as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s report to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee regarding constitutional reform and the 2017 chief executive election by universal suffrage.
The pair’s goal in Britain was to garner British support for the Hong Kong opposition’s unconstitutional, unpopular cause. However, all they got was the cold shoulder and some less than encouraging comments. As a headline in the Oriental Daily News said: “Martin Lee, Anson Chan humiliated for bad-mouthing Hong Kong.”
According to press reports, Lee and Chan were received by British Deputy PrimeMinister Nick Clegg and Hugo Swire, a minister of state at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. They also attended a meeting of the Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Committee of the House of Commons. But the British hosts’ lack of enthusiasm for their visit was so obvious that the two former “favorite subjects of the crown” publicly complained about the unavailability of other UK government officials.
At the hearing several members of Parliament commented that they saw no evidence of Beijing breaching the Sino-British Joint Declaration. This is another way of saying Lee and Chan are quite wrong. Lee and Chan were understandably frustrated. They roundly criticized their hosts when they returned to Hong Kong, declaring the British government was obviously eager to do business with China.
They claimed that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang offered many business opportunities to Britain during his recent visit, and the British government was unwilling to upset Beijing, hence the British were reluctant to let them meet more senior officials.
Maybe Lee and Chan should learn from the current British government and show more tact. Lee was asked his view of an article by Tim Summers, a researcher with British think tank Chatham House, in which Summers wrote that the recent white paper on the implementation of “One Country, Two Systems” policy in Hong Kong, published by the State Council, represented no significant change in Beijing’s Hong Kong policy. This annoyed Lee. He said Summers was “a nobody whose opinions are negligible”.
His rude comments are no surprise. He is known for his attacks on anyone who disagrees with him. As co-founder of the Democratic Party he never fails to attack fellow opposition party leaders who favor pragmatism. No one escapes his wrath. The British government is not even allowed to promote bilateral trade with China without Lee dismissing it as “shameless”. It is no wonder that even his former colonial masters are fed up.
What is wrong with focusing on bilateral trade with China? Foreign trade does not automatically cancel out principles. All countries have their beliefs, religions and values. Who is to say whether these countries can or cannot do business with one another? Are we supposed to believe adhering to principles only means confrontation? Based on Lee’s logic, it is only by occupying Central, stopping traffic, dividing society, scaring away foreign investors, paralyzing the SAR government and hurting people’s livelihoods that we can adhere to democratic principles. But does he really care how much Hong Kong will suffer based on this logic?
Oriental Daily News quoted Chan as saying that British businesses generally believe the situation in Hong Kong is acceptable. Nick Clegg said his government would honor earlier promises made by former prime minister JohnMajor. Major said the British would attempt to persuade the international community to pressure China should she breach the Joint Declaration. Chan also told the local press the British government would release an independent report on the situation in Hong Kong. Lee and Chan insist their discussions showed their visit had been fruitful. But the Oriental Daily News disagreed and said such comments were “pathetic”.
It is easy to see that in effect Clegg merely offered Lee and Chan little more than a polite dismissal.
How did Hong Kong residents feel about Lee and Chan’s trip? The first to air their opinions were about 30 locals, who waited at the airport for their arrival. They waved signs angrily accusing them of “treason”. Some pro-establishment legislative councilors also dismissed their trip, criticizing them for attacking Hong Kong and saying their visit had been a failure. Legislative Councilor Ip Lau Suk-yee said it was the central government who promised Hong Kong the chief executive election by universal suffrage — not the British. Lee and Chan should have gone to Beijing instead of London.
Lee admitted in an interview withMing Pao that almost everyone they met in April in the United States and Canada asked what the British had done for Hong Kong lately. Of course the Americans, with their intelligence-gathering capabilities, have no problem finding this out. They needn’t ask Lee or Chan. Apparently it was a rhetorical question meant to tell the two opposition politicians from Hong Kong they had come to the wrong place to ask for help. It may well be the reason Lee and Chan visited London this month. Unfortunately for them the trip turned out to be a perfect example of the wrong move at the wrong time for all the wrong reasons. The author is a veteran journalist based in HK.