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

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

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.

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