Lies, prej­u­dice, and the facts about the na­tional se­cu­rity law

Ho Lok-sang says op­po­nents of the leg­is­la­tion have been dis­hon­est about how it will af­fect the fu­ture of ‘one coun­try, two sys­tems’, as they are the ones who are un­der­min­ing the prin­ci­ple

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENTHK - The views do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect those of China Daily.

Chris Pat­ten said the na­tional se­cu­rity law for Hong Kong “marked the end” of “one coun­try, two sys­tems”. Leg­is­la­tors from the “pan-demo­cratic” camp quickly took the same line, say­ing that the new law “sounded the death knell” of the po­lit­i­cal frame­work.

Many Hong Kongers, in con­trast, cel­e­brated the in­tro­duc­tion of the na­tional se­cu­rity law for Hong Kong as al­low­ing “one coun­try, two sys­tems” a new lease of life.

Fol­low­ing the pass­ing of the Hong Kong Hu­man Rights and Democ­racy Act of 2019, the United States wanted to re­voke Hong Kong’s spe­cial trad­ing sta­tus on the ba­sis that the na­tional se­cu­rity law means that US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo “could no longer see any dif­fer­ence be­tween Hong Kong and the main­land”. Joshua Wong Chi-fung, the well-known ac­tivist, called on US, Euro­pean and Asian lead­ers to fol­low his lead. “Once the law is im­ple­mented, Hong Kong will be as­sim­i­lated into China’s au­thor­i­tar­ian regime, on both rule of law and hu­man rights pro­tec­tions.” Busi­ness in­ter­ests will be jeop­ar­dized, he claimed.

Al­though some peo­ple know­ingly tell lies, many peo­ple truly believe in those lies, and I can tell that some Hong Kongers were gen­uinely wor­ried. But this is be­cause there are many scare­mon­gers who spread dis­in­for­ma­tion. In­deed, this is why protests against the ex­tra­di­tion bill last year were so mas­sive.

Be­liev­ing in lies, un­for­tu­nately, can lead to tragic con­se­quences.

The 2019 Global Health Se­cu­rity In­dex is a project of the Nu­clear Threat Initiative and the Johns Hop­kins Center for Health Se­cu­rity and was de­vel­oped with the Econ­o­mist In­tel­li­gence Unit. These are all big and cred­i­ble names. The in­dex ranked the US at the very top among 195 coun­tries, with a score of 83.5, while the world av­er­age is a pal­try 40.2. China’s score was 48.2, and ranked 51st. Iron­i­cally, it turned out that the US, notwith­stand­ing its great “pre­pared­ness” for epi­demic out­breaks, with a pop­u­la­tion 4 per­cent of that of the world, got 25 per­cent of the world’s to­tal coro­n­avirus in­fec­tions. In con­trast, China has 18 per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, but man­aged to have less than 1 per­cent of the world’s in­fec­tions. The US must have been flat­tered by the high rank­ing in epi­demic pre­pared­ness, but that made it con­ceited and poorly pre­pared.

Of course, I would not say that Johns Hop­kins or the EIU de­lib­er­ately lied. But the way they com­piled the in­dex re­flected their prej­u­dice or pre­con­cep­tions. The 34 in­di­ca­tors with a to­tal of 140 ques­tions were grounded on “a be­lief that all coun­tries are safer and more se­cure when their pop­u­la­tions are able to ac­cess in­for­ma­tion about their coun­try’s ex­ist­ing ca­pac­i­ties and plans and when coun­tries un­der­stand each other’s gaps in epi­demic and pan­demic pre­pared­ness so they can take con­crete steps to finance and fill them.” China ranked rel­a­tively low be­cause its govern­ment is con­sid­ered to be “less open”. Yet China has demon­strated its abil­ity to con­tain the epi­demic.

Many of those who worry about the na­tional se­cu­rity law believe China does not up­hold the rule of law. In many peo­ple’s eyes, China is to­tal­i­tar­ian, and “one coun­try, two sys­tems” could end with the na­tional se­cu­rity law. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by Dalia Re­search in con­junc­tion with the Al­liance for Democ­ra­cies, 40 per­cent of those liv­ing in coun­tries clas­si­fied as “free” or demo­cratic by Free­dom House believe that their coun­try is not, in fact, demo­cratic. Sur­pris­ingly, 73 per­cent of the Chi­nese believe their coun­try is demo­cratic, while only 49 per­cent of Amer­i­cans believe the US is demo­cratic.

The rea­son why China is not con­sid­ered a demo­cratic coun­try by Free­dom House is be­cause Free­dom House de­fines democ­racy by the right to vote if there is com­pe­ti­tion be­tween po­lit­i­cal par­ties. But the Chi­nese feel that their govern­ment re­sponds to their needs and caters to their in­ter­ests, whereas most Amer­i­cans feel that their govern­ment is not serv­ing their best in­ter­ests.

China’s rank­ing in the Rule of Law In­dex ac­cord­ing to the World Jus­tice Project is rel­a­tively low, but in­ter­est­ingly China ranks at me­dian or bet­ter in “civil jus­tice”, “crim­i­nal jus­tice”, and “ab­sence of cor­rup­tion”. One rea­son why China ranks low in the Rule of Law In­dex is that its rank­ing in “fun­da­men­tal rights” is near the bot­tom.

While World Jus­tice Project takes the right to vote as an im­por­tant fun­da­men­tal right. China con­sid­ers per­sonal safety and poverty al­le­vi­a­tion to be more im­por­tant rights. China’s suc­cess in han­dling COVID-19 in con­trast to the US’ fail­ure shows how mis­lead­ing the WJP’s over­all Rule of Law In­dex is.

Con­trary to the nar­ra­tive of Western politi­cians, it was the se­ces­sion­ists, not Bei­jing, who wanted to end “one coun­try, two sys­tems”. Who is break­ing the prom­ise, when oc­cu­pa­tion and vi­o­lence are used to force Bei­jing into sub­mis­sion to skip the re­quire­ment in the Ba­sic Law for a Nom­i­nat­ing Com­mit­tee to vet can­di­dates for the chief ex­ec­u­tive post?

I in­vite Mr Pat­ten to re­visit the Sino-Bri­tish Joint Dec­la­ra­tion. It is stated in the joint dec­la­ra­tion that “Na­tional unity and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity shall be up­held.” Now that 23 years have passed since the han­dover in 1997, the na­tional se­cu­rity law is long over­due. What Hong Kong ex­pe­ri­enced in the past year shows there is an ur­gent need for the na­tional se­cu­rity law, in par­tic­u­lar, a tai­lor-made na­tional se­cu­rity law for Hong Kong, to tes­tify to the “one coun­try, two sys­tems”.

Hong Kong peo­ple need to tell lies from facts.

Ho Lok-sang

The au­thor is a se­nior re­search fel­low at the Pan Su­tong Shang­haiHong Kong Eco­nomic Re­search In­sti­tute, Ling­nan Uni­ver­sity. What Hong Kong ex­pe­ri­enced in the past year shows there is an ur­gent need for the na­tional se­cu­rity law, in par­tic­u­lar, a tai­lor­made na­tional se­cu­rity law for Hong Kong, to tes­tify to the “one coun­try, two sys­tems”.

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