Hong Kong ‘be­trayed’ by China

Last Bri­tish gover­nor says prom­ises the city could keep free­doms not found on the main­land have been bro­ken

The New Zealand Herald - - World -

The last Bri­tish gover­nor of Hong Kong said China has be­trayed the semi­au­tonomous ter­ri­tory by tight­en­ing con­trol over the city it had promised could keep free­doms not found on the main­land.

“What we are see­ing is a new Chi­nese dic­ta­tor­ship,” Chris Pat­ten said in an in­ter­view with the Times.

“I think the Hong Kong peo­ple have been be­trayed by China, which has proved once again that you can’t trust it fur­ther than you can throw it.”

He said the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment “should make it clear that what we are see­ing is a com­plete de­struc­tion of the Joint Dec­la­ra­tion” — a le­gal doc­u­ment un­der which the for­mer Bri­tish colony was re­turned to China in 1997 un­der a “one coun­try, two sys­tems” frame­work.

It gives Hong Kong its own le­gal sys­tem and Western-style free­doms un­til 2047. But many fear those are be­ing chipped away after author­i­ties clamped down on mas­sive prodemoc­racy protests that rocked the city last year.

Last week, Hong Kong prodemoc­racy law­mak­ers sharply crit­i­cised China’s move to en­act na­tional se­cu­rity leg­is­la­tion in the ter­ri­tory, which was sub­mit­ted on the open­ing day of China’s na­tional legislativ­e session. It would for­bid se­ces­sion­ist and sub­ver­sive ac­tiv­ity, as well as for­eign in­ter­fer­ence and ter­ror­ism.

US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo called the move “a death knell for the high de­gree of au­ton­omy” that Bei­jing had promised Hong Kong.

Pom­peo called for Bei­jing to re­con­sider and warned of a US re­sponse if it pro­ceeds.

White House eco­nomic ad­viser

Kevin Has­sett said China risked a ma­jor flight of cap­i­tal from Hong Kong that would end the ter­ri­tory’s sta­tus as the fi­nan­cial hub of Asia.

Shortly after­ward, the Commerce Depart­ment an­nounced new re­stric­tions on sen­si­tive ex­ports to China.

Mean­while, Pat­ten told The Times he be­lieved that “one coun­try, two sys­tems”, the treaty logged at the United Na­tions, would be enough to pro­tect Hong Kong’s cap­i­tal­ist econ­omy and its way of life.

“China cheats, it tries to screw things in its own favour, and if you ever point this out their ‘wolf war­rior’ diplo­mats try to bully and hec­tor you into sub­mis­sion,” he said.

“It’s got to stop oth­er­wise the world is go­ing to be a much less safe place and lib­eral democ­racy around the world is go­ing to be desta­bilised.”

He called on Bri­tain to do more to stand up to China and pro­tect Hong Kong un­der its le­gal obli­ga­tions.

“Bri­tain has a moral, eco­nomic and le­gal duty to stand up for Hong Kong,” he said. “The real dan­ger is that we are en­tirely limp on this. We have obli­ga­tions be­cause we signed the agree­ment . . . If we don’t have any re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for the peo­ple of Hong Kong and their way of life, who do we have re­spon­si­bil­ity for?”

China has crit­i­cised Pat­ten’s com­ments be­fore. China’s for­eign min­istry said last week Hong Kong is China’s in­ter­nal af­fair and “no for­eign coun­try has the right to in­ter­vene”.

Bri­tain has a moral, eco­nomic and le­gal duty to stand up for Hong Kong.

Chris Pat­ten

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