13 August, 2020

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China’s New Hong Kong Legislation Unfortunate But Unavoidable: Mayhem & Rioting Left No Option

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

The people of Hong Kong, hundreds of whom are friends, dozens close friends, and over decades thousands of students, have, in the main, no one but themselves to blame that it has come to such a sad pass. It is my considered view that Hong Kong left the Central Government no other option but to enact legislation to combat anarchy, lawlessness, destruction of public property and vandalization of universities. It has done so under the broad rubric of a national security law. No other country, no other place on earth would have permitted such mayhem to go on for so many months. I have much affection for HK, but people allowed political hooligans to riot for too long and did little to reign them in. I have no problem that 57% voted for the Pan-Democrats in the November 2019 Regional Council elections, but I am unhappy that people did not take a firm stand against rioting and lawlessness.

The rioters got away with it because Beijing was in a bind. If China intervened it would have been greeted by a chorus of censure from liberal hypocrites in the West and their governments. Some like the US are unsurprisingly into strategic geopolitics. That’s expected; none of us lives in a make-believe cocoon. Not intervene, and rioting would have degenerated to open terrorism; incipient stages were already on the go. Moves to break HK from China and declare independence would have gained strength. In Sri Lanka to call for secession, that is Tamil Eelam even by non-violent means is illegal, it is treason. Not so in HK. It is not illegal to campaign for independence. (It is obviously against the law to resort to violence, arson and the destruction of public property). If one goes to the US Congress, connives with the State Department, collects money and agitates for the division of Sri Lanka it will be a serious crime for which the person will be arrested and tried on return. (Remember the black-list issued by the MR regime?). HK’s Pan-Democrat leaders regularly do just this; campaign in the US, meet government and Congressional leaders, request intervention and appeal for financial and practical support. They even invite US pro-rioter politicians to come to HK and lecture on how to work towards HK independence!

I am not arguing that China should align its sedition laws to a bad example of a country with a repressive and undemocratic history regarding its minorities. I give this information as a matter of course. The justification for the amendments to the Basic Law enacted by the National Peoples’ Congress (NPC) a few days ago lies elsewhere. HK had become ungovernable in a way no country or society can allow.  So many months of rioting and rampaging in any US city, for example, would have seen the police and the national guard quelling it with guns ablaze. The choice was between anarchy and legislation and it had to be the latter.

I have not yet seen the English wording of the enactments; it’s an amendment as an annex to the Basic Law, the mini-constitution under the Chinese Constitution by which HK is governed. One clause will make it a criminal offence to insult the national anthem – as in most countries. A second under a national security law, will prohibit “splitism”, subversion, terrorism, foreign interference and behaviour that threatens national security. None is unusual, most countries have something similar. What is new is that the security services of the Central Government can open offices in HK to monitor compliance. This is like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the FBI maintaining offices in the States of the USA. The DHS does have state level offices. I don’t know about the FBI which I believe has to be called in by the State in the event a Federal offence is suspected – involving more than one state or international. This is like the present status in HK where involvement of the Centre, such as PLA deployment in HK, is permitted only at the request of the HK Government.

Is there a downside to what inevitably is going to happen? Should one shrug one’s shoulders and exclaim ‘You asked for it’ and leave it at that. I think not; I think there are two real concerns. The first is that China’s judicial and legal system is primitive and allowing HK people, even if only for a small number of national security offences, to go before Chinese courts is undesirablr. I don’t see how this can be avoided except if the HK Government, case by case, prevents all but the most extreme cases of subversion from reaching Mainland courts. It seems possible that even serious rioting and large-scale destruction of public property and terrorism could be handled by HK courts, but there is also the view that HK has not handled security offences and therefore the Mainland should be involved. Hong Kong judges were unusually soft on offenders last year! Nevertheless, over time it may be possible to create a tradition where all but the most serious cases are tried by local courts. The second concern is how livid the rection of HK protesters will be in the coming months and how harsh the crackdown if serious rioting erupts again. We are in the early days of the second round but I think another round of mayhem will be put down harshly.

I am not concerned that there will be an international backlash and the economic miracle that is Hong Kong will be extinguished. Bullocks, nothing of the sort will happen! After a transient dip and a short period of uncertainty Hong Kong capitalism will bounce back. Global business is doing great in Shenzhen, Shanghai and dozens of Chinese cities so why not Hong Kong within a Chinese edict on national security. It will do better with the uncertainty of nonstop disruption removed. Capitalism is interested in money, not in morality. The real threat to Hong Kong’s financial eminence comes from a different direction; a prolonged global recession or a world destroying depression. The odds are that the global economy is on a bumpy roller-coaster for years to come and regions deeply integrated into this network like Hong Kong, Singapore, New York and London will feel pain. [Sri Lanka is up shit-creek for other reasons that I discussed on 17 May in Whither Sri Lanka if it’s a Depression?].

I will sign off with a little background data for those who need it. Hong Kong Island (in 1842) and Kowloon Peninsula (in 1860) were ceded “in perpetuity” to Britain after the defeat of the Quin Dynasty in the first and second Opium Wars, respectively, and the New Territories north of Boundary Street was given over on a 99-year lease in 1898. In truth, all plain vanilla colonial conquests. It was the expiry of the 99-year lease in 1997 that forced the UK to return the whole territory to China. HK Island and Kowloon would not have had water or food without the New Territories and sans China could not have survived. Britain had no choice but to give the whole thing back. In any case if China had taken military steps there was bugger-all an enfeebled UK, with or without American support could do. All was well and HK thrived as a part of China and was in fact the biggest beneficiary of all China’s cities in the four decades 1979-2019 as China was waking up as per Napoleon’s terminology.

In 1984 therefore Margaret Thatcher travelled to Beijing and signed the Joint Declaration (JD) on bended knee. It was registered by the two governments at the United Nations in 1985. In the JD we see Deng Xio Ping’s second stroke of genius – the “one country, two systems” (1C2S) formula he fathered. (His first was in 1979 when he opened the Chinese economy). JD stipulated that the socialist system of China would not be imposed in the HK Special Administrative Region and HK’s capitalist system and way of life would remain for 50 years until 2047. But it was also laid down that HK would remain an inseparable part of China.

The 1C2S provision was written into the Basic Law enacted by the NPC in time for the handover of HK to China on 1 July 1997. From the early 1980s HK prospered immensely from China’s boom and the political certainty created by the Joint Declaration, and continued to prosper after 1997 under 1C2S, with a few ups and downs such as during the Asian Financial Crisis, till the 2019 riots broke out. In 2014 Chinese officials formally pronounced the Joint Declaration “void”. After handover HK became a part of China. They argued that no country can permit a foreign power to have treaty rights over its constitutional matters. Britain disagrees but is ignored by everybody. 

The events of 2019 I need to summarise, if at all, only in a few words. HK’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam was pressured by Beijing to introduce an Extradition Bill (Roughly: “those who commit crimes against Chinese law in HK can be extradited to China for trial”). There was a storm of protest because the Chinese courts cannot be trusted and she scrapped the Bill. However, Pan-Dems saw an opening and encouraged riots. This is what is destroying HK, not “Chinese Communists. Despite this Pan-Ds polled 57% in the Nov 2019 regional Council elections and took 70% of the seats thanks to FPTP. HK people’s intelligence seems to have borrowed a leaf from whose who voted Donald Trump to power! Millions of foreign dollars flowed into HK to finance riots – HSBC alone froze $75 million laundered money which infuriated the Pan-Dems. Where are these huge amounts coming from, is the US involved? Global politics influences everything.

Why are HK people so deeply anti-Mainland? Two reasons: They are anti-communist (most of their parents or grandparents fled China to British HK in the period 1930-1970) and second HK people feel superior to Mainlanders because they are richer, till recently better educated but no more, familiar with Western mores and with English. The first reason is frowned upon by the Party and the second is resented by the people of greater China. Hong Kong has to change but it may take time.

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Latest comments

  • 1
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    I have to agree. Even though I have never lived in Hongkong in all my interactions with them the hongkees as they are called derisively by other Chinese nations are the most arrogant of all.

    A good comeuppance was due.

  • 3
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    Once in a while KD comes to correct conclusions.
    .
    And…..
    .
    Please note that those conclusions are fair in any democratically elected institution.

  • 1
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    The 99 % of the essay is going with assumptions and the dominant words are “would have”, “might have”, and “could have”. Too many saddish assumptions, not an analysis with facts. If anybody accidently ever had heard a word Anti-Donald-Tumpism, this is what it is. There is nothing about democracy, Communism, law, Economy… Nothing, but anti America- Anti UK lecture.
    We cannot write critic on this easy because it is 100% wrong and all assumptions. Either we can put sentence by sentence and declare that false, wrong…. or write a para each line to disproof all nothing but a sack of Punnakku. So instead of touching on anything we will says some general things that will show how much Prof. Kumar had decided to fill the missing Thero De Silva’s shoe in CT.
    Prof .Kumar going in a pattern similar to the talk of because Tamils shot the 13 Armies, JR had nothing else to conduct the 1983 Black July and to say “if I starve Tamils only Sinhalese will feel better”. There is no question of 1977. No question of Jaffna Library……In another way of interpretation is as per the deed UK singed with DS, the Indian origin deserved the disenfranchisement or because Sinhalese is larger, it was Tamils who benefited from Sinhalese. Think about Chandrasiri of NPC. The Army General kept the Tamils under jackboot to satisfy the South. He is elected government’s Governor. He had complete authority to run North according to the elected government.

  • 1
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    China recently signed permanent leadership for Xi Jinping (virtually). Britain gave Hong Kong to China under a deal. China Obligated to respect UN’s fundamental right conventions. It is this developed century China has captured and holding Tibet. Taiwan doesn’t want things to do with China, but China insist Taiwan should become a communist under it. China did in Tiananmen Square is something Hong Kong knows. Hong Kong People, under UN conventions, have all their right to be a democratic country. Hong Kong was given back to China under 100 years old deed, but no referendum was conducted, as per the 40 years old UN Freedom charter to know Hong Kong People’s opinion. Hong Kong government was elected by its people but was pressured to sigs a deed with China to send its own citizen to be investigated by China. Hong Kong people will fight against their government, burn their country kills other like Yathavas did in Mahabharata. How is it hurting China?
    Prof. Kumar comparing America and China was making me wonder if the learned professor should start to take medicine to Amnesia. America is a united states according to the accords signed; that is in theory, not one country. But the Federal Government’s assumption is it is one country. Federal Government rules over the states.

  • 1
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    All states have provincial governments, but practically that does not create any difference within them, other than very mild cultural differences. Today you can live in New York, then take the car drive for three days and settle in California; but it doesn’t make any practical difference. Fundamental right is same in New York and California; the employment laws may differ slightly between two states, state governments may have their equality laws. But if any employer breaks the race relation, he/ she violated Federal Fundamental rights. Irrelevant of state actions, he will be subjected to Federal law. Other than the health insurance, all the people always like the Federal laws because they are the best. At the same time, if a state is below standard, Union government will like to balance it with others. Prof. Kumar could not understand this difference. But unlike in China, of cause, there is a difference in Democratic government and Republican government. But, there is something always same as American way, too. In China everything is only communist government, there is no relief any time. In America, now most states are joining to protest for a police brutality in Minnesota. Can Xinjiang, Tibet or Hong Kong support to one another like this? Then what is in their self-governments? If a Hong Kong citizen or Chinese citizen patriots, then there are lot thing to be analyzed, there is lot of differences. But if you say there new Patriot or Kansas Patriots or….so on. There is no meaning. There only one thing, US patriot. Even the confederate does not count any more.

  • 1
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    China and Hong Kong are one country, but China cannot rule or annex Hong Kong according to the deeds. Hong Kong people enjoy a kind of UK laws, but Chinese laws are draconian.
    ………………………………..
    Remember, Lankawe for long time trying to negotiate to implement UK laws to Colombo Pong Cing. Because if Chinese laws are implemented in Colombo Pong Cing, All Lankawe criminals against any Chinese citizen will be investigated in Colombo Pong Cing, not in Lankawe. Never on his death bed will a Hong Kong man like his case sent to China instead of that investigated by Hong Kong. So they fought to destruction of their country. Will Tamil ever like Kathirgamar rule them? Prof Kumar is making 21st Century’s biggest joke by saying because a New York criminal under Federal offences is being investigated by Federal system, so not why Hong Kong activist being investigated in China is same. Watch in the black protests what they want; they want their cases investigated by Federal system, not by state systems. Would a Xinjian Muslim will ask for central government investigation not his provincial investigation. Prof. Kumar is saying they all terrorism cases, so it is better China investigate it? Is Prof. Kumar will argue if NPC had investigated Raviraj case under 13A it may not have been different from Sinhala Jury Only verdict? Prof. Kumar cannot apply his Anti-Donald Trumpism to make Chinese Government and Appe Aanduwa had justices in their action, but not the American government.

    • 0
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      I would be very surprised if Trump doesn’t accuse China of organising the ongoing riots in the US to draw attention away from Covid-19.

      • 1
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        Yes old codger, it is ridiculous.

        It is always internal factors that create disturbances and to claim conspiracy of foreign elements is mere escapism and irresponsibility

  • 3
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    Hong Kong, the former British Colony with one Country two system became China;s Special Administrative Region in 1997.

    Similarly Macao Portuguese colony with one Country two system became Special Administrative Region of China in 1999.

    Then Taiwan is still a contested territory ready to be swallowed up I necessary condition prevails.
    Further China claims Arunachalpradesh and Ladakh in India as their own territory and have border disputes for years.,

    Moreover Tibet and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region within China are still problematic areas
    Furthermore, the Islands in South China Sea both natural and artificial continue to be contested territory.
    These are all trouble spots and USA is involved in all these conflicts. However China is not an imperialist country and as such will not have colonial ambitions and have no interest in other countries lands.

    However, recent associations with capitalist system along with Belt and Road Initiatives (BRI) could have prompted china to follow an adventurous path.

    Now Hong Kong is in the news and Donald Trump is facing election in November 2020 for his second term

    Well, Both China and USA are super powers and how these disputes turn out will be any bodies guess

  • 2
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    Part 1

    Where can one begin with the political incoherence of Professor Kumar David’s piece on China and Hong Kong (HK)? According to him the victims of state violence are wholly to blame; nary a word on police violence. The article describes the Chinese judicial and legal system as ‘primitive’ and yet the author condemns those who do not wish to live under its edicts? Professor David acknowledges that China has a legal commitment to respect HK’s democratic norms and then paradoxically approves of China’s ‘voiding’ of that commitment. Kumar points out that a majority of HK residents supported the aims of the pro- democracy movement and then erroneously and maliciously links it to Trump’s victory by ignoring the statistical difference. Trump did not win a majority of the popular vote, his opponent did by nearly 3 million votes, whilst in HK, 57 per cent voted for the ‘pan Democrats’. He flavours this inedible verbal stew with a spray of political invective against the actions of the enlargers of the democratic space, calling their actions: ‘splitism, subversion and terrorism’. He sees them in the pay of a foreign power, the USA.

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    Part 2

    The reality is more complex – since March 2019 when the troubles began, a number of demands have been made by the pro-democracy forces which have been ignored the CCP. Their demands have been met with overwhelming force by the security forces – this has escalated the violence on both sides with the security forces inflicting by a country mile, more violence on the protestors. To blame Britain and America for causing the problem is a bit rich. They are certainly exploiting the problem for their imperial interests; the unpalatable fact is that the government of China and its appointed representatives are to blame by their intransigence, heavy handed approach and stubbornness in ignoring and not negotiating with the democratic representatives of the people of HK. Till this happens the tragedy that is unfolding will only get worse and Professor David’s pronouncement is not helping to bring this about.

  • 0
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    Dinesh Gunawardene, Sri Lanka’s foreign minister had informed China that Sri Lanka will be all the way with China in this issue.

    what other choice Sri Lanka has? when they owe billions to China on whit elephant projects

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