• jeremiahbull

China security versus Hong Kong security

Updated: May 23, 2020

The CCP cannot tell HK or the world about its 'national security' after it caused the global coronavirus pandemic that originated in China. The key questions this blog wishes to address are: 1. whether security for the people of Hong Kong (HK) under the Joint Declaration, and the national security of China are compatible 2. whether under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), HK can enjoy a sense of security 3. whether the security of China's people and the CCP are aligned.

As the 'people's dictatorship', the CCP is unwittingly sabotaging the wellbeing of HK, and the rest of China. Importantly, CCP is not the only stakeholder with an interest in HK. The CCP, with its shortsighted focus on remaining in power no matter what, thinks that it has something to gain by exerting more authority. This is viewed in a negative way by liberal democrats worldwide, and as a loss by people in HK. They consider CCP's actions that breach the Joint Declaration, destructive and repressive violations of civil liberties.

A matter of perceptions and of law

Calls for human rights are perceived as a threat by the government of HK, the CCP and Central government of China, though they may be welcomed by ordinary citizens who are more progressive and have a different world view. Authorities, in particular communist ones, have an innate insecurity, that beyond being a potential threat to themself, is a greater threat to freedom and to life.

Do we really understand that what is good for HK might somehow represent a threat for mainland China, or vice versa? In the context of the "One country, two systems" model of governance, the compatibility of national security and security for HK and its people are without doubt. In reality, however, the two seem to be in direct conflict.

'National security' can be viewed in a defensive way as a mechanism that serves to protect, or viewed in a more constructive way as a tool used to maintain and build what brings good, strength, stability and value to your country. Most governments have to consider matters of 'national security' for the welfare of the people they serve, and for the ongoing stability of their own system of governance. What matters are important to China's government?

While it is important for any government to have control of the affairs of its own State, and those are matters of sovereignty, increasing autocracy comes at the expense of democracy. It is also apparent that just as we do not have control over natural disasters, we live in a time in which nations are interconnected, and we are unlikely to have control over the other nations we deal with.

Through globalisation, and such arrangements as the European Union, United Nations, WTO, ASEAN, or NATO, countries have found more strength and security in unity, rather than holding on to (or grasping vainly at) our independence and isolation from one another. Whether it was for some altruistic reason, or mere political convenience HK's sovereignty became subservient to that of China, once the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the question of HK took effect at the handover in 1997. HK became a part of China - a special administrative region (SAR). Under that agreement China specifically undertook to care for HK's defence and foreign affairs, while the people of HK were guaranteed 50 years with a high degree of autonomy, unchanged lifestyle, and a pathway to democracy through universal suffrage.

It is not HK's fault that so many people around the world have continued to think of the SAR as a country, but it has to be recognised that the relationship between HK and the 'motherland' is a complex one. After the communists took power in China in 1949, HK became a sanctuary for hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing communist rule. In the following decades the Chinese government insisted that the treaties giving Britain sovereignty over HK were invalid. So, when the sovereignty of HK was transferred to China, it was seen by the CCP as an important moment in history. There was considerable scepticism amongst democratic nations at the time, however, about China's intentions and ability to abide by the Joint Declaration, and its pledges to the people of HK.

While some people say that sovereignty is an old-fashioned idea and try to break down autocratic governance, others are more keen than ever to build walls, to strengthen legislation, to protect themselves from 'the outside', and reinforce the artifice of nationhood. Sometimes nations and governments need to compromise, and at other times they need to be open to other's values, to see the world beyond their own borders. We should never assume an arrogance, as stability stems from mutual respect of one another's sovereignty, and an understanding of our interdependence, our humanity, our coexistence on this one planet and its resources that we share.

China has variously been through periods when it has isolated itself, and times when it has been more 'open'. More recently globalisation and the internet have no doubt had an impact on how we see China, and how they view the rest of the world. There is an insidious process going on of assimilation, in which the CCP is exporting its culture and its ideology. Its business practices are making steady inroads across the globe, and increasingly the Party is dictating the terms of engagement. CCP, as the gatekeeper of the Great Firewall, manages to control the narrative within China and beyond (see our blog on the information war). It has its citizens locked in, as virtual slaves.

Threats to national security are strange things. A glass of water would hardly be considered a security threat, especially when we are thirsty. Water, after all, sustains life! However, when there is too much water, such as in a flood, or when a dam bursts then it leads to a disaster that threatens communities, or even whole regions. All that water will have a serious economic impact, threatening homes, employment, business and even life itself.

So it is with human rights and freedom of expression: a hundred people marching in the street to oppose a new law your government proposes may be tolerated or ignored, but more than a million people demonstrating week after week will bring about consequences that any government, except the HK government with its backing from the CCP, would be foolish to underestimate and ignore (see our blog about how the CE is supported by Beijing).

A coordinated response to threats

There are a lot of things China and the CCP might be afraid of and consider a threat. In China, 'national security' is concerned with the coordination of a variety of organisations, including law enforcement, military, paramilitary, governmental, and intelligence agencies whose aim it is to protect the nation's security. The real, potential and imagined threats the CCP perceives and responds to are a reflection of, at least in part, its geography and its size, its population and its history and culture.

Threats to national security can be real, potential or imagined; internal or external, great or small, growing or diminishing, short-lived or ongoing, imminent, developing or distant. I don't have the time or knowledge needed to complete a thorough analysis of all the threats China faces, but some starting points to consider are: WHERE the threat comes from e.g. U.S.A.,

the internet, the border; WHO is the source of the threat e.g. journalists, disloyal party opponents, a spy; WHAT kind threat it is e.g. physical, economic, political, health; WHO/WHAT does it threaten e.g. viability, business confidence, food security, supply chains, banking, infrastructure.

While I apologise for adopting such an esoteric, theoretical approach to this topic, there is a need to flesh out some concepts that are important for a deeper understanding of what 'security' means to both CCP and HK under the Joint Declaration.

In China's constitution there is a phrase that was inserted by Mao Zedong that refers to a people's democratic dictatorship (simplified Chinese: 人民民主专政; traditional Chinese: 人民民主專政; pinyin: Rénmín Mínzhǔ Zhuānzhèng). This concept, and form of government, is similar to that of 'people's democracy', which was implemented in a number of Central and Eastern European Communist-controlled states under the guidance of the Soviet Union. To readers in the West, the terms 'democracy' and 'dictatorship' seem at odds with one another. It's like wishing for a black-white (or white-black) that somehow is not grey. It just doesn't seem possible to conjure up watery-oil (or oily-water) that is somehow a perfect emulsion of governance. Perhaps, at the time, it was intended to be a mind-bending linguistic trick to win doubters and critics over? Others say it was all about saving face for a regime that has no legitimacy (see our blog on socialism as the dead-end of capitalism). Fast forward to 2020, and there are others who say that the CCP's reign is without legitimacy (see our blog here with the words of Chairman Mao).

Thus, the CCP have inserted themselves as the 'peoples dictator', and they consider that their Party represents the people of the nation. It doesn't matter to them that thousands of Chinese have resigned from the Communist Party. Loyalty to the Party is linked with love for the motherland, like a pair of conjoined twins born of the same flesh. Any alternative to the Party’s doctrine is not considered a difference of opinion; it is tantamount to treason, a threat.

Historically, China called itself the 'Middle Kingdom' (中國/中国, "central state") because it has always believed itself to be the centre of the world. At the core, the attitude of Chinese then was narcissistic, and some people believe that many Chinese people today retain this disposition. This world view is reinforced in part by of the propaganda fed to them by the CCP, and also because of years closed off from the rest of the world. Xi JinPing and the CCP run a hegemonic ideological system of governance which currently is being reinforced rather than weakened, and it relies on the ubiquitous power of the Party. The CCP is narcissistic, and key to its ideology and convictions (as well as Xi Jinping's Thoughts on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era) is the notion that the Party knows best. The CCP therefore acts in ways to preserve face, to show superiority and control over everything. This means that the CCP rules the nation by its own laws, laws that pragmatically meet whatever the Party's aims are. This is Rule by law - NOT "Rule of law" as we required under the Joint Declaration in HK.

For years, China has manipulated the internet and mobile technologies to spy on its own citizens and restrict free speech. Akash Kapur of the Wall Street Journal reports that the communist power has deployed a policy of “digital sovereignty” to limit its citizens’ access to the global community which it deems as an existential threat. The CCP has managed to silence some of its critics in HK (see the case of the Causeway Bay booksellers who were abducted), but it still actively coerces and campaigns to have Article 23 legislation enacted in HK to totally stamp out opposing democratic voices.

Admittedly sometimes the lines that separate a domestic security threat from an international one may be blurred. Still it is clear that Chinese authorities consider domestic threats to be outpacing external security threats. In recent years not only has the rate of increase for spending on internal security been higher than for externally oriented military spending, but actual resources have grown as well. In 2017, for example, China spent approximately $161 billion on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and spent US$196 billion on internal security forces. As Xi Jinping's powers have grown, so has spending on national security measures. The numbers show that the CCP is making a priority of it internal or domestic security.

In mainland China, the Covid-19 outbreak presents a major threat to the CCP and Xi Jinping in particular. It undermines the argument that China’s single-party 'democratic dictatorship' model is the ideal system for China, and that the CCP can provide a better quality of life for its citizens than any potential alternatives, particularly liberal democracy.

Chinese citizens are outraged over the fact that when front-line doctors first tried to inform Chinese medical communities about the virus in late December 2019, they were reprimanded by the CCP for spreading rumors. One of those thwarted whistleblowers—Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang—later contracted the virus and died. His death triggered a wave of public anger, much of it directed against CCP’s authoritarian controls.

Some citizens even called for CCP to implement Article 35 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, which claims Chinese citizens should “enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.” The Party, however, views information control as a critical lever for maintaining power, without which the ruling regime could fall (see our blog about how one critic was banned and censored). Clearly, as well as being an ongoing threat to public health, the coronavirus crisis constitutes a serious political threat, and now an economic one. It goes without saying that while trying to maintain political stability, there maybe tensions between measures taken to address the threat to public health and the desire to respect human rights, whether in China or in HK (see our blog on the ICCPR).

For example, a report issued by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in March 2020, commented on the thousands of Muslims from China's Uighur minority group who have been detained at internment camps, punishing and indoctrinating them. In China's next phase of re-educating Uighurs, the report noted that they are being put to work under coercive conditions at factories that supply some of the world's biggest brands. Chinese authorities have previously said the "vocational training centres" where Uighurs were being detained were being used to combat violent religious extremism (see our blog on China's Xinjiang Uighur Muslim oppression).

Now, according to the ASPI report, under a central government policy known as 'Xinjiang Aid', Uighurs are being used to prop up factories that claim to be part of the supply chain for 83 well-known global brands, including Nike, Apple and Dell. There are claims that the 'forced labour' phenomenon has spread like a virus to infect China’s entire manufacturing supply chain.

Security for Hong Kong

HK has its own Security Bureau that is responsible for security-related policies and practices, from the maintenance of law and order, exercising immigration and customs control, rehabilitating offenders and drug abusers, and providing emergency fire and rescue services. It operates disciplined forces including the HK Police Force (HKPF), the Fire Services Department, the Correctional Services Department, the Immigration Department, the Customs and Excise Department and the Government Flying Service. According to its HK government website all of these professional bodies are supposedly committed to serving the public in a disciplined, dedicated and efficient manner.

The problem is there is no formal link, no legal requirement or system of accountability between “civil servants” who work in these departments and the public they are meant to serve. The Police and Immigration departments, for instance, have discretionary powers, but it’s not clear who they serve. It’s unclear whether they exercise that discretionary power in favour of the government, their own department, or the people of HK, the CCP or anyone else.

In HK the Police Force Ordinance does not mention the police’s duty to the public. In Part IV of that Ordinance, nothing mentions how the police must listen to the public, or what our rights are in determining police conduct. The Police in more advanced jurisdictions these days are governed by regulations and committees that put the service users - you and me - at the head of the organisation. We set the policy and practices, the tone of the organisation, and administrative law allows officials to listen to us and adopt changes we the people recommend.

Going hand in hand with the problem of accountability in HK's government institutions, is a total lack of transparency and openness. Much of the work of The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), The Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO, Chinese: 投訴警察課) and the Immigration Department is cloaked in confidentiality or secrecy and sheltered from direct public control and scrutiny.

Ordinarily these divisions of the Security Bureau, together with other HK civil servants would be united in their aim of serving their employer, the people of HK. However, post-1997 this is a time when things are not normal. There is dysfunction and disaffection in the ranks as seen in spats between the Police and Fire Service, as well as indications that some sectors of the civil service are unhappy with the way things are going in the city. The HKPF have received the lowest satisfaction rating among all disciplinary forces, according to a survey conducted in December 2019. The HK Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI) interviewed 1,062 people by phone between November 21 and 26 (2019). The Police force received just 35.3 marks out of 100, with 40 per cent of the respondents giving zero marks. When your own Police force are not trusted, this must represent a threat to the security of your city, whether you are in HK, Beijing or Los Angeles.

For HK as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, security is about respecting and preserving a way of life. For both government and citizens it is about respecting and upholding rights guaranteed under a raft of provisions including the HK Bill of Rights, The Sino-British Joint Declaration, The Basic Law, and international agreements such as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

It was not hard for people in HK to understand the danger of extradition legislation proposed in February 2019 that would have allowed the transfer of fugitives who are facing criminal charges in territories with which HK does not currently have extradition agreements, including mainland China. Many considered the bill put forward by Chief Executive (CE) Carrie Lam a threat to people's civil liberties, and that it could infringe on privacy and freedom of speech laws in HK. Their understanding was that the legislation would subject HK residents and visitors to the city to the justice system of mainland China, thereby undermining HK's rule of law and the region's autonomy. If extradited from HK to face a charge in China, many wondered about their chances of a fair trial and proper legal representation, given the flaws in China's criminal justice system, and reports of forced confessions, trumped up charges, and harsh penalties meted out. With HK people's access to the internet, the CCP's approach to human rights is well known.

You would think that with its interest in the security of HK, and in serving the public that the HKPF would be deeply concerned about respecting and upholding human rights. However, the force continues to go along with the rhetoric offered by HK authorities about punishing lawbreakers, and lends support to CCP’s mind-bending logic that defending human rights is illegal. The HKPF are increasingly in the limelight for their brutality against protesters as highlighted in a number of reports, all of which are rejected outright by the CE. The defence of human rights is also rejected by the CCP in HK.

The CCP has been served notice that it has not been meeting its UN obligations in HK. A letter was written to China as a member of the UN on 28 June 2019 by four Special Rapporteurs working for the UN (see the letter here). China was given 60 days to reply to the contents of the letter concerning alleged excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators and human rights defenders in the SAR, as well as alleged arbitrary arrest of individuals participating in peaceful demonstrations. The letter drew no response from China and so it was released to the public.

3 December, 2019 the Director of Amnesty International HK Man-Kei Tam spoke at an event in Tokyo, saying that violence by police "is also Amnesty's focus and we consider this to be the root cause of all the violence in HK." Amnesty International, which believes that "something structural" is behind the systematic use of excessive force by HKPF, attributes it to the central Chinese government's focus on national security since Chinese President Xi Jinping took office, he added (see our blogs on the authoritarian approach of Xi Jinping and Structural violence).

30 January, 2020 Amnesty International dedicated two chapters of its 25-chapter Annual report to HK and China, respectively. In the HK chapter, the watchdog organisation raised concern over Hongkongers’ freedom of peaceful assembly. “There was a rapid deterioration in the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, expression and association as the HK authorities increasingly adopted mainland China’s vague and all-encompassing definition of national security,” it said. The international body accused the city’s police of responding to the protests with “unnecessary and excessive use of force”.

Responding to security threats

The typical human "fight or flight" response kicks in when we feel threatened or under attack. After considerable public outcry and weeks of protest, imagine the thoughts and feelings of HK's peaceful protesters after being variously labelled 'violent', 'rioters', 'extremist' or 'terrorists' by their opponents in the CCP, the HK government and the community at large. This is the 'fight' response at work, also seen in the escalating verbal and physical attacks on protesters and pro-democracy legislators. Lennon walls, used as creative vehicles for expressing the anti-extradition Bill arguments, and anti-government and pro-democracy sentiment have suffered repeated and routine vandalism both in HK and abroad. This has occurred at the hands of those wishing to silence opposition and quash the threat or challenge the Lennon walls represent to their way of thinking.

Examples of the 'flight' response would be the number of parents sending their children out of HK for their study, and the recorded increase in whole families emigrating abroad. Or alternatively, the "Be water" motto embraced by protesters is about flight, since protesters do their best to escape confrontations with armoured clusters of riot Police, or who simply choose not to put themselves in the 'frontline' of civil unrest.

There's no doubt that HK demonstrators have felt threatened. They were at first calling for the withdrawal of the Fugitive Amendments Bill (commonly referred to as 'Extradition Bill') in June 2019, but later shifted their attention to protest against the HK government, the police and the CCP. The systemic failure of these authorities is a kind of threat, a kind of violence (see our blog on structural violence). A growing political movement embarked on a campaign of civil disobedience in the face of a non-responsive government, and what has been its ongoing denial of democratic reforms since 1997, and called for in 2014 during the Umbrella Movement (see our blog on the revolution).

Some peaceful protesters were also threatened and physically attacked during or after marches, while others became the subject of verbal taunts. Their very right to assemble and express their views was also under attack when Police refused permission for marches to take place, or shut them down early (see our blog on the HKPF human rights failure).

It's clear that in HK there has been a net deterioration in human rights and freedoms enjoyed by citizens and journalists. The HKPF has shown its reluctance to properly investigate crimes committed against protesters and media, its selective enforcement of the law, and an inability to properly manage its own operations and its officers who have behaved like lawless thugs. Increasingly protesters in HK have found themselves on the frontline, having to defend the city's freedom and point out the falling standards of the rule of law, decency, fairness and justice in the SAR.

The HK CE, Carrie Lam, acting as a puppet for Beijing and the CCP, has implicated herself in this crime of treason against the people of HK (see our blog on unwavering CCP support for the CE). Her tacit approval of Police brutality and a lack of accountability is just one part of how she is party to the undermining of its governance, and of its legal and judicial systems. When HK was returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997 sweeping promises of a high degree of autonomy and freedoms were given under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. But the total failure of CCP to honor these commitments has fueled the protests, bringing havoc to the SAR and posing a grave challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

So, what is an appropriate response to a security threat once it is identified? Even individuals react in some way - such as updating anti-virus software on their PC when a new virus appears. We leave lights or the television on when we leave our home unattended to trick any potential burglar.

Businesses and cities also must respond to security threats, and they must also act in a way that is compatible with the laws and regulations of the jurisdiction they are based in. Under the Joint Declaration the CCP must observe and respect the laws of HK.

If I was a retailer, I could not dispense summary justice when I catch a shoplifter and respond by shooting the thief dead on the spot. I have to design the layout of my store to minimise the shoplifting risk. Similarly cities are often tasked with management of water supply or other infrastructure. Recognising a potential threat to the water supply, such as during a drought, or the breakdown of supply lines, pumping stations and water mains is important as people need water. It is critical for the Fire Department, for example, that there is a reliable flow of water when it is needed.

For the CCP, or the government of any country, so concerned about any threat to its sovereignty, one response might be to spend money on measures that combat the threat. You might create an army, pay for spies or develop special surveillance computer software. You could view it as an investment in the stability of your governance, or justify the spending in any number of ways. Often we try to eliminate or quash a threat completely, but when we do that some other threat often pops up in response. Our ruthless action against the threat could be misinterpreted, could have unfortunate casualties, and could lead to rebellion or insurgency.

Sometimes we will section off the source of the threat, or create a blockade. This is also not always effective as pressures can build, and threats can pop up elsewhere, where and when you least expect them to. Sometimes the blockade you put in place also creates an inconvenience for yourself.

For example, the HK CE used the draconian colonial Emergency Regulations Ordinance to enact a face mask ban in an attempt to deter protesters (October, 2019). However, the measure backfired on her as it further incensed protesters who came out on the street wearing face masks. Then the CE lost the ensuing court case over the legality of her unilaterally declared face mask ban, because her action was considered to be unconstitutional. Enter Covid-19, and any notion of stopping people wearing face masks during the health crisis is now absurd!

It's really a good idea to do your homework on your perceived threats to national security, to fully understand them. Am I telling the CCP how to suck eggs? Sometimes we make a mistake in acting out our fears, and bring harm to ourselves (or others) through over-reaction, or inappropriate responses. We need to manage our fears in a reasonable way. We also have to take stock of every action we take to address a security threat, measure its effectiveness and on that basis adjust our response.

We have seen with the coronavirus threat that people have gone out shopping in a panic. As a result supermarket shelves have emptied and quite a number of people needlessly have a year's supply of toilet paper or rice stockpiled at their home. We have also seen in HK a continuing double-down gambling approach by authorities, whose response it was to crack down more forcefully using the Police. This tactic has brutalised the people of HK, destroyed the morale and reputation of the HKPF and further weakened the deteriorating trust in the government (see our blogs on the missing trust in HK government). The remedy that the CE and the CCP have introduced to combat what they perceive as an illness is worse than the infliction that triggered the threat response to begin with. There is no sense in this kind of approach.

In fact many people in HK felt they could not trust any of the advice given by either the CCP or the HK government (not even the World Health Organisation - WHO!). Given their experience with SARS in 2003 they immediately did what they thought was right to protect themselves and their family from the impending health threat.

Some people have likened CCP's approach to HK as the "carrot and stick approach". On the one hand it has wielded the stick of authoritarianism over HK with heavy policing, with strong language and coercion, coupled with manoeuvres like interpretations of the Basic Law. It is also trying to introduce new threats to HK including the Extradition Bill and Article 23 legislation. On the other hand it has tried to tempt HKers with a carrot in the form of incentives like inclusion in the Greater Bay development plan, and a role in its Belt and Road initiative. The incentives haven't won over ordinary HKers who are more sophisticated than they were at the time of the handover, who are not convinced, who still distrust the CCP, and who doubt that there is anything in these grandiose schemes for them personally.

CCP has shown that it has not yet completely mastered the game of winning friends and influencing people, though it has had some successes with some foreign governments who have bought into initiatives like Belt and Road. HK people are not prepared to compromise on what is included in the Joint Declaration, to trade-off their investment in the SAR as their home, to sacrifice what rights and freedoms they currently enjoy for a supposed benefit that has not eventuated thus far. HK people want to retain their rights and control over their assets, whether they are homes, businesses, or shares. HK people know that the CCP is dishonest, disreputable and not worthy of their trust. CCP is a virus that creates viruses! (see our blog).

On the mainland the CCP doesn't in practice respect individual rights of private property ownership. For example, foreign firms investing in China typically have given up their intellectual property rights, trade secrets and patents. They give up their legal rights, because, under its dictatorship, the CCP is the law. This is the problem with the HK Extradition Bill, and with Article 23 legislation - that the CCP wishes to extend its authority into HK.

A reach is a breach of the Joint Declation

On 18 March 2020 the authority of the CCP once again reached into HK when it expelled from China, a number of U.S. journalists who had been working for the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and the New York Times. It was considered by many to be a tit-for-tat quarrel over press freedom after the U.S. had similarly expelled Chinese journalists. Though the quarrel had nothing specifically to do with HK, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the expulsions were in response to U.S. actions and that the decision to oust the journalists, and block them from HK, fell under Beijing’s 'diplomatic' authority.

International response to the CCP move against the U.S. journalists was swift: In a jointly-signed letter to UK foreign office, Chris Patten (Governor of HK 1992-1997), former UK foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, MPs Alistair Carmichael, Fiona Bruce, Catherine West and barrister Sir Geoffrey Nice urged Downing Street to speak out on the expulsions.

“This is yet another example of the intensifying erosion of HK’s basic freedoms and autonomy, which have been increasingly undermined over the past six years. It is also a breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which guarantees HK’s freedoms and autonomy under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle for the first 50 years after the handover of HK to Chinese sovereignty,” their letter read.

We might act out of a sense of urgency, when ignoring the threat, waiting or doing nothing would be a better response. With a better understanding we might be able to mitigate the threat, reduce its damage or even turn it to our advantage. Sometimes just yielding to a threat, welcoming it, is enough to dissipate its energy, make it more manageable, or less troublesome.

The question is, has CCP's central government misunderstood the evolving threat of HK, once its golden goose? Others continue to recognise the attraction of HK, and its status internationally as a financial and trading centre is fiercely protected by four factors: its ease of doing business; its unique role as nexus between China and the outside world; the rule of law; and the lack of truly viable alternatives.

As the 'people's dictatorship', the CCP is unwittingly sabotaging the wellbeing of HK, and the rest of China. Importantly, CCP is not the only stakeholder with an interest in HK. The CCP, with its shortsighted focus on remaining in power no matter what, thinks that it has something to gain by exerting more authority. This is viewed in a negative way by liberal democrats worldwide, and as a loss by people in HK. They consider CCP's actions that breach the Joint Declaration, destructive and repressive violations of civil liberties.

This violation is further reflected in Xi Jinping's move to establish himself as lifelong president. The CCP comes across as a paper tiger: when it is feeling weak or threatened, its common response is to prompt its supporters and spokespeople to make loud noises and intimidating gestures. The CCP will attack its critics, stomp around and bully, coerce and manipulate, in order to assert its dominance and superiority, to bark - though it has no bite.

The CCP is clearly very afraid of HK's pro-democracy movement, afraid that greater democracy in the SAR will spark demands for more freedom on the mainland. The lawfare that the CCP has embarked on (see our blog) is hardly fair for HK. Through authoritarian governance and coercion, human rights defenders have been tarnished as rioters, terrorists and criminals. Prospective candidates have been disbarred from standing in HK elections for public office based on dubious interpretations of CCP's criteria. The CCP has twisted the law to suit its own ends at the expense of civil liberties in the SAR. The CCP asserts that "One country" holds sway over HK's system, and that it is the ultimate authority to define and redefine the laws that govern the city. The CCP casts itself as God!

From a HK perspective it is very clearly the interference in HK governance, and its elections that are the threat to the Joint Declaration, to the SAR's prosperity and stability, its high degree of autonomy, democratic freedoms and lifestyle.

The aims and purposes of government institutions in HK have been variously subverted for the benefit of Central government and the CCP. The independent HK juduciary together with the HKPF have been directed on more than one occasion by the CCP and by the HK and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) to act against pro-democracy protesters. HKPF, once considered "Asia's finest", have changed the wording of their motto:

-It used to be “Serving with Pride and Care”. Pride is a nice thing in a uniformed force, and “serving with care” carried the pleasing implication that the force was there to help people, care being something not required by corporations or machines.

-The new motto is “Serving Hong Kong with Honour, Duty and Loyalty”. The first part of this about 'honour' is dangerously ambiguous. Which part of HK are we serving? Is it the people, the government, or the liaison office? Loyalty to whom?

-Looking after people and human rights in the SAR just don’t rate a mention.

The CE’s support for the HKPF has hardly blinkered, despite graphic scenes of abuse screened on social media, reports from hospitals of traumatic injuries sustained by protesters at the hands of Police, and anecdotal evidence gathered by media and human rights organisations like the UN, and Amnesty International. The stubborn way in which the CE has insisted the Police have been ‘restrained’, and rejected the calls for an investigation and any accountability mean she and the police have become threats to justice in the SAR and a much-hated public enemy.

There was finally some sound support in a report from Reuters (released 18 March 2020) for long-touted speculation that uniformed officers from the mainland were embedded within the HKPF to bolster their efforts against protesters (see our blog), although they were ostensibly in the SAR to 'monitor' or observe the proceedings. An anonymous diplomat and three other foreign envoys, estimated that China’s government had ramped up the paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP) presence in HK to as many as 4,000 personnel - far more than previously known estimates. Under 2018 reforms, both the PAP and People's Liberation Army (PLA) are under the ultimate command of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who sits at the apex of the Communist Party’s Central Military Commission. HK has its own government, law enforcement bodies and legal system, and the involvement of mainland authorities in HK affairs goes against the 'One country-two systems' framework set up by the CCP at the handover.

On 17 March 2020 it was reported that fledgling committees set up by District Councils to probe alleged abuses by HKPF were being disbanded after the Security Bureau told the councils they were overstepping their authority. This came after a growing chorus of calls from within HK and overseas for the Lam government to establish an independent investigation into the police use of force - one of the HK protesters’ five demands. Those District Councillors, who were elected to office in landslide wins for pro-democracy candidates, are clearly among the few real human rights defenders in the HK government. They represent the will of the majority of the people of HK and have its mandate, as under Article 21.3 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) it states that "the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government."

Though it is much praised, the rule of law in HK post-1997 has always been rather weak, and what CCP has done exploits its vulnerabilities. The HK government is simply not built to stand up to the bullying tactics of Beijing all by itself.

It was hardly a surprise that on 17 March 2020 the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank that is based in Washington finally bumped HK down from its top place. For the first time in 25 years, in the latest Index of Economic Freedom, HK was ranked in second place over regional rival Singapore. While weeks of civil unrest in the city have dampened business sentiment, and Covid-19 will deliver a further blow to its economy, some people say HK's importance to CCP economically has been on the decline for years. It's true that China's GDP has improved immensely, but financially the SAR has expertise and financial stability that are still very important to the CCP. Approximately half of all foreign direct investment into China comes through HK, and all major U.S. financial service institutions have offices in the city. The unique and significant trading status that HK has with the U.S. should not be underestimated, after all the HK dollar is pegged to the US dollar.

Since the coronavirus health crisis hit HK, and its threat has broadened to a global pandemic the streets of the SAR have fallen much quieter. Still, we are at a critical juncture: the demands of the pro-democracy movement have not gone away, and there is still a high expectation that the terms of the Joint Declaration must be honoured by the CCP. China, and HK as part of it, will likely suffer the economic effects of the growing pandemic, as will other nations. Now, more than ever, the time is ripe for bold moves.

Sticking to old ways is not likely to work, and they will be less acceptable to the people too as coronavirus has exposed the flaws and failings of governance whether in China, Italy, U.S.A. or Iran. There is a tectonic shift taking place in geopolitics, one that the CCP's propaganda and censorship alone is unlikely to halt.

HK people are not fools, and they recognise a security threat when one presents itself. In late January and early February (2020) there was growing angst in the city about the potential impact of the spreading coronavirus, and the likely reach of the epidemic into HK. There is a serious question being posed about the timing of the disclosure of information concerning the new coronavirus, and about the integrity and completeness of what the CE and HK government were told. There is a further complication here in that no advice was given in HK against travel to mainland China, and specifically to Wuhan or Hubei province - the epicentre of the outbreak.

It is notable that one effect of the coronavirus crisis is that it has unified people of previously opposing factions-protesters and lawmakers. Some business leaders and pro-Beijing politicians joined pro-democracy and union figures in attacking Carrie Lam’s administration for what they saw as an uncoordinated response to the health threat, and its refusal to seal the border with mainland China to prevent infections.

“Regardless of political opinions, people in HK have already lost confidence in the government of Carrie Lam,” said Mike Lam, chief executive of the AbouThai department store chain. Lam’s stores had reportedly experienced some of the chaos caused by the virus, after receiving almost 100,000 applications for only 3,400 boxes of surgical masks in stock.

The HK government is not alone in being criticised for its handling of the coronavirus crisis, just as other governments have faced their citizens' scorn and anger. The HK government failed in attempts to procure more face masks and safety gear for frontline medical staff. What's different in HK is that there were strong protests demanding that the CE close the borders with mainland China, and it should be noted that HK has 13 entry points for mainlanders to cross into HK. The protests and demands followed on from six months of civil unrest, and years of fighting for democracy and lifestyle freedoms guaranteed under the Joint Declaration signed between China and the British.

Lam’s refusal to completely shut the border with mainland China - largely seen as a move to appease the CCP - inflamed most HKers. A day after the WHO declared the virus a global emergency, a recently formed Hospital Authority Employees Alliance (union) threatened that 6,500 of its members would go on strike if the border stayed open. The WHO recommended all countries try to prevent or reduce cross-border spread of the disease, which had originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. While the WHO said measures taken should avoid unnecessary interference with trade or travel, Lam's response in HK was that closing the border would fuel discrimination against mainlanders. The CE chose to ignore the will of HK people and instead sided with CCP's interests.

Four current and former leaders of the territory’s Liberal Party, which is generally in favor of business, the government and CCP, criticized Lam on the issue. “As the new coronavirus wreaks havoc on the mainland, the only right decision you should make is to immediately close the border,” they wrote to Lam, calling her response hesitant and ineffective.

Three-quarters of the city’s residents agreed, according to a survey by the HK Public Opinion Research Institute released at the time. The same proportion of 156 U.S. business leaders polled by the American Chamber of Commerce in HK also said they wanted the borders closed.

In the face of mounting opposition and more calls from across the political divide, the CE repeatedly dismissed demands for a full border closure, citing logistical and business reasons, and arguing it would be mostly HKers who commute that would suffer.

However, transport and public policy experts disputed this, and have argued Lam’s decision was political, not based on necessity and feasibility. One social administration expert said leaving just a handful of border crossings open risked making the coronavirus outbreak worse, by forcing people to crowd together before entering HK.

The government’s refusal to impose a full shutdown, in part to protect the flow of goods and vital supplies, was also called a “complete con” by a senior figure in the city’s logistics industry.

This has been the CE's modus operandi - to say whatever is necessary to hush critics, even when it does not match with reality. Very few people in HK trust what the CE says, though she did finally close 10 of the border entry points.

Meanwhile, in a commentary published on mainland news website guancha.cn, Tian Feilong, an associate professor at Beihang University’s law school in Beijing, lashed out at policymakers in HK who had been calling for border closure. He said SAR officials had put their own interests above the country’s. “HK authorities are supposed to be accountable to both the city and Beijing, yet ... their logic has always been localist: ‘the burden is yours and the benefits are mine’,” he wrote. “They are good at transferring their burden and pressure to the central government, and fighting for benefits and advantages for the city.” It's not entirely clear to which 'benefits and advantages' the professor was referring, nor the "burden" that central government apparently shoulders. The benefits certainly aren't the ones that are guaranteed HK in the Joint Declaration!

The associate professor, like many CCP protagonists forget that HK's system is here for HK people. It is not for HK to provide for the CCP or the millions in the rest of the country.

CCP is a virus that creates viruses

Xi Jinping and the CCP knew about the virus much earlier than the world did. They allowed it to multiply and spread its contagion, magnifying its impact with the advent of Lunar New Year. CCP are to blame. They hid the truth, and the virus soon became a pandemic.

CCP's handling of the virus outbreak is a failing. They did not contain the coronavirus! Rather, the CCP gave directions to medical professionals including Doctor Li Wenliang, thwarting and restricting the free flow of information, and the effect of this cancelled any intention to contain the virus. The CCP made it impossible for other parts of China and the rest of the world to fully understand and appreciate the nature of the threat it was faced with, so they could take appropriate action to ward off the looming pandemic.

It was the efforts and sacrifices of frontline medical staff and those who supported them who were tasked with the medical emergency presenting itself. We should applaud them! To the outside world it seemed strange that the CCP trumpeted a victory in defeating the virus. This, while lies and misinformation about numbers of deaths, numbers of infected persons, numbers critically ill, details of contact tracing, etc remained unclear. It was obvious that the CCP was again exerting its control to get businesses and manufacturing restarted to minimise the economic damage of the virus outbreak. Rumours abound that there are still infectious hotspots across China.

We all know that with Covid-19 around, we live under the cloud of CCP as a virus that creates viruses, and must adjust to 'a new normal'. Outside mainland China, the world now has a much better understanding of the CCP nonsense HK has to contend with, the party's twisted logic and incompetence, and its inhuman authoritarianism.

We must not be blind or naive about any government response to the pandemic - especially when we know politician's so often protect and praise themselves, and that very few take responsibility when things go wrong.

The CCP needs to be held accountable. How has it undermined the WHO, for instance (see our blog)? Anyone who honestly believes that China has a global leadership role to play is obviously blind to the GLOBAL THREAT they represent.

The CCP does not hold 'national security' at its heart - it does not have a heart. There is no real distinction for the CCP between threats outside of China, and those from within its borders. Additionally CCP sees no difference between the interests of HK and its own interests. It is not right under the Joint Declaration for HK to be played as the pawn, to be sacrificed by the CCP to achieve some intangible greater good. The SAR does not wish to be an accomplice to CCP's human rights atrocities carried out in the name of 'national security'. Nor is it right for HK to suffer just so the CCP can maintain and extend its power base and address CCP security issues - especially those of its own making.

The CCP's failure to uphold the terms of the Joint Declaration is a dishonest betrayal to HKers, to mainlanders who deserve better, to international stakeholders and to the rest of humanity.

A public referendum for the people of HK, as suggested by Wethepeopleofhk.com would provide a mechanism whereby the wrongs of the last 23 years can eventually be put right (see our blogs on referendums here and here). This is about releasing the CCP stranglehold on the city, ending tyranny and charting the way forward.

China has breached the Joint Declaration. Holding a referendum in HK, is the right thing to do. A referendum will recognise the wrong, and correct and cancel out the effect of the breach - so long as the will of the people reflected in the referendum result is heeded.

Such a referendum, endorsed by the British and Chinese, and then acted upon, would allow the Joint Declaration between HK and Beijing to continue.

Jeremiah B.


22 May 2020, At the NPC conference CCP decided to enact National Security Legislation in Hong Kong unilaterally, by enacting it as an annex to the Basic Law. It came as a bombshell to pro-democracy activists and drew scorn worldwide. CCP has immediately responded to critics saying the law will only effect a small number of people. See our related blogs....

CCP swoops in to Hong Kong!

When dark clouds gather....time will tell!

Seeking prosperity and stability for HK


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