Life in fear of collusion - it's a collision!
Updated: Jun 28, 2020
Media organisations in Hong Kong (HK), including the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) and Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) have expressed concern over the proposed National Security Law, stating that it might affect freedom of the press in the city.
Prior to the 1984 signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong the Chinese and the British were in disagreement. The two countries effectively deferred the decision on the Question of Hong Kong to be lawfully answered by the people of HK.
It was NEVER meant to be the collision of Wills that it has become!
Right now in HK we are having a new National Security law (NSL) thrust upon us, and those in authority are telling us that we need its provision to protect our nation, China, and to protect ourselves, HK.
What they aren't telling us is that THEY WANT THE NSL LEGISLATION TO PROTECT THEMSELVES AND THEIR POSITION OF POWER.
On the one hand they say NSL is needed "to put an end to violent protest" and combat 'terrorism' in HK, yet comments from various quarters suggest the real motivation for the legislation may be quite different.
One commentator suggests the iron-fisted approach taken by Beijing with this NSL is "a calculated campaign to initiate a so-called 'second reunification with HK' — since the first reunification after the handover, using a lenient soft-power approach, has supposedly failed." (Simon Shen, Diplomat): [note the parts in BOLD below]
Maria Tam: Deputy Director of Beijing's Basic Law Committee, Maria Tam, is on record stating that HK is a part of China and not a city ruled by the United States. Tam said she hoped HKers, who want to see China's peaceful rise to power, could support the NSL. (RTHK)
Tsang Yok-sing: Former LegCo president Tsang Yok-sing said on Saturday that he does not think Beijing is aiming to use its NSL for HK to disqualify election candidates. The former LegCo president also said that although the SAR and Beijing authorities have been trumpeting the new law as a way to restore peace in HK, it will not immediately extinguish protest violence. Tsang said he thinks Beijing wants to use the new law to stamp out foreign interference in the SAR and prevent a "Hong Kong-style colour revolution". (RTHK)
The Chinese Communist Party CCP and its cadres in our city are bonkers! Their xenophobic paranoia and insecurity about collusion with foreign forces is all out of proportion. They somehow thought they could introduce, formulate and enact complex and significant legislation in just one week! They also may have seriously miscalculated the level of international opposition their intervention is now facing.
China Daily was reporting 'wide-spread support' for the proposed NSL on 20 June 2020, but just 5 days later Elsie Leung, former deputy director of the Basic Law Committee, was defending the NPC decision not to release the full text of the national security law, saying that doing so could prevent social unrest.
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When I was young I was in a one act play at school titled "Us and Them". The drama was about two groups of people who lived separate lives divided by a wall. On stage this was represented with an invisible but nevertheless "real" wall cutting the stage area into two halves, something like once existed between East and West Germany.
In the play, as the story goes, each group lived in fear of the other group on the other side of the wall, whose culture was unknown, whose motivations and values were assumed to be different and dangerous. They each lived under that constant threat and fear, until one day through a chink in the wall one boy and one girl from opposing groups slowly began to learn about one another. They learnt that their groups had similar anxieties, similar needs and problems, and although their cultures weren't exactly the same as one another the differences were not insurmountable. In fact, each group so much wanted the contact with the other, that by play's end the wall was broken down. Sound a little familiar in real life?
I tell you this because while some places have broken down walls, real or imaginary, that have kept nations and people apart, in other places some leaders are still intent on building walls physically, and metaphorically. Things like legislation and diplomacy can either help build positive relationships between nations, or act as barriers. We have to ask whether the walls we build to "protect" ourselves from the outside world are ultimately helpful or harmful? What do we stand to lose or gain from interaction and 'collusion' with foreign powers?
The CCP tends to view National Security as a dichotomy - you're a threat or you are not - when in reality the issue is never that simple. They need to accept that foreign influence is something inevitable, that we can never totally eradicate.
For weeks and weeks we have heard the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials and even more recently our own Chief Executive (CE), Carrie Lam, and her Executive Council (ExCo) repeat the unproven and worn out mantra about "foreign interference" in the internal affairs of China, or that foreign forces are damaging HK. So far as we can tell the whinges from Beijing did not prompt either apologies, or any halt in the criticism from foreign quarters. Of course it's possible that foreign forces were somehow using a different tactic to penetrate and influence China and HK, instead of knocking directly on CCP's metaphorical front door.
The CCP seems to be unfamiliar with the John Donne line 'No man is an island' and appears to believe it can shield itself from the impact of international condemnation. The communist party also seems not to know about 'interdependence', an idea so much more important in an age of globalisation, and taking on new meaning since the Covid-19 pandemic has struck, bringing about a paradigm shift in consciousness. It's made us all so much more aware of the importance of our supply lines, of our interconnectedness, the need for people and nations to cooperate and share information with one another, to care about one another.
When there is a major natural disaster in your country will you refuse assistance from foreigners willing to step in and help? Will it upset you that those willing to offer immediate assistance are Red Crescent workers, Christian missionaries, or donors whose political leanings you know absolutely nothing about? Maybe they will be devout followers of the Falun Gong, Jewish, Black, or Gay?
Internationally we cooperate with one another in matters like weather forecasting, cross border crime, international travel, and freight movement. Banking also has an international twist. Who gets to say what infrastructure, or what businesses in your country gets the much needed financial backing? In reality your government is not the only authority setting the priorities.
How can the energy, aviation, pharmaceutical, shipping, insurance and arms industries develop and grow or survive confined within your own border?
Will your business leaders, academics and leading professionals be able to attend international conferences, to share ideas and learn from one another? Is this collaboration and cooperation also tantamount to collusion?
International sports federations ought to be suspect, as are cultural interchanges, like artist exhibitions or travelling dance and theatre groups. Such international cooperation and openness must be an acceptable form of 'collusion', and if not, why not?
We know with its Great Firewall China can try to block out the internet, to filter the information its own citizens have access to, but in 2020 that exercise seems something of a charade since determined users can 'find a way over the wall'. Doesn't China need the rest of the world if it is to become a global super power? Doesn't China want other countries to trust it, to do business with it?
Didn't China sign the UN Charter? It is one of five Security Council members. Hasn't it signed the ICCPR? CCP and HK must uphold their UN obligations fully (see blog).
The CCP can manufacture as much propaganda as it deems necessary to counter 'foreign forces', but there comes a point when the message is no longer effective with its target audience, or worse it becomes counter-productive. Some observers in HK have said that Nationalist Chinese even believe their own lies that they spread like manure through social media (see blog).
Because it's trying to be selective about what influences it takes on board, China will happily send its scholars overseas to study in foreign universities, taking advantage of a western style education, and happily take part in forced technology transfer of information between companies. Isn't such an arrangement, that exploitation, just another form of collusion that the CCP hypocritically facilitates?
Chinese students and tourists who spend time overseas are only loosely under the mind control of their CCP masters. In reality the CCP does not know who the Chinese traveller meets with, what they talk about, or what they do while they are out of the country. The CCP relies on its vast network of spies - other Chinese citizens who report on one another. Chinese nationals could be influenced in all sorts of ways that the CCP cannot easily control (see blog).
On the other hand China actively recruits foreign nationals to come and work in its cities as teachers, and foreign experts in many fields. We know the foreign nationals working in China are subject to levels of surveillance that are seldom tolerated in more liberal western nations. The CCP cannot really control the influence these foreigners in their midst have. The values and concerns of these foreigners are unlikely to be the same as those of Chinese citizens, and there's a good chance through interaction one another's awareness of the other will increase and values may change. In fact as part of the international workforce they're bound to be more aware of issues like these and China's response to them:
a) animal welfare; extinction, trade and human consumption of exotic animals
b) sustainable fishing and forestry, deforestation
c) green energy initiatives
d) excessive carbon emissions and global warming
e) burning of fossil fuels such as coal
f) climate change response
g) religious persecution
h) racism, BLM, discrimination
i) LGBTQI issues including discrimination
j) Nobel prize awards
k) treatment of women e.g. India's rape crisis, female circumcision, 1 child families
l) treatment of migrant workers in HK, Singapore, Dubai
m) use of child labour, slavery
n) Rohingya crisis in Myanmar
o) refugees and asylum seekers in HK, Australia,
p) nuclear weapons, arms agreements
r) food safety
s) the source and cause of viruses and pandemics
t) human trafficking
v) drug manufacturing and trafficking
w) cyber crime
x) dictatorship of the people and socialism with Chinese characteristics
y) rule of law, arbitrary detention
z) organ harvesting
“China will not tolerate any foreign forces intervening in HK affairs, nor will it allow any foreign forces to disrupt HK,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing. “We advise the United States to take back their black hands in HK as early as possible, " she said.
We thought China was meant to be "opening up", but apparently since the Tiananmen Square incident that process has stagnated somewhat. From HK's point of view it is the CCP which is intervening in our city's affairs, especially it's independent judiciary and rule of law.
In October of 2019, the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, claimed 'foreign forces' were behind the 'unacceptable violence' in HK. He also took aim at foreign media, complaining that some of them “call this violence democratic and peaceful, in total disregard to reality”.
These [foreign] media outlets “do not hesitate to describe the actions of the police as violence. If such allegations can be perceived as reality, how can we imagine that there is still justice in this world?”
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It seems that cooperation could be considered 'collusion'. When we seek help from others it's not always clear when we are being manipulated, or controlled, and like with puppets it's not always clear who is pulling the strings. Foreigners are well known to provide financial assistance or aid, but they can also provide things like training, and less tangible emotional, intellectual and psychological support. It's very hard to tell when the aid and support given, like that given by China to those nations in Africa, is offered freely.
At some point we have to ask whether the aid given has strings and obligations attached? When does the guidance given become something stronger like direction or command? Did we ask for this assistance, and do we really need it, or are we being sold a 'lemon'? Who is receiving the aid and why are they in need? Who's the victim here, us or them?
And sometimes, so it is claimed, international donors apply pre-conditions, or exert pressure on aid recipients. Not every country likes its aid arrangements to be made public.
In March 2019 a former HK government minister was found guilty and sentenced to three years in a U.S. prison for bribing officials in Chad and Uganda in exchange for contracts for a Chinese energy company. Chi Ping Patrick Ho was released and returned to HK after serving his jail time in June 2020. When collusion becomes corruption and breaks international law, then justice should be served.
When it comes to doing business across borders with foreign associates, can our dealings with one another ever amount to collusion? All sorts of shady things can go in back rooms and board rooms of multinationals and conglomerates, with dictators and governments of every hue and persuasion - and often in the name of business, diplomacy, reciprocating, trade, negotiation, friendship.
A case in point concerns Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou arrested in Canada and facing an extradition request to the US. Correspondingly we have seen the subsequent arbitrary arrest, detention and charges of spying of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in China.
What is good for the goose is good for the gander!
[Update] 24 June 2020 The Global and Mail 'China suggests it will free Kovrig and Spavor if Canada allows Huawei executive Meng to return home'. “'Such options are within the rule of law and could open up space for resolution to the situation of the two Canadians,'” Mr. Zhao said, according to the official English translation of his remarks published by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs." Rule of law?? Therefore no national of any country is safe from CCP's collusion within China and soon to be under the new NSL HK and beyond!
Language can put a positive spin on any skullduggery, or tar and feather potentially good things. This is the reality of geopolitics!
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By December 2019 the CCP narrative about 'foreign meddling' was wearing thin. However, in its explanation for the continuing protests in the SAR, it cited cases of foreign politicians voicing support for democracy or raising concerns about its erosion under Chinese rule as proof of interference. It has also blamed Washington for passing a law mandating an annual assessment of HK's political freedoms as a pre-condition for continuing the SAR's special trading status.
We can see in the cut and thrust of diplomatic and trade matters between China and the US, between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump, that relationships between two different states are far from straightforward.
It was hardly a shock in HK this week when the wording of the NSL drafted for the city by the NPC was released, included an additional clause about 'collusion with foreign forces'. Leading opposition politicians and activists in HK fear such a charge under the security legislation will become a “new weapon” to silence them. However, other legal experts claimed the change merely brought the legislation in line with mainland China’s criminal law, as a top Beijing official had earlier said was necessary.
This is an example of CCP's imposition of rule BY law instead of upholding its obligations to the Joint Declaration it agreed to and signed, and respecting HK's rule OF law. The CCP was never meant to be in charge in HK!
Under Article 23 of HK's Basic Law, the NSL was meant to prohibit seven types of activity: treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the central government, theft of state secrets, the hosting of political activities by foreign political organisations or bodies, and the establishment of ties between local and foreign political organisations.
The HK government has launched an awful widespread media campaign promoting the need and wisdom of the NSL, backed up with video clips from by CCP cadres. Too bad that the expensive campaign lacks any details whatsoever of the impending legislation, because little has been made public! The most offensive suggestion is that it is "the duty" of HKers to support the NSL. The hypocrisy of it! How about the duty of the HK government to preserve human life from Covid-19, or its duty to the minorities and children in the city? I could go on.
What Beijing is planting in HK may fit the bill, however, the charge of "collusion" was missing in the resolution that China’s parliament approved in May. The resolution passed then had only said the legislation would criminalise “activities of foreign and external forces to interfere in the affairs” of HK. 'Semantics!' you may protest, but when it makes the difference between being found guilty or not, a jail term of 2 years instead of 10years, or a trial in HK as opposed to one on the mainland, then semantics are extremely important.
It's quite disturbing to many in HK that a few CCP officials in Beijing get to dictate the terms for HK, and that we here have to somehow make our laws fit their legal system - and while the NSL might nod to the 'one country' part of the 'One country, two systems' principal, it altogether foregoes the 'two systems' part of it.
Back in 1997, it was the agreement between China and the UK that the Special Administrative Region (SAR) would enjoy a "high degree of autonomy." Now, it's 2020, and the terms of that legally binding agreement are being completely ignored by CCP and their HK cronies!
Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok, the legal sector representative, said including collusion in the NSL was a “shocking concept” for an international city such as Hong Kong.
“We frequently come across consuls general, foreign legislators, officials, academics and journalists,” Kwok said. “We would talk to them about HK and they would talk to us about international affairs that are of interest to them. Are they saying that all those would be deemed as colluding with foreign forces, hence [it] would become a criminal activity going forward? That is ridiculous.”
So, what exactly has to happen? What do we have to actually do for that action to be considered such a transgression against the security of HK and of China that it warrants a charge of collusion with a foreign force? The CCP has got us all trying to figure out:
What is collusion, what is not?
What is acceptable, what is not?
What is foreign, what is Han?
What is peaceful, what is violent?
What constitutes rule OF law versus rule BY law?
Apart from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 21.3 where does the HK government get it's authority from?
Is the bottomline the Basic Law or the Joint Declaration?
The longer the CCP takes to release the details of the NSL the more likely it is they can get away with their nonsense, in the same way that autonomy in HK has been gradually eroded over time with successive breaches of the Joint Declaration. While some reports say the draft NSL will offer clear definitions, others predict that in typical CCP-style the definitions will be loose enough to meet whatever purpose they deem necessary now and in the future.
The CCP is deliberately trying to confuse us all and divert attention from issues more important to HK than the NSL that it refuses to address!
Amid the tensions between US, China and Canada, there is some ongoing haggling about the value of the two Canadians detained in China, compared with the value of Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei who has been under house arrest in Vancouver for the past 18 months. The media and the diplomats involved seem to all be upping the ante: