Thursday 21 November 2019

Why the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” is bad for Hong Kong

It’s been passed by both houses of United States Congress and, as I write, is shortly to be signed into law by Donald Trump.
The Act’s stated aims are in the title. And who could be against Human Rights and Democracy? Isn’t it a motherhood issue?
Well, no it isn’t, because the Act will punish the very people it is intended to help. It will hasten Beijing’s takeover of Hong Kong, the opposite to the aims stated in the title. Both democracy and human rights will be harmed.
We are about to learn, yet again, that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”?
Let me explain.
The Act calls for annual reviews of the situation in Hong Kong. If officials in either Hong Kong or Beijing are deemed to have failed the review in any way there are two forms of punishment:
1.  Punishment of officials in Hong Kong and Beijing.
2.  Removal of Hong Kong Special Status.
Most people appear to see only the First part. That is, officials in Hong Kong and Beijing will be punished by sanctions if they are deemed, by the United States Congress, to have violated human rights or democracy in Hong Kong.
The effects of this part of the Act are arguable, but I won’t dispute them here.
The damaging part to Hong Kong is the second part and the part that is ignored well-meaning folk here and in Washington.
The Second part will remove the special trade and investment conditions that have applied to Hong Kong since the handover in 1997. As a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, Hong Kong has been treated as a separate legal entity in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), in the WHO and in many other International and United Nations bodies. Hong Kong is separate in the Olympic Games, in Cricket, Rugby and Football World Cups and in all sporting World Championships.
In short, Hong Kong is treated as a separate entity in manifold international organisations.
It is this special treatment that underpins the “One Country Two Systems” (OCTS) formula. This formula is to last “at least” until 2047. We have argued that our efforts ought focus on extending the special treatment past 2047, rather than wantonly destroying our city (but that’s a whole ‘ nother issue).
The Act will remove this special treatment if the United States deems the Hong Kong government or Beijing to be in breach of its provisions.
Is it clear how bad this would be for Hong Kong.
Removal of Special Treatment would only hasten the demise of OCTS. It would only speed up our eventual total takeover by Beijing.
It is the people of Hong Kong who would suffer for the alleged misdeeds of our government officials (alleged, note, by the US Congress, whose members have shown themselves woefully ignorant of us and the region).
This is not shooting themselves in the foot; it is not even shooting us in the foot. It is shooting us in the heart.
I blame (a) self-righteous American politicians. The know-nothings, like the Act’s key promoter Senator Ted Cruz who came here and told us “I have seen no violence” — while at the exact time he said that, rioters were busily vandalising the Mongkok subway station and trashing nearby shops. But I blame more than Cruz and his ilk.
I also blame (b) Joshua Wong, the founder of a radical outfit called Demosisto, which boasts all of 25 members.  It was Wong, with three of f his acolytes, who spoke to the United States Congress — imagine, a 24 year old student in front of Congress! — and pressed them to pass the Act. He made a big impression. But he clearly has only the haziest notion of what was in the Act. Or is so blinded by hatred of Hong Kong and Beijing officials that he only sees the first part and ignores the second.  He ignores the wider damage that ordinary Hongkongers will suffer.
But then he doesn’t really care about ordinary Hongkongers, does he? His stormtroopers are trashing the working class areas of Hong Kong. Hitting the livelihoods of ordinary Hongkongers. Nowhere are the fancy properties, the glitzy Malls, of our billionaire Taipans attacked. I  presume Wong and co. are worried the Taipans will take revenge. They didn’t grow up in the days of Triads without learning some good old fashioned knee-capping, after all.
There are other people who have spoken out against the Act. To no avail, clearly.
Most recently today, Alex Lo, the redoubtable.
ADDED: The Hong Kong stock market is not fooled by this “motherhood”Act. It has just opened 3% down.
ADDED (22 November): Editorial against the Act