By Greg Hodge
Hong Kong’s oppression is worsening, the situation direr than ever expected. Words of encouragement are no longer enough. Verbally condemning the activities of the mainland as a “bully in the playground” no longer has an effect.
In 1997, the United Kingdom leadership anticipated this potential outcome and had a real and understandable lack of trust that Beijing would adhere to its promises. The UK must now follow through. It is time to stop idly watching and fulfil its obligations.
The UK’s recent words of encouragement to Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, provide insight into the core problem. Lam is not elected by Hongkongers and is unable to represent them while lobbying Beijing. She is, indeed, Beijing’s hired hand of oppression over Hong Kong’s population. Despite Beijing’s push to keep the UK away from the fight, the UK must now help solve the problems.
The first rule in the communist handbook is to rebuke any government’s comment on the situation in Hong Kong as an “internal affair” that it has no business in interfering with. The UK must oppose that claim.
In the years leading up to the 1997 Handover, then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher could have simply tossed the keys on the table and said goodbye, but she knew that there needed to be a mechanism to prevent communism from flooding into Hong Kong with its full force.
The mainland and UK governments both signed the agreement. Negotiated terms and expectations are now being violated. The mainland is on record as saying the agreement was merely a historical document, with no effect.
The UK is failing to engage despite being the only country on the planet with a legitimate role and responsibility to do so. There may be much appreciation for the many world leaders who offer their verbal sentiments, but this is the UK’s fight, and it should be embarrassed to see other countries fight its battles, and leave Hong Kong residents to fend for themselves.
Registering the Handover document with the United Nations provided a mechanism which enabled a higher authority to resolve grievances and conflicts. The UK has yet to seek any action, even in the midst of the current emergency.
The framework of One Country, Two Systems was mutually agreed upon as part of Hong Kong’s transfer of sovereignty. The central government now demands “One Country” and the UK demands “Two Systems,” except the two parties are no longer fulfilling their sides of the agreement. Only Beijing is preparing to force Hong Kong’s nearly 8 million residents into communism while the UK and the rest of the world watch passively in silence.
The Hong Kong population is merely the pesky tenant caught in the middle of a 50-year handover contract between the old landlord and the new one. Except the old landlord is not interested anymore and has wandered away from the scene, leaving the tenant, residents in Hong Kong, unprotected against Beijing.
The now-suspended extradition bill, which Lam’s administration claims would close a legal loophole, helped a larger swath of the population to see that its government was under the beck and call of Beijing, and the bill was an opportunity to further subvert the idea of having “Two Systems.” Lam has said the bill is now dead, but the eyes of the population are now open, and the bill is simply the most recent grievance.
Calls have been made in the media for a cease-fire, or a calming of the situation, so that clear heads can enter a discussion. These calls miss the most significant point, that there are two sides to this agreement: the mainland Chinese and the UK government.
These two parties show no signs of meeting. Hong Kong’s government will not fairly represent its population and has no authority to discuss grievances with them or mainland representatives. Meanwhile, local citizens have no seat at the table for direct discussion with a deaf mainland government.
The fact is that asking Hong Kong people and their local puppet government to solve their own problems is naive. The mainland government is unlikely to give in to any request, regardless of how reasonable or calm they are made, and risk another 1.4 billion citizens discovering that large-scale protests work.
Central authorities have also decided to attack Hong Kong from another direction. Citing aviation safety rules, it has given Cathay Pacific no choice but to follow Beijing’s direct instructions in order to avert corporate disaster. Employees affected by this action, clearly not aviation-related, have no access to due process, and have not been convicted of any crime where they are employed.
This slippery slope can dangerously extend to passengers being denied tickets to flights over China airspace for arbitrary reasons. Expect to see Cathay forced to make unscheduled landings on China soil to unload any passenger the mainland wishes to have in custody.
Cathay Pacific cannot take on this bully alone, and the local Hong Kong government will not help it.
It is time now for action, not just thoughts and prayers, from the UK. Stand up to the bully. Urge the United Nations and the world to protect Hong Kong, and Taiwan is clearly next in the queue. Open the UK’s doors to anyone in Hong Kong who want an exit strategy away from forced communism, not merely those with legacy British National (Overseas) passports.
Show the world that international agreements cannot simply be ignored by China. Hong Kong is screaming to the world to be rescued. The UK has an obligation to engage — it has turned a blind eye for far too long.
Greg Hodge is a 57-year-old technology professional in the audio-visual community in Hong Kong and the region. He is a US citizen who has resided in Hong Kong since 2003.
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