As it is such a hot subject, we are replacing the China news this week with a recent dialogue about the Security Law proposed by China for Hong Kong. This is a real dialogue between real people. The only thing that is made up is Norman Chan’s name.
My young friend, Norman Chan, disagrees with my support of China for the Chinese security legislation for Hong Kong.
Norman: What is really in the mind of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) when introducing this controversial act into Hong Kong? Every country, organisation or individual tries to maximise its interest, in one way or another. My previous academic training cautions that a purely “utilitarian” approach seems to explain everything but does not do so in fact.
In simple terms, no “reasonable man” acts against his own good. However:
- Was there enough, proportionate and correct information to make the decision?
- If there was enough data, do people always make the right choice?
- Are “other considerations” that those outside the decision-taking process do not comprehended?
To me, the option last sounds most plausible.
Lik Hang: Why be so mysterious and sinister, Norman? Surely the answer IS simple. The SAR Government lacks the will or the tools to control the rioting in Hong Kong. Everyone agrees that China is the ultimate authority legally and morally. China is surely not only allowed to but obliged to take steps to keep law and order?
Norman: How does putting an end to the special international status given to Hong Kong, miraculous in international history, help Hong Kong, Lik Hang? Nobody could have foreseen this in a thousand years. How come that an important function of Hong Kong can be usurped by others? Why cannot the other part of the bargain come about at the same time?
A city established, monitored and co-governed by international treaties requires cooperation from all involved. It ought not to be a “zero-sum” game. If one side takes all, the other will simply leave the table and thus the game ends.
If there is only a security law but no genuine universal suffrage, CPC takes all and Uncle Sam leaves the table.
Lik Hang: You are wrong here, Norman. The Joint Declaration (this is between the UK and China only, remember) makes it clear that China has the ultimate responsibility for Hong Kong. This was the case for over 2000 years before the British took Hong Kong from China. Not even the British, let alone the Americans or other foreign powers, have any right to intervene.
I see you are also making a point about the pledge in the Joint Declaration to introduce democracy “when the time is right”. How can the time be right now or previously, when there is rioting and damage almost every day in Hong Kong by extremists?
Norman: In negotiations, neither side should ask for what the other cannot afford. Both need to give a piece of flesh to get a deal. There is no such a thing as “winner takes all”. With this security law, Hong Kong becomes just another Chinese city.
And please don’t use the recent violence as an excuse not to introduce democracy. Hong Kong people were very peaceful from 1984 to 2019. 36 years of waiting has gone and there was no fulfilment of the promise.
Lik Hang: The Hong Kong democrats had their chance in 2017 when the SAR Government put forward proposals for starting a more democratic election process. But they could not agree among themselves and the vote was lost. Hong Kong lost its best opportunity to move forward. How foolish that was!
Norman Chan: The security law removes Hong Kong’s uniqueness. So, I ask, can Hong Kong be replicated? And if there is no need for Hong Kong’s uniqueness, Lik Hang, then why not just move everything to somewhere else? Mainland Chinese do business in London, New York, Toronto. Westerners can visit Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and other Chinese cities.
Lik Hang: Hong Kong’s uniqueness is not affected by this law, Norman. Many Chinese ministers and senior officials have commented publicly in the Western media that this will not affect Hong Kong’s laws, justice or procedures. In other words, nothing will change in Hong Kong except the treatment of offences under the security legislation. You may not believe these words. But they have been said – and very publicly. Time will show who is right. My strong feeling is that Hong Kong has great value to China in many ways and will continue to do so.
Norman Chan: I can read all these words daily in the official channels of CPC. Your responses are ‘copy and paste’ of CPC propaganda. And we can copy and paste from CPC officials in English too these days. Look, Lik Hang, I agree that the Western powers and so-called democracies are biased against China. I agree that this has elements of racism and colonialism. And I agree that all Governments are hypo-critical in their own interests. But this law is bad for Hong Kong – and that’s my bottom line.
Lik Hang: For the moment we’ll agree to disagree Norman then! Thanks for your frank views. We’ll all just have to wait and see what happens inside Hong Kong, in China and in the rest of the world.