White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said on Sunday that China’s proposed national security legislation for Hong Kong could lead to US sanctions and could jeopardize Hong Kong’s status as a financial hub. “It looks like, with this national security law, they’re going to basically take over Hong Kong,” O’Brien said recently.
This remark is most strange. What exactly does he mean?
China has re-taken over Hong Kong, in 1997. Beijing has always maintained that
even though the United Kingdom had ruled over Hong Kong since 1841, Hong Kong
has always been part of China. The Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984
stipulates that “The Government of the People’s Republic of China declares that
to recover the Hong Kong area (including Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New
Territories, hereinafter referred to as Hong Kong) is the common aspiration of the
entire Chinese people, and that it has decided to resume the exercise of
sovereignty over Hong Kong with effect from 1 July 1997.”
Moreover, among the items laid out under “basic policies of the People’s Republic of China regarding Hong Kong,” the first states:
“Upholding national unity and territorial integrity and taking account of the history of Hong Kong and its realities, the People’s Republic of China has decided to establish, in accordance with the provisions of Article 31 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region upon resuming the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong.”
The national security adviser went on: “And if they do, ... Secretary (of State Mike) Pompeo will likely be unable to certify that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy, and if that happens, there will be sanctions that will be imposed on Hong Kong and China.” This could, then, jeopardize the territory’s special status under US law, and that could hurt Hong Kong’s status as a global financial center. Mr O’Brien certainly knows that the high degree of autonomy is built on the principle of “one country, two systems”, and that this must stand on the foundation of the Basic Law.
Mr O’Brien threatens China with sanctions. But America is imposing sanctions anyway. Take the example of Huawei. America never presented any evidence that Huawei had done anything wrong, but Huawei is sanctioned
The Basic Law is a contract. The Basic Law had gone through years of consultation before its enactment in 1990. It went into effect on July 1, 1997. Under the Basic Law, Beijing promised to allow a high degree of autonomy, and Hong Kong promised to respect China’s territorial integrity. Article 1 of the Basic Law stipulates that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China. Article 23 stipulates that “The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies.”
Beijing has waited 23 years. Hong Kong not only had not enacted the national security laws that it had committed to enact, but also is confronted with blatant advocacy of separatism. Beijing has been patient with Hong Kong, but the secessionists do not just verbally ask for secession but also have rampaged the city with riots, petrol bombs, corrosive acids, and TATP.
May I ask Mr O’Brien: If you were the national security adviser to Beijing, what would you advise?
In April 2019, the “Committee on the Present Danger: China” was launched in the United States, and in an interview, Steven Mosher, a founding member of that committee, said the earlier “Committee on the Present Danger” had engineered a “happy outcome” for America; namely, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and that it now wants to duplicate that success with China, to “bring the misrule of the Communist Party of China to an end.” America is now a self-professed threat to China’s national security.
May I ask Mr O’Brien: Does China have any choice other than to pass a version of the national security law to fit Hong Kong’s circumstances?
Mr Mosher talked about “misrule” by the CPC. May I ask: In what sense? It has lifted over 800 million people from poverty, increased immensely the personal freedoms of people in the country, enacted laws to protect private property and intellectual property rights, significantly improved its social safety net, significantly improved and enforced ecological and environmental laws, and has engaged in international organizations responsibly and actively. China has not waged any war against any country since 1949.
Mr O’Brien threatens China with sanctions. But America is imposing sanctions anyway. Take the example of Huawei. America never presented any evidence that Huawei had done anything wrong, but Huawei is sanctioned. It appears that the sanctions are just motivated by Huawei’s success. The “danger” with respect to the Committee on the Present Danger: China is just China’s success.
But sanctions or no sanctions, China needs to do what is necessary. There is nothing China can do to alter America’s behavior or thinking. But China can do much with safeguarding national security. With national security, Hong Kong will manage to survive. Without national security, Hong Kong is nothing.
The author is a senior economic fellow at the Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
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