Hong Kong-based author Nury Vittachi expressed concern about “elements of double standards” shown by Western politicians who opposed a proposed national security law for the city.
The journalist and columnist said the proposed law, which specifically protects sovereignty from domestic terrorism in the city, is being sensationalized to be something much more sinister by some Western countries.
The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia on May 28 accused Beijing of undermining Hong Kong’s freedom and autonomy as it moved to enact a national security law for the special administrative region. “Pretty much every country has a national security law. It’s a default situation internationally,” he said. “Just like a spoon is a natural element of a cutlery set. Well, Hong Kong is saying now, ‘Everyone has a spoon except us.’”
Opponents like Chris Patten, the last British governor before the 1997 handover, are acting like, “They cannot have a spoon. They must be spoon-less forever!” Vittachi opined.
Even the British national security laws cast a wider net, partly because they are relatively old, said Vittachi, who was born in Sri Lanka and has lived and worked in Britain.
High treason, the crime of disloyalty to the crown, still exists in an archaic national security law of the United Kingdom.
“The British got rid of sedition laws for residents (in 1970s), but sedition is still illegal for non-residents aliens,” Vittachi said.
They have a long list of outdated national security laws for both the state and monarchy, yet they are quick to condemn Hong Kong getting a security law, he said.
Vittachi, who moved to Hong Kong in 1987 from Britain, pointed to the 1980s when a committee was organized to draw up the Basic Law, a team which happened to include Martin Lee Chu-ming, one of the leading opponents of the proposed law.
Vittachi noted that at the time Lee did not appear to have any problems with Article 23, which requires the SAR to enact its own national security laws.
“The recent national security law tabled by Beijing has drawn a backlash of fury from opposition and the Western world. Some take the law as foreshadowing see of the demise of Hong Kong’s economic status. A similar deja vu foreshadowing is ‘the death of Hong Kong’ which led up to the handover in 1997,’’ he said.
The article circulating now is “The Lonesome Death of Hong Kong” by Patten, which Vittachi said is almost the same as “The Death of Hong Kong”, published in 1995 by Louis Kraar, a correspondent who had reported on the tumultuous changes in Asia.
“It’s funny to look back at the 1995 article. All these predictions that were going to happen, and the exact opposite occurred. People were nervous that property prices would collapse, instead there was a boom and property prices doubled,” he said.
In the opinion of Vittachi, a co-founder of the Asia-Pacific Writers and Translators Association, the proposed national security law only has a narrow focus —terrorism, insurgency and foreign intervention.
The veteran critic, who had been to many protests in the past decades,said “evidence” of foreign intervention can be found in the city’s prolonged, often-violent protests last year.
This intervention was blatant in some protests, he said, citing as examples placards saying “Defend the constitution” held by non-English speakers.
“That’s a phrase that makes sense in the US, but no sense in Hong Kong. We don’t have a constitution. And what passes as a constitution is the Basic Law, and Hong Kong protesters hate the Basic Law. No one would make a placard saying defend it”, he said.
Vittachi said that whenever he would stop and ask protesters what they meant by “Defend our constitution”, they would just back off.
He warns that intervention from the West is bad for Hong Kong, and no one seems to be doing anything about it.
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