In November, more than 1,000 militants moved into the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Only a few were Polytechnic students. In fact, most were not students at all. They brought with them an array of weapons. Not content with that, they set about looting the university stores of dangerous chemicals and anything else they could convert into weapons.
In the following two weeks, Hong Kong saw record levels of violence. Police attempts to restore peace were met by a barrage of “missiles”, petrol bombs and other deadly weapons. By the time it was over, the police had arrested over 1,300 militants. They seized thousands of petrol bombs and nearly 600 assorted weapons, plus explosives and corrosive liquid.
Into the postscript of all this, came the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong (APPG). This was a cross-party collection of politicians. Some sit in the House of Commons, others in the House of Lords. At the last count, the APPG had nine members but there were three main players: Lord Alton of Liverpool, Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle, and Mister Alistair Carmichael, Member of Parliament for Orkney and Shetland. Do not be fooled by the group’s title. APPG members put great store in the parliamentary brand name; they even use the parliamentary crest on their letters, but this APPG has nothing to do with the British Parliament. It is just a collection of politicians who have formed an unofficial pressure group. No one really noticed them until January when they launched an “inquiry” into police handling of the Polytechnic occupation. They set up a website and called for evidence of “police brutality”. And that is when the alarm bells rang. From the outset, it was clear they were not interested in conducting an impartial fact-finding inquiry. They were after evidence of so-called police brutality. Even before launching their “inquiry”, the three main members were making strident criticisms of the Hong Kong police. In particular, Lord Alton wrongly accused the Hong Kong police of major crimes without citing any evidence. Throughout the “inquiry”, he continued to loudly and publicly condemn the police in broad terms.
One thing that the APPG and Stand With Hong Kong have in common is a failure to condemn the violence meted to innocent Hong Kong people for no other reason than not sharing their radical political views and the wanton destruction of public infrastructure and private businesses. The latter had undoubtedly contributed to Hong Kong’s current unprecedented levels of unemployment
Working alongside the APPG was the pressure group Stand With Hong Kong, which has made numerous unsubstantiated inflammatory allegations about China, the Hong Kong SAR government and the Hong Kong police. What it lacks in objectivity, Stand With Hong Kong makes up for in organization and funding. It has chapters in the United States, Australia, Great Britain, and throughout the European Union. It is certainly generous with its cash. It paid for APPG members to visit Hong Kong and is paying an upmarket PR firm, Whitehouse Consultancy, to handle all the inquiry’s administration. One thing that the APPG and Stand With Hong Kong have in common is a failure to condemn the violence meted to innocent Hong Kong people for no other reason than not sharing their radical political views and the wanton destruction of public infrastructure and private businesses. The latter had undoubtedly contributed to Hong Kong’s current unprecedented levels of unemployment.
So where does this leave us? In Stand With Hong Kong, we have an anti-China, anti-police pressure group that has a worldwide reach and plenty of money. We should not be surprised that in pushing its case, it jumped at the chance to bankroll a group of British politicians who clearly would grasp at the first one who can provide them with a convenient forum.
Stand With Hong Kong and the APPG were a marriage of convenience. It seemed no one would stand up to them. That was until 30 retired Hong Kong police officers, who couldn’t stand akimbo seeing their beloved city’s future being hijacked by a small group of political radicals, got together. They were a multicultural mix of Chinese and British men and women, each one grounded in Hong Kong realities. They fired off two documents to the inquiry, one giving an overview of the disturbances and the other focusing on the Polytechnic event. On June 5, one of their number gave evidence over a video link to an APPG panel comprising Lord Alton, Baroness Bennett, and Mr Carmichael.
It did not go well. The panel had not seen the document covering the Polytechnic event. They questioned the retired officer for more than an hour but barely touched on the pivotal Polytechnic event. That was strange because the Polytechnic event was central to their inquiry. Having bombarded the witness with largely irrelevant questions, panel members later dismissed his evidence as being “largely irrelevant”.
Looking back, it is clear the APPG was always a group of contradictions with a dubious agenda. They claimed to support the rule of law but failed to condemn militant violence and outright violations of ordinary citizens’ human rights on many levels. They claimed to support human rights but ignored the rights of the militants’ victims. They want to be seen as impartial adjudicators while continuing to publicly condemn the police without making any serious efforts at ascertaining the gravity and extent of violence and abuse they were subjected to as they tried valiantly to maintain law and order, and their incredible self-restraint while doing so. They portray themselves as objective observers but some are patrons of the pressure group Hong Kong Watch. It does them no credit that the pressure group, Stand With Hong Kong, funds their inquiry.
On a people-to-people level, the residents of Hong Kong and the United Kingdom enjoy a relationship marked overwhelmingly by mutual respect. But in the UK, especially within the political circle, some still cling to the days of empire along with a thinly disguised sense of superiority. Those days are gone. We wish them well but her politicians should save their talents for improving their own country’s governance. Hong Kong will do fine without them. Hong Kong has always done extremely well by the sweat of its own brows!
The authors are retired Hong Kong police officers.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS