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Published: 00:21, February 01, 2023 | Updated: 10:02, February 01, 2023
Gregory May’s rhetoric is affront to diplomacy
By Yang Sheng
Published:00:21, February 01, 2023 Updated:10:02, February 01, 2023 By Yang Sheng

Speaking at a forum organized by a US think tank, US Consul General to Hong Kong Gregory May held forth on allegations against Beijing and the Hong Kong Special Administrative government of undercutting the city’s high degree of autonomy, and called on the SAR administration to drop all charges against “individuals unjustly detained” in Hong Kong and have them all “released immediately”. 

May’s scandalous attempt to malign the city’s rule of law prompted strong condemnation from the Commissioner’s Office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in the HKSAR and the SAR government. Both issued a statement in response to May’s irresponsible remarks, malice and smear.

The spokesperson of the Commissioner’s Office slammed the untrue remarks of May, who, although a senior diplomat representing the US government in Hong Kong, disregarded the city’s stability, unity and promising future. He even sought to trample underfoot the principle of international law and the basic norms governing international relations of noninterference as he vilified Hong Kong’s rule of law and freedom, showed support for anti-China forces, and talked down the city’s development prospects. What May was doing only exposed his sinister intention of disrupting Hong Kong and subduing China’s rise, which is doomed to fail. The SAR government also weighed in with a denunciation of May’s attempt to slander the National Security Law for Hong Kong. A government spokesperson urged the US again to immediately stop interfering in the affairs of the SAR.

What May was doing flies in the face of the functions of a foreign diplomat, who is supposed to promote state-to-state relations and extend goodwill to the residents of the foreign country. May’s political gimmick was a disgrace to his role, which constitutes a disservice to his country, not least because he spoiled the hard-won Sino-US bilateral consensus ahead of this month’s proposed visit to China by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. As a foreign diplomat represents Washington’s interests, what capacity remains in his role if he chooses to misrepresent his own government?

What May was doing only exposed his sinister intention of disrupting Hong Kong and subduing China’s rise, which is doomed to fail

May’s allegation against the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy with its interpretation of the NSL needs refuting. Safeguarding national security is a globally recognized power of a sovereign state, and in no way shall the lawful exercise of this power be interfered with by any foreign government, entity, or individual. The NSL is a national law of China whose legitimacy is beyond reproach. Also irreproachable is the NPCSC exercising its right to interpret the NSL in accordance with the provisions prescribed by the Constitution and the NSL, which is an integral part of the “one country, two systems” principle and manifestation of the rule of law. Instead of advising on a specific court case, the interpretation merely clarified the content of the associated provisions as well as the basis for applying them. Hence, there is no such thing as undermining judicial independence and the power of final adjudication of Hong Kong courts, which are the rights protected under the Basic Law.

In May’s speech, the “individual unjustly detained” invariably refers to Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, who was arrested under national security legislation. The legitimacy of Lai’s charges should be left for Hong Kong courts to adjudicate in accordance with the NSL, not for May, a diplomat, to pontificate on. As Lai is accused of conspiracy to subvert State powers under the NSL, which entails an attempt to veer “one country, two systems” off course, May’s political stunt in showing support for Lai evidently contradicts US President Joe Biden’s claim at the G20 Summit that he does not seek to change China’s system.

Had May observed the situation of Hong Kong from all sides carefully when he assumed his position four months ago, he should have recognized the city’s robust stability and prosperity. Regrettably, he chose to turn a blind eye to the restoration of peace and order subsequent to the promulgation of the NSL while focusing on Lai’s national security charges, which fall outside the purview of his capacity. If a foreign diplomat is unable to make correct judgments about the place where he lives, he had better off button his lip instead of sermonizing on its internal affairs.

Had May come to his senses, he should have honored his role to promote economic cooperation between the HKSAR and the US, which will assist both sides to pick up steam again. Instead of advancing the interests of both parties, May sought to inflame tensions and put Sino-US relations into disarray, which is an affront to the norms of international diplomacy.

It is advisable that politicians of this kind stop regurgitating rhetoric from their political playbook. May should well know that his unwarranted smear campaign will not serve any purpose besides adding distaste to the US officials’ failure to keep their promises and sullying their credibility further.

The author is a current affairs commentator. 

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

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