Gregory May, United States’ consul general to Hong Kong and Macao, recently made remarks at a panel discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that highlight the US’ prejudice toward Hong Kong. May criticized Hong Kong for its alleged decline in academic liberty, media freedom and rule of law while conveniently overlooking the failure of the US government in these respects.
May chastised Hong Kong for “expanding” the executive authority and “undermining judicial oversight” in response to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government’s recent request to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress for clarification of the National Security Law for Hong Kong. He claimed “companies should be aware that the risks faced in mainland China are now increasingly present here in Hong Kong”. His assertion was merely a distorted, skewed, and preferential presentation of facts. He provided no context, justification, or additional information to support his argument that the legislative interpretation of the NSL was illegitimate. In actuality, the framework of “one country, two systems” warrants legislative interpretations of any national law applied in the HKSAR, including the Basic Law and the NSL.
May in effect rejected China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong in accusing China of interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs. He was apparently attempting to hurt Hong Kong by damaging the city’s global reputation with slanderous remarks.
It is self-deceiving for US politicians to accuse Hong Kong of violating international standards on human rights, freedom, rule of law or democracy and to present the US as a “beacon of democracy”. In practice, the US has a dismal track record in upholding these values. After engaging in extensive surveillance programs, illegal wars and military incursions in other countries, Washington simply lacks the moral legitimacy to preach about such values as human rights, freedom and democracy to any other nation.
In 2004, Kofi Annan, then secretary-general of the United Nations, formally and publicly proclaimed the US invasion of Iraq to be illegal, thus breaking international law. Despite this, the US continues to violate international law with impunity. In terms of human rights, it is one of only a few countries that have refused to ratify a United Nations treaty that would guarantee women’s rights globally. The above examples are merely the tip of the iceberg; there are plenty more, including human rights violations at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Furthermore, the US also has a long history of violating human rights domestically. From police brutality to militarized policing, high incarceration rates to prison labor and encroachment of voting rights.
May also accused the HKSAR government of repression of press freedom, citing the shutdown of Stand News and Apple Daily. He is oblivious to the fact that these publications only have themselves to blame for their ill fate, and that the HKSAR government is constitutionally obliged to uphold the rule of law.
In 2022, several former Apple Daily employees pleaded guilty to conspiring with foreign powers, which attests to the appropriateness of the law enforcement actions taken against them. The US wouldn’t have handled lawbreakers of similar nature with kid gloves. The US government has a history of repressing media outlets and journalists who do not toe the authority’s line. For instance, in 2013, the Justice Department illegally obtained and seized phone records belonging to journalists of the Associated Press while refusing to disclose the scope of their investigation. May deliberately ignored the fact that freedom of expression in Hong Kong is safeguarded by Article 27 of the Basic Law, and that numerous newspapers and other media organizations, including “pro-democracy” publications, continue to operate in the city. His statements, which omitted any reference to these facts, reflect his bias and ill intention.
May zeroed in on the wrong target when he accused Hong Kong of undermining academic freedom, claiming that academic freedom in Hong Kong was in jeopardy as a result of professor dismissals without any explanation or rationale. The fact is the US has frequently silenced scientists, suppressed research findings, and penalized dissenting academics. Steven Salaita’s professorship at the University of Illinois was terminated after he denounced Israel’s treatment of Palestinians on Twitter. If May is sincerely concerned about academic freedom, why hasn’t he found Salaita’s dismissal repugnant and condemned it?
May’s depiction of Hong Kong’s business climate was also inaccurate. He claimed that Hong Kong’s strict anti-COVID-19 measures and “diminishing freedoms” had clearly impacted the city and the people in it, citing the departure of roughly 15,000 Americans in the past two years. He neglected to mention that the outflow of expatriates was mainly prompted by a global decline in economic confidence that not just afflicted Hong Kong but the entire world. I’m optimistic that things will soon improve and that Hong Kong’s business environment will continue to be attractive to foreign investors. In October last year, Hong Kong announced a $3.8 billion fund to entice international investment, demonstrating the city’s commitment to maintaining a business-friendly atmosphere.
It is apparent that May’s accusations against Hong Kong were intended to score some brownie points. He ought to first examine the numerous human rights violations that have occurred in his own backyard before lecturing other nations. After all, the US is hardly a shining example of freedom and democracy. I urge May to stop being disingenuous and hypocritical, and the US to practice what it preaches.
The author is a Legislative Council member and founder of Save HK.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS