While the central government accuses Hong Kong’s riots of coming close to terrorism, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condones their actions by offering bipartisan congressional support for their multifaceted cause.
Several hundred thousand protesters took to the streets on June 9 after the local administration introduced amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, designed to enable extradition of fugitives with the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, Macao, and over 100 countries. There are an estimated 300 criminal fugitives from the Chinese mainland and a self-confessed killer from Taiwan taking refuge in Hong Kong, totally immune from prosecution for their crimes. Hong Kong has become a haven for criminals escaping the law. And in keeping with international norms, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government (not the Chinese central government) introduced amendments to the ordinance to protect all Hong Kong citizens who have not committed a crime on the Chinese mainland. Only serious offenders — murderers, rapists, etc — would be extradited after a fair trial in Hong Kong to establish that such a crime had been committed. The protection covered political and religious views, race, and any crime that carries a maximum penalty of less than seven years’ imprisonment.
The Basic Law, the constitutional document that supports “one country, two systems”, provides freedoms of expression, speech, and religion. Not one of these has been eroded since the handover in 1997. The current demonstrations are living proof of that. Police intervene only when a demonstration is deemed illegal for safety, crowd control and road-blockage reasons
However, anti-China elements quickly seized the moment and spread fear-mongering rumors that anyone who spoke ill of China could be extradited and face punishment on the mainland. This was completely false, but fear had struck terror in the city. Mass hysteria followed as protests were immediately put into play and hundreds of thousands (not millions as reported by some media) took to the streets in a peaceful manner. But peaceful protests became violent when the anti-China elements smashed into the Legislative Council Complex (the local legislature) and trashed the building, causing more than $1 million in damage. From then on, there were more and more peaceful protests, only violence leading up to outright riots. On June 15, the so-called “extradition bill” was suspended from the Legislative Council list of bills to be debated. It was pronounced dead.
Nevertheless, the protests continued, with the rioters confronting police with steel and wooden poles, gasoline bombs, bricks, and other weapons. The police, naturally, responded with batons, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets. Not once did the police use their heavy-duty anti-riot vehicles and water cannons until more than a week ago. The demonstrations came to a head on Aug 12, when the hard-core rioters, mostly students, took control of one of the busiest airports in the world — Hong Kong International Airport — immobilizing international air services and leaving thousands of passengers stranded.
Two months after the controversial bill was suspended, Pelosi wrote on Aug 13: “The chief executive and Legislative Council must finally, fully meet the legitimate democratic aspirations of the Hong Kong people, as guaranteed under ‘one country, two systems,’ starting by completely and immediately withdrawing the dangerous extradition bill, investigating and ending police violence and granting universal suffrage.” Well, Hong Kong had already suspended the bill. An inquiry has already started into the police handling of the riots, but they will continue to defend themselves as long as they are being attacked. To put things into perspective, rioters have laid siege to a number of police stations without anyone getting seriously injured. Now imagine this being done to police stations in Washington, Chicago, Manila, Paris, or in any South American capital, and we’d probably be talking bloodbaths!
On her webpage, Pelosi adds: “In the Congress, Democrats and Republicans continue to stand united with the people of Hong Kong in demanding their right to a hopeful, free and democratic future.” Every freedom known to mankind is honored in Hong Kong. The Basic Law, the constitutional document that supports “one country, two systems”, provides freedoms of expression, speech, and religion. Not one of these has been eroded since the handover in 1997. The current demonstrations are living proof of that. Police intervene only when a demonstration is deemed illegal for safety, crowd control and road-blockage reasons.
The demonstrators and the US have been calling for “democratic reforms” in Hong Kong. Currently, the 70-seat legislature is 50 percent elected by universal suffrage, in geographic constituencies, and 50 percent by professional peers — doctors, lawyers, trade unions, all district boards, business leaders, property agents, etc. The chief executive is elected by a 1,200-strong electoral college, similar to the president of the United States, who has only 538 in his electoral college.
In accordance with the Basic Law, Beijing offered full universal suffrage to Hong Kong’s 4 million voters in 2014. But due to a major mistake by the pro-establishment camp, to walk out and wait for a colleague’s vote, the counting continued and the “pan-democrats” vetoed the proposal. If the proposal had not been vetoed by the “pan-democrats”, Hong Kong would have had a fully elected legislature by universal suffrage now. However, it is not dead and could be resubmitted for debate when emotions are lowered.
One can understand the position taken by Pelosi and others on Capitol Hill. They have been subjected to intense lobbying by Hong Kong “pan-democrat” lawyer Martin Lee Chu-ming, former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, and a bevy of politicians who secured meetings with Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Pelosi and others. The support promised by the US officials, which received widespread publicity in Hong Kong, spurred the protesters on to greater aspirations that with US backing they could overthrow the Hong Kong administration to achieve complete self-rule.
The author is a former chief information officer of the Hong Kong Special Administration Region government and a veteran journalist.
HONG KONG NEWS