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Tuesday, November 19, 2019, 20:28
London attack: Wake-up call to UK
By Grenville Cross
Tuesday, November 19, 2019, 20:28 By Grenville Cross

While visiting London on an official visit last week, the Secretary for Justice, Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, was injured during a protest. Having left her car to walk to the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in Holborn, where she was to give a speech, she was confronted by hostile protesters, some of whom were proclaiming “murderer”, “shame on you”, and “five demands, not one less”. Quite clearly, this was an ambush organized by the usual suspects, and the customary violence then ensued.

What happened, according to the Institute, is that Cheng, who ended up on the ground, was “assaulted by a crowd” as she tried to enter the building, and “sustained an injury to her arm”. The Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, later visited her in hospital, and the Metropolitan Police are now conducting a criminal investigation. 

Why the mob should have accused Cheng of being a “murderer” is perplexing. After all, the Hong Kong police force, during five months of violent protest, has shown huge restraint, and killed nobody. The only murderous conduct is that associated with the rioters.Whoever attacked Cheng has committed the offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. In England, this offence, upon conviction, carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, as well as a fine, and the perpetrators must face condign punishment.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that many people in the UK are being misled in various ways over what is actually happening in Hong Kong, and of the murderous activities of the black-clad thugs

On the same day that Cheng was assaulted, a protest-related murder occurred. This was after a black-clad killer hit a 70-year-old street cleaner called Luo on the head with a brick in Sheung Shui. He apparently attracted the mob’s ire for using a mobile phone to film their attack on local residents who were removing debris at lunchtime, and they have now taken his life as punishment.

Prior to this, in Ma On Shan, another black-clad thug attempted to murder an elderly man, who dared to express a contrary opinion to the mob. This time, the victim, a father of two daughters, was doused with liquid and set alight, causing horrific burns, which may yet claim his life.

The other attempted murder involved the pro-government legislator, Junius Ho Kwan-yiu. Confronted by a stranger, who shouted “scum”, Ho was stabbed in the chest while out campaigning for a District Council seat in Tuen Mun. 

In the space of just a few days, therefore, hostile forces have murdered one civilian and tried to murder two others,  and the whole world, if it so chooses, can now see them in their true colors.

Although the protesters who attacked Cheng apparently live in England, it seems highly unlikely that they were unaware of these murderous episodes, or at least some of them. However, this possibility cannot be completely excluded, given the alarming levels of anti-China bias that now pervade some areas of British national life.

The BBC, for example, already condemned in the UK for its consistently anti-Brexit reportage, plays up every story which puts the Hong Kong government and the police force in a bad light, and often downplays the violence of the protest movement. When it reports on latest developments in Hong Kong, it regularly gives airtime to distortion merchants, like Joshua Wong Chi-fung, and shuns objective commentators. Nobody, therefore, should be surprised if British viewers are often ignorant of the full extent of the ongoing violence, or of the reasons for it.

After Cheng was attacked, moreover, Tom Tugendhat, a Conservative Party politician who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) of Britain’s House of Commons, deplored the violence, saying it was “not right”. Although this was all well and good, there is much about the FAC itself which is also “not right”. 

Under Tugendhat’s chairmanship, the FAC has become a highly partisan body, displaying deplorable judgment. Whenever it considers China and the situation in Hong Kong, it allows itself to be led up the garden path by the likes of veteran Sinophobe Chris Patten, a former governor, and the wacky fantasist, Benedict Rogers, founder of Hong Kong Watch, a notorious think tank which dabbles in anti-China propaganda.

In consequence, the FAC produces reports which are factually inaccurate, and devoid of balance. Although they have ulterior motives, they are all craftily packaged to give the impression that they are being made out of concern for Hong Kong, whereas the reverse is true.

On Nov 5, for example, the FAC called on the UK government to review the arrangement by which British judges sit on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal, claiming their presence aligns the UK with a system that is “undermining the rule of law”.

If the FAC gets its way, this will deprive Hong Kong of some very experienced judges, and their expertise would certainly be missed. At present, for example, the president of the UK Supreme Court, Baroness Brenda Hale, along with her two predecessors, Lords Neuberger and Phillips, are non-permanent judges of the court, and the presence of overseas judges has enriched Hong Kong’s jurisprudence since 1997. It is regrettable, therefore, that Tugendhat is now scheming away to undermine an arrangement which has proved so beneficial for the rule of law.

Indeed, in the US-based World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index 2019, Hong Kong was ranked as 16th, out of the 126 countries and jurisdictions surveyed. Although this was slightly behind the UK, at 12th, it was ahead of the US, on 20th. However, Tugendhat suppressed all mention of this ranking from the FAC report, presumably because it does not sit comfortably with its crude China bashing.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that many people in the UK are being misled in various ways over what is actually happening in Hong Kong, and of the murderous activities of the black-clad thugs.

It must be hoped, however, that the UK’s new foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, will not allow himself to be hoodwinked by the FAC. Whereas his predecessor, the immature Jeremy Hunt, was led by the nose by the likes of Tugendhat, Patten and Rogers, the initial signs are that Raab exercises real judgment of his own. In the UK’s latest six-monthly Hong Kong report, for example, issued on Oct 31, he showed some long overdue realism when he made clear that the violence of a “hard-core minority cannot be condoned”.

Whether the UK Consul General in Hong Kong, Andrew Heyn, is having more success in explaining things to Raab than he did to Hunt is not known, but this is certainly a possibility. He must now seek to ensure that Raab understands that concerted efforts are being made by the rioters to destroy Hong Kong, and that, following the firebombing last week of the Sha Tin Law Courts, even the judiciary is now under threat. If Raab were to take up Tugendhat’s proposal to remove British judges, it would be yet another assault on the judicial system.

Even though he may already be a lost cause, blinded by prejudice, Heyn should not wholly give up on also trying to explain things to Tugendhat. Heyn’s candor may even, after the distortions of Patten and Rogers, actually come as a breath of fresh air for him. After all, like Raab, Tugendhat should be able to understand that the destruction of Hong Kong benefits nobody.

The attack on Cheng may have given Raab, Tugendhat and the BBC a tiny insight into the violence which the Hong Kong public now face daily. If so, it might yet even be a wake-up call. Everybody must hope, therefore, that Heyn will do his best to make sure it is.

The author is a senior counsel, law professor and criminal justice analyst, and was previously the director of public prosecutions of Hong Kong.

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