Although there were many reasons why the British people voted to leave the European Union in 2016, they all agreed it could not be trusted to look after their interests. In particular, doctrinal obsessions all too often warped its judgment.
After last week’s events in the European Union’s Parliament (EP), Hong Kong people can now understand why Britons voted as they did. After a hasty 20-minute debate, the EP adopted a resolution on Hong Kong which is not only unjust, but also hypocritical. Indeed, its bias is such that it could have been ghost written by the Civic Party, or perhaps by the even wackier London-based think tank, Hong Kong Watch.
The resolution begins by expressing “deep concern” over the proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, as these would “challenge the rule of law”. This, of course, is nonsense, as the proposal simply envisages a mechanism by which Hong Kong, in appropriate cases, and after judicial approval, can return fugitive offenders for trial to the 177 jurisdictions around the world with which it currently has no extradition arrangements, including the other parts of China.
What, however, is most stomach-turning is the resolution’s brazen hypocrisy. Nine European Union member states have already signed extradition treaties with the Chinese mainland, yet the EP bizarrely criticizes Hong Kong for seeking a similar arrangement. Moreover, in recent times, Bulgaria, France, Italy and Spain have all sent criminal suspects back to Beijing for trial, without problem, yet the EP objects to Hong Kong being similarly enabled. It presumably thinks Hong Kong is easy to bully, and too small to defend itself.
The European Union’s Parliament’s resolution is utterly removed from reality. It lacks any objectivity, and distorts the actual situation. Such behavior, however, is by no means uncommon in the EU, and nobody should be surprised at the UK’s decision to quit.
The resolution, moreover, urges the Hong Kong government to “drop all charges against peaceful protesters”, thus parroting the familiar demands made by fanatics to the chief executive. This, of course, is a direct challenge to the rule of law by the EP, and one that seeks to subvert our legal system.
Far from being “peaceful”, the people arrested are suspected of riot, unlawful wounding, criminal damage and unlawful assembly, and the proposal that they should be allowed to escape their just deserts demonstrates a politically-inspired contempt for Hong Kong’s legal system. No EU member state would ever tolerate such behavior, and the EP’s proposal that it should be condoned in Hong Kong graphically exposes its double standards.
Although the police, as they confronted the armed thugs, exercised great restraint, the resolution seeks to blame them for the conflict, not the aggressors. It regurgitates the call for a commission of inquiry, when this would be a waste of time, given that police lines were manifestly attacked by armed rioters, leaving them with no choice but to regularize the situation. Once, moreover, the extremists had smashed their way into the legislature, the world witnessed for itself how they trashed the building, causing damage estimated at HK$50 million (US$6.4million), hardly the actions of “peaceful protesters”.
If the EP is, as it once used to claim, concerned about justice and fair play, it has now tossed them out of the window. It apparently hopes that, by cozying up to the extremists, it can poke China in the eye. In the process, however, it has torpedoed its own credibility, and revealed its moral bankruptcy. Its call, moreover, for the supply of crowd control equipment to the Hong Kong Police Force to be halted is contemptible, not least because the EU’s own police forces regularly apply far tougher tactics.
As was obvious, the force deployed by the Hong Kong police was not only moderate, but also infinitely less than that used by its EU counterparts in riot situations, and about which the EP has had nothing to say.
In France, for example, after the yellow vest protesters took to the streets earlier this year to protest over social conditions, there was a brutal police response. France is one of the few European countries that allow the police to use the LBD-40, a weapon that fires rubber bullets, and this was widely used on the protesters. According to the Interior Ministry, 2,200 yellow vests were injured, and the movement itself claimed that 24 of its members lost eyes because of police action.
However, although the actions of France’s police were incomparably harsher than anything deployed by their Hong Kong counterparts, not a squeak of protest was heard from the EP. Indeed, some French EP members even had the gall to back the resolution. The EP, therefore, needs to remember that, even when hypocrisy is wrapped in an EU flag, it is no less repugnant.
In April, moreover, after the Extinction Rebellion protests erupted in the United Kingdom over climate change, the police clamped down hard, with over 1,000 activists being arrested in London, amid claims of brutality. However, in words that apply equally to Hong Kong, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said he expected the police to “take a firm stance and use the full force of the law”. He then condemned the protesters for “causing misery for the millions of people who are trying to lead their daily lives”.
The EP’s resolution is, therefore, utterly removed from reality. It lacks any objectivity, and distorts the actual situation. Such behavior, however, is by no means uncommon in the EU, and nobody should be surprised at the UK’s decision to quit.
Since the EP adopted its resolution on July 18, an arsenal of TATP explosives, petrol bombs, acidic substances, knives and metal rods has been discovered in Tsuen Wan, clearly intended for use against the police. Also located were gas masks, goggles and paraphernalia associated with anti-extradition bill extremists. A member of the secessionist Hong Kong National Front has, moreover, now been charged with possessing explosives, and further arrests are expected.
Now that the real face of the “peaceful” protest movement has been vividly exposed, may we now expect the EP to adopt a fresh resolution, condemning terrorist activity in Hong Kong and calling for the police to be provided with all the equipment they need to combat it? Dream on. This, after all, is the EU.
The author is a senior counsel, a law professor and criminal justice analyst, and was previously director of public prosecutions of Hong Kong, China.
HONG KONG NEWS