Published: 18:00, May 26, 2024
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SAR in the crosshairs as political rhetoric heats up
By Bill Condon

Across the globe, people are bracing themselves for the accelerating pace and monotonous 24/7 media coverage of the United States presidential election. Regrettably, as the political circus gains momentum, the American public and international media will be inundated with dumbed-down coverage, false narratives and promises until November.

It is hardly surprising that even in Western countries, significant numbers of people are questioning the credibility and ability of either candidate to perform their constitutional duties adequately or in a mildly professional manner. Intelligent leadership has not been evident in the past two terms of office, so the likelihood of anything different in the coming term is slim. 

The US, once the beacon of democracy, is now facing a rapid decline in its hegemonic role. This decline has sparked a wave of disillusionment, particularly among people of color and younger generations, who question the validity of the democratic model and their political elite.

The American system seems unable to address today’s massive social issues, with many aspects long considered broken or damaged. Ordinary Americans are increasingly angry that the government does not listen to or respect their undoubtedly polarized and manipulated opinions.

For example, a recent report from the US House Judiciary Committee and its Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government cites damning reports of the Biden administration’s media manipulation.

“This interim report details the monthslong campaign by the Biden White House to coerce large companies, namely Meta (parent company of Facebook), Alphabet (parent company of YouTube), and Amazon, to censor books, videos, posts, and other content online. By the end of 2021, Facebook, YouTube, and Amazon changed their content moderation policies in ways that were directly responsive to criticism from the Biden Administration.”

The ongoing student protests and often brutal treatment by police officers arresting peaceful demonstrators is shocking and provides another example of the diminishing freedom of speech in the US. The weaponization of antisemitism to justify somehow the genocide that is occurring in Palestine is another example of a distorted narrative. 

Unfortunately, such military activity is good for jobs in Alabama, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and some 40 American states. Sadly, the term “leader of the free world” has not been applicable for many decades. 

As geopolitical rhetoric gears up in the war to win voters and deflect from the tide of social problems facing many Americans, China and its Hong Kong Special Administrative Region are in the crosshairs

The US government would be better served by focusing on its internal problems and repairing its broken and disintegrating rural and urban infrastructure. Social issues like violent crime, drug abuse, homelessness, and a crumbling education system could be worthy investment alternatives instead of channeling funding into industries that benefit from conflicts.

Recent reports from business-news channel CNBC paint a stark picture of wealth inequality in the US. By the end of the fourth quarter of 2023, the top 1 percent controlled a staggering $44 trillion, an increase of $2 trillion in that quarter alone. This disparity is mirrored in the stock market, where the top 1 percent own half of all individually held stocks. To put this into perspective, the nation’s GDP for 2023 was under $23 trillion. The stock market continues to soar, fueled by technology stocks and in part by corporations with strong ties to the US military, highlighting the economic dependence on weapons of war.

According to a research report published by Pew Research Center in December, some findings indicate the reality of daily life for most Americans. “An overwhelming majority of Americans (79 percent) express a negative sentiment when asked to describe politics in the United States these days”; “For the first time in over 30 years of public opinion polling, Americans’ views of the US Supreme Court are more negative than positive” and tragically “The number of US children and teens killed by gunfire rose 50 percent in just two years.”

US President Joe Biden recently explained the economic benefits of providing artillery and military equipment for the Ukraine conflict. US military support for external parties drives demand for more American-manufactured military equipment presumably with even more sophisticated and dangerous capabilities. As a result, the government’s military machine plays a significant role in job creation.

Sadly, we can apply the same rationale to the war in Palestine and the many other countries affected by divisive US foreign policy, where the economics of war seem to outweigh humanitarian principles, with massive losses of life and devastation occurring in countries the US government is purportedly helping. Then, commercial reconstruction opportunities follow. Could this be a conflict of interest?

As geopolitical rhetoric gears up in the war to win voters and deflect from the tide of social problems facing many Americans, China and its Hong Kong Special Administrative Region are in the crosshairs. 

Threats and attacks against China emanate mainly from the US, but the British Conservative Party leadership, although its days in power are numbered, tends to follow US policy, whatever the costs. Attack rather than engage in meaningful dialogue seems to be the unofficial mantra, while the carefully orchestrated media bites emanating from Washington and London directly conflict with government actions.

Under the guise of the implementation of Article 23 (of the Basic Law) and the introduction of the national security laws, US and British geopolitical media machines have been relentlessly churning out elaborate misinformation campaigns designed to demonize China and announce the demise of Hong Kong.

In the run-up to the debate and review of the proposed national security legislation by the Legislative Council of the HKSAR, a Bloomberg article suggested that the HKSAR government was planning to ban popular social media platforms, Facebook and YouTube. In reality, it is the US government that is banning or dismantling a significant social media platform, TikTok. 

However, false media narratives are not new; they are designed to undermine and erode confidence and damage Hong Kong’s international reputation.

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) raised concerns about the “erosion of press freedom” in Hong Kong. They regularly cite the trial of tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, which under due process is reported on daily. Yet the US and British governments are complicit in the incarceration of Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, who has been pursued relentlessly and been incarcerated in London’s Belmarsh high-security prison for over five years. His crime was bringing alleged war crimes committed by the US into the public domain. If extradited to the US, he could face the death penalty.

In a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, nonprofit organization headquartered in New York, as of May 24, preliminary investigations showed at least 105 journalists and media workers had been killed in Palestine, a significant number by US munitions.

Once again, double standards are being applied to China and the Hong Kong SAR, and there is a massive disconnect between the American and British governments’ words and their actions.

The British government introduced new national security laws in 2023 to counter foreign influence and espionage, which Parliament passed in just over two months. However, they were not threatened with sanctions. Yet, the CECC’s recent report recommended that the US impose sanctions on Hong Kong judges who handle national security cases. 

Is it possible to perceive this as anything other than a direct attack on the “one country, two systems” principle? This principle, which accommodates Hong Kong’s common law system, is widely regarded and internationally recognized for its influence on legal principles, safeguarding individual rights, and its profound impact on legal systems across numerous nations.

National sovereignty and the protection of national security are inherently interconnected, and sovereign equality is a fundamental norm in international relations. The Charter of the United Nations explicitly upholds this principle. Consequently, most countries have implemented legislation relating to national security in some capacity.

Hong Kong’s domestic national security law was passed over two months ago, and for most people living in, working in or visiting the city, nothing has changed. Unfortunately, the constant media noise is unsettling for many. 

However, now that the law is in place, the government must focus on energizing the economy, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises, and respect the components fundamental to “one country, two systems” and the city’s role as an international connector.

The author is a Hong Kong-based entrepreneur.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.