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"Hong Kong has become a proxy for the struggle between China and the West"
Carrie Lam needs to own the decision to suspend our election for a year. Because, if a week is a long time in politics, then a year is an eternity. By having some title to the decision, she can at least show integrity. Granted, Lam may never be a popular leader. Yet she can earn respect by her honesty and framing the decision as in the best interest of Hong Kong.
She should set aside the charade that the decision is based only on the threat of Covid-19. Yes, the pandemic is a factor. But not the only one. Had she opted for a two or three-month suspension, that premiss is sustainable. But a year doesn't wash—especially given the other events we've seen, including disqualifications. The public is justifiable in questioning her reasoning.
Framing the decision as part of a move to 'steady the ship' after a year of mayhem is valid. There is plenty of ammunition. That Hong Kong has become a proxy for the struggle between China and the West, principally the United States is evident. Allied to that, she can cite the stated policy of the opposition to block all legislation and collapse governance.
Localist candidate Gwyneth HO Kwai-nam made their position clear. She asserted that LegCo must be a 'battleground' to fight the Chinese Communist Party. The only conclusion to draw is the opposition's antics and violence that marked the last four years in LegCo would continue. By holding off on the election, Hong Kong has a period to step back, reflect and discuss.
Commentators are suggesting we've entered uncharted constitutional waters. This is not true, although many legal issues need resolving. In 1997, with the LegCo through-train derailed by Patten's last-minute changes, Beijing responded with a provisional LegCo. Anyway, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress will meet on August 8 to discuss the issue and provide direction.
Nonetheless, legal challenges will result as aggrieved parties seek to assert their case—that's right and proper with due process to follow. Whether candidates disqualified in this adjourned election can continue to serve in a provisional LegCo is one question.
For the moderates in the opposition, they face a tough decision. Do they opt to join any provisional LegCo and keep some say, or do they decline to take part? By joining they legitimise the process while also splitting themselves from the radicals. Until now they've acted in lockstep with the 'resistance bloc' of localists. If the moderate opposition declines to take part, then they've left the field open to the pro-establishment types. It's a tough call.
Equally, the West claims to be concerned about events in Hong Kong. In response, they've implemented several measures to punish China and Hong Kong. These actions come against the background of the bigger game that seeks to contain China. Indeed, the 'five-eyes' nations have made their position clear — China needs curbing.
In the years after the Second World War, the tendency has been to see the planet as tidily divided between America and Russia. As Russia's status slipped, a rising China now fills the role of the opponent. Any country that decides not to ally themselves with the United States is deemed as inherently immoral and outside the 'free world'.
Never mind that China doesn't tick all the boxes as a threatening opponent. With a bit of manufactured consent, the West can fan the flames. Events in Hong Kong are ideal for this purpose. For example, get the media to portray the Hong Kong Police as 'brutal' when they didn't kill a single protester in months of rioting.
It is strikingly noticeable that the force used by the US Police in recent months far exceeds that deployed in Hong Kong. Where are the calls for sanctions on the US? Likewise, the provisions of the NSL introduced here are 'draconian'. Meanwhile, similar regulations in the UK and the USA are reasonable.
Likewise, unrest in France and Bahrain earns little or no attention, as the Americans and their cohort also ignore human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. I could go on. It's fair to say the double-standards and hypocrisy know no bounds.
The Chinese always feared Hong Kong could be the Trojan Horse used by the West to seek regime change. The events of last year have reinforced those concerns. Recent moves and statements by the West have done little to persuade them that's not the case.
Asylum for rioters, the relentless criticisms coupled with the military build-up in waters next to China feed deep suspicions. To the Chinese, a British aircraft-carrier heading this way smacks of the 1840s when the UK used gunboats to press its opium trade. Beijing asks is history repeating?
You could argue much of the current noise comes from Trump's struggling election campaign. Plus, the fall-out from the Covid-19 pandemic isn't helping. Indeed, there is an element of truth there.
Even so, the CCP is riding high in public opinion polls with ratings most Western politicians would die for. Given that the CCP has bound the nation to its remit, every criticism from the West strengthens Beijing's hand. Some in the West doesn't appear to understand that nuance.
Meanwhile, the NSL blindsided Hong Kong politicians who lobbied Washington to intervene here. From their public statements, a tone of shock and disbelief cuts through their rote defiance. A few are now starting to realise they over-played their hand while underestimating the willingness of Beijing to act. Many of us warned their anti-China dogma would provoke an unwelcome intervention, and it did.
In this febrile atmosphere of international tension and strident voices, the potential for misunderstandings and miscommunications increases. Carrie Lam had the courage to admit her mistake over the dining-in prohibition. That humility and candidness earned her kudos; she could earn more by a direct and blunt truth about the election suspension.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.