Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
Benedict Rogers is co-founder of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission. The name is something of an oxymoron. The Conservative Party is not renowned for it's interest in ‘human rights’. Except, if an issue provides leverage for other agendas. Probably that’s why he was recently denied entry to Hong Kong.
This episode sparked a spat between Beijing and London. Then, to spice things up, it was revealed Beijing took the decision to bar Rogers. Such a matter falls within their jurisdiction, although many expressed surprise at this. The lack of knowledge on the Basic Law is both surprising and troubling. Many of the loud voices raised demonstrated that opinions count for more than legal provisions.
Rogers has a track record of anti-China rhetoric, plus support for fringe groups. An avowed supporter of convicted criminals, he speaks nothing of their victims. We all saw the events of late September 2014, and recognise the truth. The assaults and damage to property cannot be denied. Yet, Rogers and his cohort seek to portray those convicted as political prisoners. In the process, they denigrate our legal system, the police, judges and due process. It escapes Rogers that the convictions arose under a common law system that mirrors English law.
The noise that Rogers makes at his barring lays bear his claims of coming here on a personal visit. There is ample sign that he intended to ferment trouble, whilst scoring cheap points. What is risible is that Rogers is a member of the party that did Hong Kong people the greatest disservice. It was the Conservatives who stripped Hong Kong people of their right of abode in the UK. This tacky act had heavy undertones of racism. But I suppose that's the point. Rogers and his kind cite human rights when it serves their agenda. It’s a useful tool with which to reproach and denigrate.
Moreover, it’s disingenuous of Rogers to get upset at his barring, when the UK does the same. So-called ‘hate-speech’ will earn you a ban. On that basis, Rogers could be excluded from coming here. His utterances and tactics are detestable to many in Hong Kong. Anyway, entering Hong Kong is not a right. It’s a privilege.
An interesting twist is that former governor Chris Patten got drawn into the matter. Patten frequently turns up in Hong Kong. These appearances are mostly tied to selling his books, although when here he can’t resist attacking our judges. The question of banning Patten generated some discussion and hilarity. After all, how’s an aging politician, of diminished status, to make a living. Unless he can peddle his self-serving books in Hong Kong, an income stream dries up.
If nothing else, Patten is a survivor. The man defies the laws of political gravity. He walked away from messing up the poll-tax blaming Thatcher. Next, he overplayed his hand in Hong Kong and sailed away leaving the Hong Kong people to face the music. Later, his chairmanship of the BBC marked a lack of grip and then the cover-up of a sex scandal. To get out of this mess he opted for the old ‘ill-health’ exit strategy.
Hong Kong is about the only place he is welcome these days. A good section of the population here still hold him in high regard. I wonder if these folks know the truth? Are they aware that Patten was shameful in mishandling of the Jimmy Savile case. Then you have his close association with Cardinal George Pell. He's facing multiple sexual abuse charges in Australia.
Patten has written to our Chief Executive demanding answers over the Rogers episode. Bare-faced cheek comes to mind in assessing this move. Anyway, it will amount to nothing. As the weakened United Kingdom struggles to deal with Brexit, it cannot afford to annoy Beijing too much. Crucial trade needs maintaining.
Realpolitik means the Brits will make a few noises, send a few letters, huff and puff … then shut up. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Teresa May is struggling to hold her job; the pound is weakening, business orders are slowing. Thus, other priorities must take precedence. Access to Chinese markets trumps everything. The days when Britain could dispatch a gunboat to force submission are over. Mr Rogers would do well to remember that.
Further, if Mr Rogers has a genuine interest in ‘human rights’ I have a few suggestions that may interest him. And these are nearer to home. For example, he may wish to consider how Conservative Party policies are damaging the basic right to be free of crime or have access to medical care. Then, he could look at how the disabled are being denied access to services. Over to you Mr Rogers.
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.