Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
Amnesty International's report on Hong Kong spurred another torrent of hypocrisy from the United States and the United Kingdom. How dare they comment on the human rights situation in Hong Kong? Their conceit removes any semblance of credibility.
Britain, a country pulling itself apart over Brexit, breaks-off from self-immolation to criticise us. Is this a joke? Britain, where the streets flow with the blood of knife victims, dares to suggest we could do better. A country that has food banks to feed the working poor, and where rampant crime goes unchecked. Meanwhile, the stretched police summon up the manpower to deal with so-called ‘hate-speech’. Much of which is nothing more than some thin-skinned individual taking offence or losing an argument.
At the same time, curtailed freedom of speech and compelled words are enforced by the law. Soon only the opinions and views of the liberal elite will be heard. Even esteemed institutions, such as Cambridge University, impose bans on speakers with whom a few delicate souls disagree. Jordan Peterson is the latest victim. Imagine if they’d banned Darwin or Newton. Don’t laugh, the way things are going Professor Brian Cox faces exclusion for stating the Earth is about four billion years old.
Likewise, the United States. The nation that ran secret prisons and rendition feels obliged to weigh into our extradition discussions. The land that sees children slaughtered in their classrooms at the hands of gunmen doesn’t pause to consider its moral authority to lecture us. At least Hong Kong kids don’t need to practice ‘active shooter’ escape drills or have armed guards at schools.
Amnesty International’s position that human rights in Hong Kong are in rapid decline is a staggering suggestion. For starters, Amnesty provides scant evidence for this claim. Further, it portrays the rule of law as suppression. The prosecution of rioters and people who unlawfully blocked our roads is not acceptable to Amnesty.
Thus, it was rather pleasant to hear the Radio 3 Backchat presenters deconstruct the wafer-thin arguments put forward by Amnesty's representative. Tam Man-kei, Director of Amnesty Hong Kong, was on the ropes. His fight to justify Amnesty’s claims faltered in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence. The problem is those outside Hong Kong have no such insight; thus they rely on these distorted Amnesty reports. This irresponsible falsehood spreads across the world without any balance.
I would also question the honesty of Amnesty International’s reporting given what we now know about the operations of the organisation. Following complaints and suicides, an investigation found Amnesty operated with a ‘bullying, sexist and racist’ culture. Hardly a finding that compels one to believe their reports.
Hong Kong’s position suffers further from the antics of disgruntled former senior officials. A few appear hell-bent on portraying us in a bad light. Topping that list is Anson Maria Elizabeth Chan Fang On-sang, GBM, GCMG, CBE, JP, our former Chief Secretary. This lady keeps herself busy by bad mouthing Hong Kong in Washington.
Anson Chan is a complex character, who portrays herself as the 'conscience of Hong Kong’. A misplaced title when viewed against her actions. Born as a twin in Shanghai, her family fled to Hong Kong in 1948 as the communists seized power.
She put herself through university after her father died and the mother went off to the United Kingdom. Chan was left behind with her Grandma. In 1962, she joined the Hong Kong Civil Service. She was one of only two women to be selected that year, in what was a male-dominated British colonial regime — commendable stuff.
I have to say I don't remember her championing democracy at any time while in government, before or after 1997. The opposite is true — she was a staunch advocate of the colonial status quo. Moreover, she worked tirelessly to sell the Joint Declaration to the people of Hong Kong. Symbolically, she stood centre stage at the handover ceremony, the very physical embodiment of the process. Now she’s relentless in her critique.
How did it come to this? Some have suggested that after 1997, she lost a power struggle to realise she'd never be Chief Executive. At the same time, she suddenly develops an ardent interest in democracy. Her selling of the handover arrangements now swept aside. Indeed, she appears keen to paper over that.
Chan is a gifted speaker, who sounds plausible and has used her talent to snipe at her former colleagues. These attacks often come with amnesia about her failings. She criticised Carrie Lam for ignoring due process over the Museum saga, forgetting her actions in the Kwok Ah-nui case. Her comments about the confusion in government side-step her chaotic handling of the new airport opening in 1998.
Also, who can forget her notable short appearance at a democratic rally before rushing away for a hair fix? She made her priorities clear at that time. Her think tank consists of former colonial civil servants. The unkind would suggest that these people are missing their days of power. Worse, Chan and her band of old colonials exhibit all the telling signs of a Messiah complex. They see themselves as the self-appointed guardians of the common folk.
She knows that fronting up in Washington at a time of heightened tensions between China and the US is picking at a scab. As a participant in China’s modern history, she must foresee that her trips will inflame sentiment.
Let’s put this is in context. Throughout recent history, China perceived it suffered humiliations at the hands of the western powers. China now seeks that this will not repeat. You can argue the veracity of that position, yet that’s irrelevant because that’s what’s felt. Above all, we know that any intervention in their affairs triggers a nationalistic response. Certainly, Anson Chan knows this.
At the same time, the US is happy to use her as a tool with which to attack China and justify containment. In short, she’s playing with fire by feeding a false narrative directly into the US administration. Chan has every right to do this; likewise, I have the right to condemn her as deceitful and foolhardy.
More than politics is at stake in how Chan portrays Hong Kong in Washington. Our status as a separate trading entity from the Mainland provides privileges. In turn, people enjoy employment and keep bread on the table. A few in Washington wish to see that status removed, with Chan providing the ammunition for their guns. In the end, the people of Hong Kong suffer if our economy should slip. That lack of foresight by Mrs Chan is telling, or does she know what’s she’s doing?
I can forgive the zealots of Amnesty their folly, that’s the nature of the beast. Mrs Chan is in a different league. One finds it hard to give any concession when she’s unlikely to suffer the consequences of spreading a false narrative. Those consequences will fall on the ordinary folks.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.