It's all just a matter of business for HK merchants

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 January, 2011, 12:00am

Despite the fact Hong Kong companies have played a key role in helping Iran's state-owned shipping line evade UN sanctions, the city's government has yet to say when it will enact legislation necessary to stop them.

SCMP, January 16

One of the reasons I'm so pleased to live in Hong Kong is that this town has a way of ignoring the murk of international diplomatic quackery and just getting down to business.

It has been that way from the beginning - find inefficiencies of commerce caused by politicians playing silly games and exploit these to help create prosperity where prosperity might otherwise be denied.

We have never done it out of any deliberate sense of mission but it is nonetheless the happy result of how Hong Kong's merchants conduct their affairs - you want, I can get, give me a bid. It does unintended marvels to promote international amity and affluence.

And I am particularly proud of it in this case of shipments to Iran. Let's review a little history here.

In 1953, the United States Central Intelligence Agency, in conjunction with its British counterparts, engineered the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Iran. Prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh had taken the view that oil deposits underneath Iran's soil belonged to the Iranian people, not to American and British oil firms.

To set things up for itself, the US government next installed a puppet monarch, the Shah, who misruled the country for 26 years before he was thrown out in a revolution inspired by religious unity.

US government agencies then egged on the gangster Saddam Hussein, who ruled the neighbouring Iraq, to launch a bloody eight-year war against Iran.

Along the way the US Navy shot down an Iran Air commercial aircraft on a regular flight to Dubai over the Strait of Hormuz. All 290 passengers and crew on board were killed. It might have been a war plane, said the Navy of this crime. Oh, well, that's understandable then.

Over the next few years, the US suddenly shuffled its diplomatic cards to make Hussein an enemy and in his 2002 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush pronounced that he had discovered an 'Axis of Evil' in the world - Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

He promptly invaded the first of these three, which, not surprisingly, led the other two to look to their defences in the only way possible against the world's largest economy with the world's largest military.

With the invasion of Afghanistan, the US now has a military occupation of two countries on Iran's borders, and American politicians regularly demand that Iran be added to the list. It would be an irresponsible government that did not protect its sovereignty against such a threat.

This assumes that Iran is really trying to make nuclear weapons although the Iranian government protests that it is only creating a nuclear power industry, which it is fully entitled to do under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

US diplomats say differently, of course, but these are the same people who took their country to war against Iraq in 2003 on a pretext, soon proved utterly false, that Hussein was amassing weapons of mass destruction.

You simply cannot tell whether they speak the truth now about events in this part of the Middle East. On this score, American diplomats are proven liars. They could be telling the truth but it is probably only self-serving half truth at best and you have no way of knowing. You simply have to suspend belief.

And it really makes no difference that it is actually the United Nations raising the fuss about Iran in this case. The UN has allowed itself to become a mouthpiece for the US on this issue. No other UN member is as strident about Iran.

It's a good question, in fact, whether the UN charter allows the Security Council to make its sanction demands as specific and detailed as it has done in this case, right down to demanding that member countries blacklist specific named companies that may have provided services that may have contributed to nuclear weapons that Iran may be making (and may not).

But good old Hong Kong has managed to look the other way, as it has so often done in such matters. Somehow our government has encountered unexpected difficulties in formulating the necessary legislation but will do its very best to expedite matters so that blah...blah...blah...

And, meanwhile, our merchants get on with the job of making life just a little easier for the common people of Iran whose circumstances have been pinched in many small ways by shortages not of bomb-making materials but of everyday domestic goods cut off by sanctions.

Although it is not why our merchants evade these sanctions, it is nonetheless what they achieve, and I am proud of Hong Kong for it.