My Take

Outsiders who stick their noses where they don't belong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 September, 2013, 3:42am

Who cares what the Brits and Americans think? They can say whatever they like about democratic developments in Hong Kong. It's a free city. They can huff and puff. But in the end, outsiders will not make one iota of difference, however the fight over universal suffrage turns out. It's a tug of war between Beijing, the Leung Chun-ying government and Hong Kong people.

Well, the Martin Lee Chu-mings of this world apparently do care. They think Britain has a special responsibility to speak up for Hong Kong under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Sure, Martin, that was before the handover - when the Brits might have given full democracy and/or granted immigration rights to Hong Kong people. They missed their chance.

The US consul general in Hong Kong, Clifford Hart, said in July that he was looking forward to the city's move towards "genuine democratic suffrage". Whatever. Now Hugo Swire, a junior British foreign ministry official, writes in this paper that "Britain stands ready to support in any way we can". Really, Hugo, pray tell how?

Given the inconsequential nature of their pronouncements, I am amazed by the typical charmless response of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which went into a paroxysm against the two men.

Obviously taking his cue, Leung offered his own communist-style denouncement of Swire. "For any foreign official who wants to participate or intervene, the past experience is very clear - it will only do the opposite for Hong Kong's political reform, including the people they wanted to support or influence," he said. I much preferred his second-in-command Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's response, which was basically: "Thanks, Hugo, but no thanks!"

Still, many people find their reactions rude and unreasonable. History might be a guide for them. How might those rebellious Americans at the Philadelphia constitutional convention have reacted if their former colonial masters offered their expertise to be consulted in setting up a new form of government? How would Jawaharlal Nehru and his gang have responded if the Brits extended a helping hand to guide the natives to create an independent India in 1947.

They would all, of course, have told the Brits - politely or rudely - to stuff themselves.