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  • Apr 19, 2014
  • Updated: 5:12am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Warnings of dark plots by foreigners hide darker intentions

Stephen Vines says they're trying to stigmatise calls for democracy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 September, 2013, 11:11pm

Everyone likes a chuckle, and so connoisseurs of the absurd should give heartfelt thanks to Hao Tiechuan , the propaganda chief at the central government's liaison office. Hao's latest venture found him accusing Britain of trying to stir up trouble in Hong Kong following an article in this newspaper by Hugo Swire, a UK junior foreign minister.

The reality is that the British government barely gives Hong Kong a passing thought and has not done much since 1997. No doubt the fine people at the Foreign Office in Whitehall will strenuously object and point out that they issue a six-monthly report on the implementation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, alongside dispatching various luminaries for what amounts to trade missions.

If Hong Kong ranks low on the list of British priorities, it ranks even lower on America’s

Yet, according to Hao, "since 1994 [sic], Britain has tried to retain its benefits and influence in Hong Kong and tried to cause difficulties and troubles for the future SAR government and China".

He does not elaborate why 1994 is his chosen date but he is presumably referring to the political reforms introduced by governor Chris Patten at this time, which were, just for the record, opposed by the pan-democrats.

Surely he can't be talking about the anodyne six-monthly reports from the Foreign Office crafted in advanced diplomatese. Or maybe he objects to the fact that officials, such as Swire, have the temerity to turn up here on visits where they quaff a few cocktails, do the dreary round of meeting government officials and then go home to tackle more pressing issues.

The reality, contrary to Hao's fantasy about Britain always stirring up trouble in the colonies from which it retreated, is that once the Union flag has been hauled down, the British have a pretty consistent record of turning their back on the former colonies, especially in places where their departure was accompanied by turmoil, as, for example, in Zimbabwe, Kenya and Palestine.

Of course, the Brits issued big statements deploring violence and expressing hope for unity, etc., but in reality British officials believed that, once colonial rule ended, they did best by doing nothing.

In the case of Hong Kong, Britain was not faced with blood on the streets following the end of colonial rule but, then again, this was the only colony that was never offered the option of self-rule in deference to the very strong wishes of the incoming rulers. Indeed, British post-1997 policy has largely been premised on the need to get a whole lot friendlier with China after the colonial baggage was cleared away.

Hao does not let the record contradict his story because he is on a special mission, which involves attacking the hapless Swire, alongside equally vitriolic attacks on American meddling in Hong Kong. It is safe to say that if Hong Kong ranks low on the list of British foreign policy priorities, it ranks even lower on America's must-do list.

Hao is not interested in this because he has a very specific agenda, which is to imply that pressure for democratic reform is somehow foreign in origin and that those advocating democracy are little more than puppets of foreign powers. This tactic is hardly new or indeed exclusive to China. Authoritarian regimes intent on preserving their control generally accuse those who oppose them of being the tools of dark foreign intervention.

The truth in Hong Kong is that pressure for democratic reform comes from within and, paradoxically, although this place prides itself on being an international city, the rest of the world is really not much bothered by its internal politics. However, if the call for democracy can be stigmatised as being something alien and part of a dark plot, some feeble minds might just believe this nonsense.

Stephen Vines is a Hong Kong-based journalist and entrepreneur

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321manu
"Hao does not let the record contradict his story because he is on a special mission,..."
---well said indeed. The next time a CCP wind-bag lets facts and reality get in the way of the "official narrative", will be the first time.
pslhk
Though pejorative expressions evidence prejudice
the underlying fact, patently clear, is inescapable
as summarized in the headline of this effluence in print
“Dreamers of dark plots by foreign powers are no fools”
The only fool is the one who belabored on what’s unquestionable
Let’s see the fool’s means and purpose
-
Underplaying official significance
Tyler Brock, though a “junior” minister just graduated to the HK office
after the intractable Northern Ireland portfolio, has a busy schedule
with “pressing issues” to tackle back home,
he only stopped over for a few drinks
-
A small country with unrealistically inflated ego
UK is troubled by self-inflicted problems it can’t manage and won’t let go
Like Japan, another insular nation, when circumstances are gloomy for lack of opportunities
it’s time to make troubles and prepare for fishing expeditions
-
Chuckle and smear
They know not how else to hide embarrassment and to divert attention
-
Let me risk disclosure of a likely state secret
Hong Leu and Hao Tiechuan may have more fun
than this game’s other players and observers
Just see who will have the last laugh and say
Dare silly diplomats and stupid commentators
open their mouths for everybody
to put their feet in again?
321manu
"However, if the call for democracy can be stigmatised as being something alien and part of a dark plot, some feeble minds might just believe this nonsense."
---pslhk, it looks like Mr. Vines has got you pegged.
All you seem to have is useless verbiage. For all the words you've used here, what have you actually said? It's just an endless series of ad hominems with you, where you supposedly criticize the author, but without even a hint of substance, let alone any relevance to the actual article upon which you are purportedly commenting. One wonders if you are even capable of grasping the point of articles, rather than knee-jerk reflexive responses to the word "democracy", which, as with all reflexes, do not require the intervention of higher cortical function.
pslhk
Let’s hope you’re beginning to learn
from the discussion in FC’s column
to develop some depth and not
to whine ad hominems
321manu
On the contrary, the label is completely apropos here. You mock Swire, without any hint of a half-mention of what it is he actually said. He thinks HKers deserve universal suffrage. So if you don't, let's here some reasons why you think they don't deserve it. Your comment above is the poster-child for ad hominems. Now, supposedly, you're against that sort of thing. Since it's been pointed out to you in no uncertain terms, let's hope you're not a slow learner. Otherwise, you're just a wind-bag passing gas.
While it's true that this is just a comment forum, and doesn't require the diligence of a legal proceeding, neither is this twitter or weibo. If all you've got is your "interpretation" and how you feel, that's not much more useful than some random guy sharing a picture of what he had for lunch.
martinturner
Well said. The liaison office reaction to this innocuous comment seemed oddly misplaced, and I think you've put your finger on the intent.

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