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  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 11:05am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Britain unlikely to put Hong Kong's interests first in reform row

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 July, 2014, 4:04am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 July, 2014, 4:20am

Hong Kong has not been the focus of international attention until recently, when debates over universal suffrage and "one country, two systems" have put us back on the radar screen. This is partly attributed to the recent visits by ex-chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang and Democratic Party founding chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming to the United States and Britain. While the city's profile has been raised, whether this helps is another matter.

Addressing the British Parliament's foreign affairs committee hearing in London early this week, the pro-democracy figures were challenged by individual members for more evidence on how Beijing's white paper on the city's autonomy amounts to a policy change. The white paper, according to a British former diplomat who writes for the influential Chatham House policy institute, has been seized upon by those who wish to go beyond the Basic Law to advance universal suffrage. If the response is anything to go by, the pair do not appear to have swayed British opinion.

Unlike "one country, two systems", which is enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, universal suffrage comes from the Basic Law. That's why Britain has rightly held that it's a matter for the governments of Hong Kong, mainland China and the people to decide in line with the Basic Law.

That Chan and Lee have braved a barrage of criticism to speak up for Hong Kong overseas underlines the growing unease in some quarters with the current political situation. They believe that the international community, in particular Britain, has a duty to defend our rights and freedoms under the Joint Declaration. True, the former sovereign power has a duty to ensure the city's well-being under Chinese rule, but the pursuit of stronger trade ties with China means it is unlikely to put a former colony's interests above its own. Even when the deputy prime minister renewed the commitment of standing up for Hong Kong in the event of the declaration being breached, questions remain as to what Britain can do.

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jayb
it remains debatable that "the city's profile has been raised" as the anglo american media continues their total disregard and ignorance of hongkong. but more significantly going to US and UK to pressure China for "democracy" was a blatant disregard of history. the west has never supported genuine democracy. history is replete with the west, especially US, busy subverting rather than supporting "democracy", from Mosaddegh's Iran to Estrada Palma's Cuba, Diem's Vietnam to Pinochet's Chile, not a single incident of supporting "democracy". the better option for pro "democracy" activists is negotiation, peaceful demonstration and education. key is to earn credibility, inflating 175,000 to 500,000 July 1 participation is not helpful to credibility.
captam
@"Unlike "one country, two systems", which is enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, universal suffrage comes from the Basic Law".
Precisely, and yet Martin Lee, who claims to be an experienced lawyer (Senior Counsel) appears not to understand!
Perhaps he should go back to law school for a little Western style "re-education".
While there, he needs to pay particular attention to UK's offences relating to Treason and High Treason and then tell us clearly his suggested timetable for introduction of similar and appropriate legislation in Hong Kong, as specified and required under the Basic Law.
Beijing has legitimate unfinished business in this regard and yet we hear nothing from the likes of "experts" Anson Chan or Martin Lee about this.
mercedes2233
How dare they 'speak up for HK overseas'? Did they seek our views before speaking for us? Some of us might feel differently about things and don't want foreign intervention. Can some of us do the same thing and tell governments overseas how WE see HK? Any volunteers?
Having failed this time, where will these busybodies go to next? Africa? Taiwan?
kongshan2047
When did Britain ever showed any responsibility to its former colonies? Historically, the policy of the British colonial government is to deliberately create tension and division in the society just before it leaves. The Indian subcontinent is a classic example, where religious/cultural tensions in the likes of Kashmir and Punjab have remained unresolved even after almost 70 years of independence.
anthonygmail
Anson has just learnt the hard way that a knight/dame from the colonies has very little influence in the Blighty motherland.
Kubrick
The saintly Anson and martyr LEE got a lesson in real politiks in London. It was interesting to watch the UK politicians reaction to the White Paper and LEEs attempt to make an argument that things have changed. I recall LEE telling the BBC he expected to be interned after 1997. He was wrong then and has been wrong about most things since. Meanwhile, Anson has a major crebility issue. Can anyone recall her pushing for democracy before 1997? In fact, she worked tirelessly to sell the joint declaration to us and took centre stage (literally) at the handover. She'd be more believable if she came out with an unequivocal statement that she got it wrong. But the infallible Anson, who never made a mistake (KWOK Ah-nui case, New Airport ...etc) is beyond such reflection.
onedistrict
An odd couple
caractacus
The foreign affairs committee is physically removed from the day to day situation in HK and do not perceive the creeping, subtle changes which are turning the city's administration into a tool of the dictatorship and the CCP cronies.
claudiakung
I simply don't understand why they, both are well-educated, over 60 years old and have been involved in the political world for decades, thought such a visit could help. I just don't understand why there are still people who think the US and the UK governments will sacrifice their own interests for the welfare of other countries/places. Honestly speaking, I wouldn't dare to provoke a huge investor who gives my people millions of job opportunties if I were the boss. Blaming Cameron only makes yourselves look as naive as a kindergarten kid. I love my country and the city. I want both China and HK to be good. I am all for democracy. I support political changes that will bring free speech and fair treatment to everyone. I am worried about the consequences of Occupy Central. I shudder at the sight of the line on Cable TV News Report that Forbes will go to Chinese investors. The fact that my country is getting more and more globally influential both excites and worries me. I would like to tell the HK politicians that there are more than two camps in HK! There are some who refuse to be put into either!
keithkklau@gmail.com
In politics, interest comes first. British is the expert in the game. Hong Kong colony was already a history and why would they care for it? Britain had already failed HK people once - not granting HK people a UK passport before the handover - what a shame to them. It is stupid and naïve to beg for their help to support HK democracy.

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