Donald Trump

How Donald Trump is making a case against democracy for China

Tony Kwok says each time the US president’s actions call into question the very basics of US ethical standards, they show that Western-style democracy is clearly not a good example for China to follow

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 August, 2017, 10:17am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 August, 2017, 6:28pm

The generally accepted definition of an ethical leader is that they should have personal integrity and honesty, respect human rights and equality; abide by the rule of law and exercise good governance. Donald Trump seems to have breached them all in his six months as US president.

Firstly, he has refused to place his business interests in a blind trust, as some of his predecessors did. Instead, he put his vast holdings in a revocable trust managed by his two sons. Trump is able to do this because US presidents are not subject to the same conflict of interest rules as other government employees. But the fact remains that doing so leaves the door open to potential conflict of interest.

Trump has also appointed his daughter and son-in-law to senior positions in the White House. Can you imagine the new Hong Kong chief executive doing the same and surviving it?

Americans support military service of transgender people Trump wants banned from army

Soon after taking office, Trump ordered a ban on travel to the US by the citizens of six Muslim-majority nations. Then acting US attorney general Sally Yates refused to implement the plan on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, and she was immediately fired. Yet the order was subsequently dismissed by the court as indeed unconstitutional and discriminatory. The dismissal of Yates demonstrated that Trump has no respect for the constitution, human rights and equality.

Recently, Trump tweeted that transgender soldiers would no longer be allowed to serve in America’s military – again an act of discrimination.

On July 24, Trump gave a speech to a gathering of 40,000 at a boy scouts’ jamboree, and asked them to join him in booing his predecessor, Barack Obama. That was deplorable behaviour before young children. Then there are his frequent sexist remarks on female reporters and even foreign dignitaries, which have caused much embarrassment to the US foreign office.

Watch: Trump says the French president’s wife is in ‘great shape’

But the most serious concern is his interference in the FBI investigation into the alleged Russian government influence in the last US presidential election, which put him in the White House. At first he attempted to persuade former FBI director James Comey to drop the investigation into his close associates. When Comey refused, he was dismissed. For most Hong Kong citizens who are familiar with the working of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, this is dangerously close to being a criminal act of perverting the course of justice. Not so long ago, a Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference deputy was sentenced to 18 months in jail for attempting to pressurise the ICAC to curtail an investigation on him.

The rapid turnover of senior White House staff – including the dismissal of chief of staff Reince Priebus after less than six months, and the communications director Anthony Scaramucci after just 10 days – as well as the defeat of the Republicans’ Senate bill to scrap Obamacare, are events that highlight Trump’s poor governance.

Indeed, every week brings new evidence of how Trump is unfit for office. He has assaulted the FBI and Justice Department, and waged war with the media. Yet another scandal uncovered that his son met a “Russian government attorney” who had offered to dish out dirt on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support” for Trump’s candidacy. This put Donald Jr in legal jeopardy and he is currently subject to a Senate hearing.

Watch: Trump appears to socialise with Russians named in email storm

But even more alarming is the latest revelation that President Trump drafted a press statement for his son suggesting that he give a false story that the meeting was only about adopting Russian children. For the US president to try to cover up the misdeeds of his son and mislead the whole country has to be totally against all the rules of political ethics.

It must be embarrassing for USAID now to talk about US government ethics

What is more chilling for all Americans is that their president is not only unethical, but seems incapable of acknowledging such wrongdoing.

The US Agency for International Development used to fund a lot of anti-corruption training in Third World countries, often engaging US ethics experts to talk about America’s high standards of ethics in the government, and push Third World nations to follow suit. It must be embarrassing for them now to talk about US government ethics, realising how unethical their president is.

Maybe Donald Trump is doing a big favour to Beijing, demonstrating that Western-style democracy is clearly not a good political system for China to follow.

Tony Kwok is an adjunct professor at HKU SPACE, a former deputy commissioner of ICAC and an international anti-corruption consultant