A lesson in how we undermine our own interests

  • On both sides of the political spectrum, Hong Kong should ignore the report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, so as to avoid antagonising Beijing and Washington
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 November, 2018, 9:48pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 November, 2018, 10:36pm

For the Hong Kong government, there is no reason to provoke the Americans. For the opposition, there is no need to aggravate Beijing. However, both sides seem oblivious that their respective responses to a US congressional report may be damaging the interests of the city they claim to serve.

The latest annual report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission has criticised alleged mainland interference in Hong Kong and cast doubt on continuing America’s treatment of the city and the mainland as two separate customs entities. That separation is especially important for Hong Kong to be exempt from American trade sanctions and restrictions on technology transfer.

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To be sure, the self-styled experts who produced the report rehashed the usual incidents to prove the city’s supposed loss of autonomy without paying attention to local nuances, conditions and political realities. To give just one example, the report claims a worrying trend in the decline of basic freedoms and cites attempts to legislate national security law under Article 23 as a threat. Never mind that under the Basic Law, our mini-constitution, we are obliged to uphold those basic freedoms and protect national security.

But you would expect those hired guns of American politicians to cherry-pick facts and to serve agendas that are not ours. The important point to determine is what impact the report will have on the status of the US-Hong Kong Policy Act, under which we are treated as a separate customs entity by the United States. At the moment, the US State Department and its consul general in Hong Kong sound conciliatory, and there is as yet no threat from the Trump White House to revise the act.

So why did the government of Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor release an angry statement complaining about “biased conclusions and unfounded accusations” and warning foreign legislatures not to “interfere in any form in the internal affairs” of Hong Kong? That just gives more weight to a report it otherwise doesn’t have. And by using language reminiscent of that of the foreign ministry in Beijing, it offers more ammunition to China critics within the US government. A little restraint never hurts anyone, Mrs Lam.

Meanwhile, many opposition figures are going gaga over the American report, if not practically celebrating another black eye for Lam. Our country is locked in an unprecedented trade war with the Americans, and they are cheering! Is it any wonder Beijing is losing patience with Hong Kong?