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Activist should brush up on history

By Daniel De Blocq Van Scheltinga | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-09-18 10:44

With his innocent schoolboy look, student activist Joshua Wong is attempting to woo the world into believing that Hong Kong is a city where the basic rights as stipulated in the Basic Law are eroding as fast as global warming is causing the ice caps to melt.

In New York and Washington, he is competing with Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg, who in the same week is trying to get the attention of members of the US Congress. Considering her quick wit, I somehow think she will win the battle for Congress' attention.

Prior to his Washington trip, Wong, recently granted bail, flew to Germany to rally support for his tale. He told German media that Hong Kong was "like Berlin in a new Cold War". Clearly history was not his forte at school.

Following the end of World War II, Berlin-which had been the capital of the kingdom of Prussia and subsequently of the German Empire-was divided between the different occupying forces. The Battle for Berlin had been won by the Soviet forces, who initially occupied the whole city, but subsequently handed control of zones to their (then) allies France, Britain and the United States. This evolved into the city being divided into East Berlin occupied by the Soviets, and West Berlin by the US, Britain and France, which fused their zones in the whole country to create the Federal Republic of Germany.

The changing geopolitical alliances led to the Soviets attempting to regain control of all of Berlin by implementing an economic blockade of West Berlin leading to the famous Air Bridge operation, whereby West Berliners received food through airlifts. The Cold War had begun, and in 1963, US President John F. Kennedy made his landmark speech while visiting the city, with the pronouncement, "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner).

Hong Kong has been a Chinese city for centuries, except for the British colonial period, which ended in 1997, after which Hong Kong returned to the motherland. Hong Kong was never the capital of China, was occupied by the Japanese during World War II, was a British colony for over 150 years, and currently has a unique status under the "one country, two systems" policy. How this is comparable to Berlin during the Cold War escapes me.

The attempts by protesters to drag the US and UK governments into their orbit is becoming absurd. This must be the only occasion in post-colonial history where, 22 years after the ending of colonial rule, people are waving old colonial flags while demonstrating, and acting as if a return to colonial rule would be in the interest of Hong Kong people.

The fact that the demonstrations are possible in Hong Kong, and even tolerated despite protesters having no permit to do so, is ample proof that the rights guaranteed under the Basic Law are being upheld. As for London lending them support for their democratic cause, I rather doubt that the Royal Navy will return to Repulse Bay anytime soon.

The reason for the US roadshow that Joshua has embarked on is to attempt to persuade the US Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which aims to amend the existing Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992. Of course, any resolution that contains the words human rights and democracy sounds as if it must be reasonable, and who could possibly oppose it? However, the main body of the act seems prompted by the possible consequences of the now withdrawn amendments to Hong Kong's Fugitive Ordinance, so the raison d'etre is considerably weakened.

The draft act also stipulates that protesters' visas to enter the US won't be negatively affected by their having participated in "nonviolent protest activities".

Sadly, in view of the protesters' relentless campaign of wanton destruction-the vandalizing of subway stations, the gasoline bomb attacks and the assaults on citizens with different viewpoints-this visa issue will obviously become more challenging for the protesters. The foreign governments should ask themselves if they in similar situations would respond with the extraordinarily measured response of the Hong Kong police.

Time and time again, the demonstrations veer off into acts of violence, which do not do anyone any good.

Sadly, Joshua Wong has not used even a second of his international airtime to condemn the destruction and descent into uncontrollable chaos initiated by his followers. This shouldn't go unnoticed by those he is attempting to woo, especially if they stand on a high moral pedestal.

The author is an adviser on China-related matters to both the private and public sectors, and was the first non-Chinese CEO of a Chinese State-owned finance company. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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