Call for foreign consulates to not condone violence
Several Hong Kong groups advocating the independence of the special administrative region are trying to persuade the United States Congress to pass the so-called Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. I believe this is both absurd and wrong. According to the Human Freedom Index conducted by the Fraser Institute last year, Hong Kong ranked the third freest city in the world. The United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany all ranked lower than the SAR. So it is ironic that a handful of local extremists who already enjoy a great extent of freedom are seeking help from the not-as-free US. Are they really fighting for freedom and democracy for Hong Kong residents? Or are there ugly political intentions behind it?
I returned to the SAR before the handover in 1997 after having lived in the US for 30 years. At first I had the same concern as many other Hong Kong residents, questioning if the "one country, two systems" framework could actually work. In fact, in the past 22 years, the Central Government has adhered to "one country, two systems", allowing Hong Kong a high level of autonomy, and maintaining an independent judiciary system. Significant improvements have also been seen in terms of political participation and freedoms of expression and of the press.
Let us put aside political prejudices and look at the hard facts: the level of civil rights and freedoms in the SAR after the handover still rank near the top worldwide, outranking many advanced countries in the West.
Yet, since June, Hong Kong has been plunged into chaos and unrest every weekend, sparked by the introduction of the fugitive amendment bill. I was the first person to publicly question the bill because I foresaw how the bill, which originates with good intentions, could easily become a target that would arouse attack from the international community. I reminded Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor about the political risks, and unfortunately my concerns turned into reality. Today, no one mentions the deceased Poon Hiu-wing anymore, and the chief executive's hope to uphold justice for Poon has turned into a damp squib. Instead, the city has been subjected to endless violence on the streets, while some local politicians try to bring in international intervention.
What is worth noticing is that illegal violence has continued to escalate even after the chief executive announced an official withdrawal of the bill.
The US has no justifiable grounds to intervene in the affairs of Hong Kong through legislation. But it has become apparent that months of violent protests do not originate from anti-fugitive purposes, as the political intention in disguise has finally been revealed-independence, promoted in a ruthless and tyrannical manner.
I hereby call on foreign consulates and their staff in Hong Kong to be objective, rational and act according to conscience, in telling your own countries about the reality in Hong Kong. As the protests since June show, Hong Kong people enjoy their freedom of assembly and protest. However, because of the political agenda of some, more and more violence is being seen. Rioters hurling petrol bombs, vandalizing public transportation facilities and besieging police stations across the city have sadly become the norm.
Police officers and citizens with opposing views are attacked with lethal weapons such as bricks, steel pellets, slingshots, knives and batons. According to worldwide standards, their actions can no longer be classified as peaceful protests and should not be tolerated.
I am particularly concerned that the organizers of violent protests have encouraged students from secondary and even primary schools to join them. Teen protesters aged 12 and 13 have been arrested in the violent clashes, which is something the city has never seen. This exploitation of children and teenagers who are impressionable and gullible is deplorable. Brainwashing them with extreme political ideas and deploying them to violent frontlines with no thought to their safety is no different from the tactics of international terrorist groups such as the Islamic State extremist group. I ask you not to judge ongoing clashes and unrest with double or even triple standards.
Violence is violence. There is no way to justify or beautify it.
To all consulates in the SAR, supporting the ongoing violence means agreeing with independence for Hong Kong. This is not the official stance of your countries, is it? Please refrain from rubbing salt on Hong Kong's wounds, or adding fuel to the raging fire. Please act cautiously and do not condone evil!
The author is chairman of Sing Tao News Corporation. The article is an open letter to foreign consulates in the SAR and the international community first published in The Standard on Sept 18.