Preaching to confine Hong Kong to the Basic Law is wishful thinking

Thus we left Hong Kong to her fate and hope that Martin Lee, the Leader of the Democrats, would not be arrested

wrote HRH Prince Charles in his diaries as Britannia left Hong Kong on 1 July 1997. Prince Charles’s scepticism harks back to years of brain drain as young professionals lined up to migrate in the 1990s. The Hong Kong people will never give up in fulfilling their destiny to protect their way of life. For those who remained in Hong Kong, they tread carefully. Their only firewall now between Red China and the Island was the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. Sadly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the 18 April Hong Kong’s Night of the Long Knives is evident that solely entrusting Hong Kong’s future and rule of law to the Basic Law is futile.

Martin Lee is amongst the handful (literally) of liberal politicians invited to draft the Basic Law. Following the TianAnMen Massacre and years of neglect, he found his position in the Drafting Committee untenable. Indeed, in her book Underground Front, Christine Loh noted that Peking have always only wanted legal advisors who are patriotic to the Communist regime. Hong Kong was never given the opportunity of a referendum on the constitution. Crucially, a constitution should be the guiding legal principles to bind the Administration(s) to the rule of law, and based on the framework citizens can bring the Executive to justice. On the contrary, Peking and its interference on subsequent HK Chief Executives, demonstrates its view that it is the citizen’s responsibility to respect and obey the Basic Law’s power wholeheartedly based on interpretations Peking sees fit.

More importantly, the Basic Law is flawed because Peking, holding on to Reserved Powers, is a regime with no respect to the rules-based international order. FCO archives writes “NPC Standing Committee thus retains a power of interpretation of provisions of the BL which are within the SAR’s autonomy, and such interpretations will be binding on the SAR courts … would compromise the autonomy of the SAR judicial system.” Furthermore, Deng XiaoPing has been referenced to say ‘HK affairs should not all be handled by HK people.’ It is conspicuous Peking was never ready to give Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy. Verily, the Chinese Communist Party works on the utilitarianism of Party survival no matter the sacrifices of its image, social culture and people. In a power stability, Mao was ready to inflict the Cultural Revolution; Deng to roll the tanks; and Xi to cover-up on Covid-19. Besides, this is further multiplied by the ingrained Chinese belief of 山高皇帝遠 ‘the lands are vast, but the emperor is far away’. Hunger and fear and without representations are not the recipe to engage all reserved powers at the slightest dissent.

Corruptio Optimi Pessima – the corruption of the best is the worst for all. Just as Martin Luther rebelled against the Catholic Church after it has persistently transformed into insistence of divinity with dubious basis; it is inescapable Hong Kong citizens put their determination candidly to the world. For far too many years, we have been too compassionate in persuading China to change by encouragement, we should now endorse using a stick to root out its dictators. Anything less will let down the people of Hong Kong who cherish liberal democracy and champion its spread day and night.

Profiles of pro-democracy key figures who are arrested in last night’s clampdown can be found on this website from Friends of Hong Kong.

* Nicholas is an executive member in the Sevenoaks, Dartford & Gravesham Liberal Democrat and Lib Dem Campaigner for Hong Kong.

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