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By: Susie Heron-Halliday
On 31st October 2017, the Henry Jackson Society’s own Dr John Hemmings launched his report, ‘Hong Kong After 20 years: the Rollback of Civil, Human and Legal Rights’, in an event chaired by Lord Alton of Liverpool. Alongside Hemmings, Dr Malte Phillipp Kaeding, Benedict Rogers, and Edward Tin-Kei Lueng all spoke about their own experiences in Hong Kong, their chapters of the report, and their thoughts on the future of Hong Kong’s democracy. Hemmings is the founding Director of the Asia Studies Centre at the HJS and an adjunct fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. He has authored a number of book chapters, academic journals, and newspaper articles commenting on Asia, contributing to the Telegraph, the Diplomat, the Iowy Interpretator, and the National Interest.
The report highlights how human rights in Hong Kong have deteriorated over the last two decades. It finds that China has engaged in direct and indirect ways to subvert the legislative process and judicial system in Hong Kong. As there are no legal means of extradition, Chinese police have resorted to illegal kidnappings of those who pose problems for Chinese leaders. Finally, the UK is torn between its desire for trade relations with Beijing and its moral responsibility to uphold the Joint Declaration. All of which were explored by the speakers during the event.
Dr Keading began by focusing on his chapter of the report. He argued that in order to understand Hong Kong, we need to understand the aftermath of the handover. Keading discussed Beijing’s strong need for control, and the strategies they have used to limit international access to Hong Kong in order to maintain said control.
Following on from Keading, Benedict Rogers, the Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, gave a fascinating account of his time living in Hong Kong as a journalist, and his experience of being denied entry to Hong Kong. Rogers gave key insights into the various protests and movements in Hong Kong, including the Umbrella Movement in 2014. He also announced his new organisation, Hong Kong Watch. Which will campaign for Hong Kong and the rights of people there.
Edward Tin-Kei Lueng came in third in the 2016 legislative by-election before being barred from running in the 2016 Legislative Council election. He gave a brilliantly engaging speech about his experiences, what does it mean to be patriotic, and about ruling ideology. Lueng argued that we must understand two narratives in reference to China; civilisation and humiliation, and claimed that Hong Kong plays a vital role in these narratives. He concluded by proclaiming that, striving for democracy in Hong Kong is the only way to survive. Although, he believes that the future looks gloomy, he still believes in mobilisation; that people should show up and speak up.