Hong Kong: Protest and Responsibility
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Hong Kong: Protest and Responsibility
19 August @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Hong Kong is currently in the midst of the largest and most sustained protests seen in a Chinese city since 1989. In large sectors of Hong Kong society, trust in the government, the police and in the Hong Kong SAR’s political system has broken down. Questionable policing coupled with government intransigence and a violently patriotic backlash by armed gangs have led to escalating violence. This briefing meeting is intended to help provide a framework for understanding the changing situation in Hong Kong. It will cover: the relevance of the protest within the Hong Kong and China context; the multi-level response, both direct and indirect, that these protests have provoked; and why what happens in Hong Kong is an issue of international, and more specifically UK, concern.
The Henry Jackson Society is delighted to invite you to a briefing about the current situation in Hong Kong and a discussion about why the ongoing protests in Hong Kong matter.
Evan Fowler is an independent writer and researcher focusing on Hong Kong and China. He is co-founder and director of Hong Kong Free Press and a director of Stand News. A pioneer of sustainability messaging in the Asia-Pacific, prior to his relocation to the UK he had previously held multiple directorships in both the private and NGO sector, and between 2007 – 2015 ran the Hong Kong Identity Project. He was also the China representative for the Kennedy Center for Human Rights.
Dr. Brian Fong Chi Hang (方志恒) is Associate Director and Associate Professor at The Academy of Hong Kong Studies, The Education University of Hong Kong. He has been published extensively on issues relating to China’s influence, territorial autonomies, democratisation, governance and budgetary politics, and was awarded the 2014 Gordon White Prize by China Quarterly for his article entitled The Partnership between the Chinese Government and Hong Kong’s Capitalist Class: Implications for HKSAR Governance, 1997–2012.
Emily Lau Wai-hing (劉慧卿) was a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council from 1991 to 1997 and 1998 to 2016 and was the first woman directly elected to Legco. She was Chairperson of the Democratic Party from 2012 to 2016. Ms Lau has dedicated her career to fighting for democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Her ambition is for a democratically elected government in Hong Kong and in China. As a result of her workshe has received among other awards the Bruno Kreisky Human Rights Award, the Monismanien Prize on Freedom of Speech and the Political Leader Award from The Hong Kong Women’s Foundation. Because of her pro-democracy work and her outspokenness, she has not been allowed to travel to Mainland China for over 20 years.
Chip Tsao (陶傑) is a well known Hong Kong political commentator, columnist and broadcaster, currently writing for Apple Daily and HK Magazine.
Matthew Henderson is the Director of the Asia Studies Centre at The Henry Jackson Society. Matthew Henderson joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1986. His career in the Diplomatic Service was mainly spent working on East Asia. In Hong Kong, he was attached to the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group whose task was to work with China to prepare for the transfer of government in 1997. In Beijing, during the 1990s, he focussed on China’s increasingly active engagement in international relations. Later, in London, he participated in the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Britain and North Korea, while also engaged with regional and international partners in wider issues of regional security in North-East Asia. Subsequently, Matthew worked on issues of global concern, including nuclear non-proliferation. This involved engagement with senior officials across Whitehall and involvement in the work of the Cabinet Office, as well as cooperation with counterparts from a wide range of foreign partners governments, and international institutions, on the formulation and delivery of important international policy agendas. After leaving the FCO in 2015, he worked in the private sector as a consultant on regional and country security.
On the 19th of August, the Henry Jackson Society hosted a discussion on the situation evolving in Hong Kong. Speakers included Evan Fowler, co-founder and director of Hong Kong Free Press, Dr. Brian Fong Chi Hang, Associate Director and Associate Professor at The Academy of Hong Kong Studies, Emily Lau Wai-hing, a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council from 1998 to 2016, and Chip Tsao for the Q&A session, a famous Hong Kong political commentator and broadcaster. The event was chaired by Matthew Henderson, Director of the Asia Studies Centre at HJS.
Following introductions, Evan Fowler gave a broad outline of the situation in Hong Kong. He noted how the understanding of Hong Kong’s core values have been subtly undermined by a change in attitude within, as a result of the migration of people from China and outflow of Hong Kong locals, and that the protests are a reaction to this general erosion of freedom. He clarified how this is a political matter, and that the protests are deliberately targeting international opinion, to reveal how this is an increasing façade of ‘One Country Two Systems’. Evan stressed the need for the UK to speak up with greater vigour, highlighting its unique relationship with Hong Kong, and pointed to how the concept of ‘One Country Two Systems’ must be critically defined. Finally, he described Hong Kong’s critical economic role, alluding to how any intervention which undercut its capacity to operate as free market would also be damaging to Beijing.
Then there was a recorded message from Dr. Brian. He first explained how the anti-extradition movement should be interpreted as a chapter of Hong Kong’s defence of autonomy. When deliberating China’s response, he predicted that the deployment of the PLA was unlikely, given the economic costs it would incur. Dr. Brian reasoned that strengthening police control (already adopted) would be the comparatively less costly choice, and suggested that concessions would be their other option. Regarding the UK’s role, he proposed a UK version of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, to allow sanctions to be imposed on officials who have allegedly undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy.
During the Skype call with Emily, when asked about the prospect of reconciliation, she maintained the need to be optimistic to ensure a political solution between the relevant parties, calling for help from the international community. She stated that the dialogue has to be initiated by the authorities, which could be sparked by engaging some of the groups that have spoken out. With regards to questions of credibility, she proposed the need for a broker in between to build trust – though difficult, she reminded how the alternative would be to allow chaos to consume Hong Kong. Regarding allegations by the Chinese government that the disturbances in Hong Kong are acts by people of terrorist characteristics, she refuted this claim by saying there is no evidence to back up these illogical assertions.
The event ended with a round of questions from the audience.
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