EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Hong Kong & China: Lessons for the Free World
DATE: 5 June, 11:00am – 12:30pm
SPEAKERS: The Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind KCMG QC, Martin Lee Chu-Ming SC, JP
EVENT MODERATOR: Matthew Henderson
Admiral Lord West of Spithead, Martin Lee, Christine Emmett, Alp Mehmet, Michael Danby, Latika Bourke, Sir Hugo Swire, Michael Dobbs, Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Clive Soley, Duncan Bartlett, Nicolas Maclean, Matthew Henderson
Matthew Henderson 02:33
Good morning everybody again and thank you for joining us today for our event on Hong Kong and China: Lessons for the Free World. My name is Matthew Henderson, Director of the Asia Studies Centre of the Henry Jackson Society, and I shall be moderating today’s event. On behalf of the Henry Jackson Society, it is an honour and a pleasure to welcome our two distinguished speaker panellists. First, Martin Lee, the founding father of the political movement for democracy in Hong Kong, who has devoted most of his life to that cause. And second, the right honourable Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who served as British Foreign Secretary in the period just before the 1997 handover – 31 years ago, in June 1989. When I was posted in Hong Kong, I watched in awe and respect, as millions of Hong Kong citizens packed the streets of Central in dignified, peaceful solidarity with the people of People’s Republic of China citizens as they faced brutal oppression. Now, alas, Hong Kong is looking at the same oppression directly in the face. Today, we will ask Martin and Sir Malcolm to share with us some thoughts on how this has come about, and what it means for the free world. After that, we will have a good length of time for questions and answers. There are likely to be plenty of questions, and we will do our best to answer as many as we can. Please use the question answer portal at the bottom of the zoom window to submit a question. If I say we’ve now got a question from you, you will be able to press your unmute button and ask your question directly to the panel. Please, if you’d be so kind to identify yourself as you ask your question. Now, if I may, I would like to hand over first of all, to Martin Lee to begin our event today, Martin?
Martin Lee 04:28
Well, what’s happening in Hong Kong is terrible for us. But then I was expecting it. And in fact, I think the British government should be expecting it, because six years ago, in June 2014, the Chinese government published a white paper reviewing how the Joint Declaration had worked for 30 years since 1984. That document was published in seven different languages, claiming that the central government has comprehensive jurisdiction over Hong Kong. Now just think, one country, two systems, the two systems would of course mean that Hong Kong will continue with a capitalist system, but the rest of China will be continued to be operated under a socialist system. So, one country, two systems. But Deng Xiaoping formula, was always followed by eight other Chinese characters standing for Hong Kong people rule in Hong Kong, with a high degree of autonomy. That means apart from defence and foreign affairs, which are reserved to the central government, we Hong Kong, in terms of executive power, legislative power and judicial part will be masters of our own house. So that was the original understanding, or written into the Joint Declaration, described as China’s basic policies regarding Hong Kong. And in it, China also undertook to enact a basic law for Hong Kong, again, setting up China’s basic policies regarding Hong Kong. And that was done. But if you look at the present policy under the President Xi Jinping, central government having comprehensive jurisdiction over Hong Kong, is the exact opposite. So, I knew it will be coming, I hope, I hope they will not actually carry it out. And in that year, in fact, in June, Anson Chan, the former chief secretary of Hong Kong, and I happen to be in London. And we were given a meeting, we were invited by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee to give evidence before it. So, we told them about this white paper, which was published just a few days earlier, before we left Hong Kong. And none of them, none of the parliamentarians was impressed by us. And they all said it is nothing like that, it’s not important at all, you need not worry about it. And later, we found out that they were briefed by Professor Tim Summers, who gave them a paper. But unfortunately, they were not given in advance a copy of that paper. Now, so they are now actually implementing their new policy on Hong Kong, which explains every terrible thing they have been doing in the past two years. But recently, this national security law that will be enacted for Hong Kong contrary, to declared provisions of the Basic Law, because the Basic Laws provides that when it comes to enactment of laws only the Hong Kong Legislative Council has power to do it and Beijing cannot do it. Because the way to implement the one country two systems, according to the Basic Law, was to provide that the Basic Law of Hong Kong shall govern our system, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, whereas the Chinese constitution will continue to govern the rest of China, meaning China mainland. That was how they worked out one country two systems. Now what they’re doing is clearly wrong and what are the consequences remains to be seen, because nobody has actually seen a draft of that law. It is being drafted with the Standing Committee, and as I said, it is unconstitutional. And we have to wait. But I can expect the worst coming out of there. And the Chinese government was very clever in February because they gave the pretext of enacting for us a clause Hong Kong was obliged under Article 23 of the basic law to legislate on our own to prohibit acts like treason, secession, sedition, and so on. And they said, you have not done that for so many years now. There’s now China or the Standing Committee will do it, and the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament, is actually part of the solution to that effect. And yet, you get it wrong. Hong Kong is still under obligation to legislate article 23. This is extra. This is dealing with Chinese national security. Now, at the time, when we were drafting article 18 of the Basic Law, it dealt with turmoil happening in Hong Kong, so that Hong Kong government cannot control it. Then in that sort of situation, the Chinese government may bring into Hong Kong, Chinese national law. And at that point and I’m telling you for the first time nobody else that voted for me. At that meeting, I asked Lu Ping, who was the Secretary General of the drafting committee of the Basic Law. I said, ‘What if, by applying Chinese laws into Hong Kong during emergency which our government cannot control, if it still doesn’t work anymore’. He said, ‘Don’t legislate. If that sort of thing happens, we will have to fight it out, there will be a civil war.’ So, this sort of thing was deliberately not dealt with in the Basic Law. The threat, serious threat to national security, so much so that Hong Kong cannot control the situation, so that was deliberately left out. So, if there has to be an admin, if they really feel the need, why do they go to our legislative council, which Beijing still control? Beijing has always had the control of the majority of the members of our legislature, starting from the first of July 1997. Thanks to the very undemocratic and unfair electoral laws, we still have. Why do they leave it to Hong Kong legislature to legislate? They just enacted the very unpopular and controversial national entered law just yesterday; they were able to do it. Of course, they could do it if they really wanted to have Hong Kong enact our own national security law. But why do they do it for us? I can give you one reason, once they started doing it and get away with it, what do you think the next piece of legislation they would enact for us? Extradition bill, the one which caused so much trouble among Hong Kong people, yet finally withdrew it, they will then do that also for Hong Kong, they will then leave the bread-and-butter issues with Hong Kong legislature. Whereas the Standing Committee will continue to legislate for Hong Kong draconian laws, which will take away more and more of our freedom and more and more of autonomy, so that the chief executive and the officials or puppets will be spared of the embarrassment of having to do a nasty thing in Hong Kong, so that the probation legislators will be spared, likewise, to say, embarrassment, but that is not Hong Kong, people ruling Hong Kong. And I think I better pause it. Otherwise, I’ll use up all the 90 minutes.
Matthew Henderson 12:43
Wonderful, Martin, thank you very much indeed, for that insight into Lu Ping and the gap in the legislation that is new and very important and interesting. Thank you so much. Now, Sir Malcolm.
Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind 12:54
Thank you very much. Indeed, we’ve been very privileged to have such excellent and comprehensive presentation by Martin. And I agree with a very large part of what he has said. I agree in particular, that one has to look at why the Chinese government have chosen not just the timing, but the method of achieving a security law. As Martin indicated, they could indeed, and should indeed, have left it to the Legislative Council in Hong Kong who had the responsibility in this area, they could if they wanted to put extra pressure and said we will give the Legislative Council six months to implement it. Otherwise, we will do it. That would have been a new and threatening addition. But it would have still recognized the responsibilities of Hong Kong autonomy. And of course, if the Legislative Council had been trying to implement such a security law, they would have been able to if they had chosen to have sufficient amendments to the kind of stuff coming out of Beijing, that would have provided safeguards. So, when the authorities tried to implement the security law in in order to suppress legitimate political freedom, Hong Kong’s courts, which are still independent, would have had legal basis for allowing such appeal. So, we must assume that the Chinese government had no desire for that kind of flexibility, and not only want the law to be imposed, but to do so in a fashion that they can control. Now, let me say a position from the United Kingdom point of view. Because one cannot emphasize this too much. The whole world is watching what China’s doing, what’s happening in Hong Kong. But the United Kingdom has not the luxury nor does it wish to have the luxury to be simply an observer. Nor are we simply involved because we are one of a number of freedom loving countries that have often raised issues of human rights in other countries where it’s been appropriate to do so. That is legitimate. That’s part of our role. But so far as Hong Kong is concerned, we also have both a legal and an ethical obligation far surpassing that of any other country. Not just because we were the colonial power in Hong Kong, not just because we were the power at the time that Hong Kong returned to China, but because the whole basis of two systems in one country is not some unilateral statement by the Chinese government. It is incorporated not just in a treaty, but in an international treaty signed by the Chinese government and the United Kingdom Government and deposited with the United Nations. So every time you hear a spokesman in Beijing, as they have been doing in the last few days, complaining of British interference in their internal affairs, on no basis – neither legal political nor ethical – can it be called interference, when you are simply pointing out the fact in the strongest possible terms, that the legal obligations which the Chinese government voluntarily undertook, and which will not expire for another 23 years, that these are not being honoured? We would be failing in our duty and our responsibility. And of course, there have been in addition to the statements that have been made – I won’t at this moment go into the detail of the various announcements that the government have made about citizenship about visa rights and issues of that game – but it is a very important matter. Now, the second point I want to make in these introductory comments, is that it is no coincidence that it is in the last five or six years that the problem has become so acute. Although there was great and legitimate suspicion of the interest, and of the objectives of the Chinese government from day one, it unfortunately has been the accession to power of Xi Jinping, that has led to the most massive deterioration now as we speak and for the likely future. But of course, you cannot look at Hong Kong in isolation. What we have seen is a growing disillusion, not just in Britain or America, but in the world as a whole, with the Chinese government – because they cannot be trusted, because Xi Jinping has rejected the very clear advice of Deng Xiaoping. He is using China’s economic power, the sheer size of China, its other international potential to bully, not just Hong Kong, but to bully its neighbours in the South China Sea and to foment disputes with Japan, with South Korea. And most disturbingly the increased threat to Taiwan. They no longer talk about peaceful reunification, the word peaceful was dropped from their last statement in a clearly threatening away. And also, although it’s not directly relevant to these points, the treatment of the Uyghurs, up to a million Chinese citizens incarcerated for the reasons that we’re now familiar with. It shows that we’re dealing with a government with for whom Hong Kong is simply one example, although a hugely important one of their intolerances. One final point I want to make is of course, China does have an Achilles heel, it does have a weakness when it comes to Hong Kong. Not just because of the magnificent strength of the protests of hundreds of thousands, indeed, millions of Hong Kong citizens that is something quite unique, but there is a second consideration. Because, as I think Martin was indicating, that if they push too far with what they are seeking to do, they will not absorb a prosperous, significant, financially important Hong Kong into the rest of China, they will be left with a hollow shell, because what will happen is the financial institutions, even banks, like HSBC, and Standard Bank have behaved in a craven way in the last few days. But if Hong Kong ceases to have the rule of law as we understand it, as not just we in Britain but the world as a whole understands it, if it ceases to have the rule of law, if it ceases to be an enclave of freedom, then not only will the financial institutions and the economic prosperity of Hong Kong collapse, but many Hong Kongers, particularly young Hong Kong has a long life ahead of them. Some of the brightest people in the world, they will not live under Chinese totalitarian control, they will leave sadly; some to Britain, some to other countries around the world. It will be a tragedy, but what China will then inherit and have absorbed, will be an empty shell and the permanent shame throughout the world of having destroyed the freedoms of Hong Kong in a way that was not only ethically indefensible, but also contrary to their treaty obligations, which China has always sought to emphasize it always observes. So, the stakes are high. But if the international community working with the people of Hong Kong can do all that is possible… I’m not optimistic, but nor am I entirely pessimistic. I believe that we’re talking about the next few years. And if China can be persuaded that it will lose more than it will gain by the current kind of policy, and we may yet see either under Xi Jinping or under his successor, some change of approach that might bring a more optimistic outcome to this very real problem.
So, Malcolm, thank you very much indeed, for that magisterial sweep into strategy from the incisive detail that you picked up also from Martin. Martin, before we open up to questions, I wondered whether you yourself would now like to give us some of your general thoughts on the strategic issues, that global view of what it means for the world’s relations with China, when international agreements are regarded as of no merits, res nullius effectively, and we see them behaving in the same draconian approach elsewhere in the world. Now, if you’re if you’re willing, I’d be very glad if you would share some of your thoughts on that… and then we’ll open up to our questions.
Martin Lee 21:14
Thank you. I think China now is at a crossroads. Xi Jinping’s great China dream is to be the world’s most powerful country. Now, what would it be like for him? If because of the way he handles Hong Kong, the whole world does not trust China, in which case they will gang up against China. How does it help China, which appears to aspire to be the most powerful nation in the world? I think that is a very serious question for President Xi Jinping. He has to sort it out. His plan was China would be in that position in five years’ time – 2025. But while people now are struggling over this Coronavirus, I suggest that is another bias that is hurting Hong Kong. I call it the CCP – 20 (CCP Chinese Communist Party – 2020). This virus does not kill people. It kills, or it is programmed to kill, the soul of different nations, their core values. It’s hitting Hong Kong now. So, there’s not a pandemic it’s only epidemic. But it is programmed to spread to every corner of the earth. So, Hong Kong is the key to China. If the world allows Hong Kong to become hit this epidemic, our core values are finished. And Hong Kong will become less than a Chinese city. Because they may have to set up a lot of concentration camps in Hong Kong to contain our young people and old people like me, in order to have absolute control over us. That is one way. Or the other way, is for the Chinese leader to know that this is a wrong way for China, because this will not help them to realize its great China dream. And hopefully, they can be persuaded to go back to Deng Xiaoping’s one country two systems’ by trusting the Hong Kong people. We do not want independence. He never allowed us even to try to rule Hong Kong or even to win the elections so that we can rule Hong Kong as promised in the Joint Declaration and the basic law. So, it is a very serious question for a leader. One man can make that decision to go back to Deng Xiaoping way. Only one person. So far, he hasn’t been given correct advice in Hong Kong, by his own people, or by our Hong Kong government. That was why they were completely shocked in November last year, when the Democrats won so comprehensively in our district council elections. They were shocked. They are also very afraid to lose control of the Legislative Council in the September elections just a couple of months down the road. The Electoral laws are so very undemocratic. I do see how it is possible for us to win a majority, but they are now trembling, because they have no confidence in the old people in Hong Kong, people who are not trusted by the majority of Hong Kong people, that is a problem. So, I think the world would watch Hong Kong and China and then decide what to do of China. It cannot be in China’s interest to get on with its comprehensive jurisdiction over Hong Kong. It is very easy to do that, but how does it help China? And whereas I’m very grateful for the British government, and the US government now to be thinking generously about giving Hong Kong passports and so on, what we need is a sustainable long-term solution. And the only one, which is possible, is to go back to them Deng Xiaoping’s way. In a way, it’s much easier, because it’s already there in writing. And it is already promised by China. So, we are standing on the moral high ground. Hong Kong people we have no weapons. No conventional weapons, and our weapons are truth and justice.
Matthew Henderson 26:18
Martin, thank you. What can one say? The voice of reason obliged to address such stark and grim choices. That is a very good way now, I think to move forward to our questions. And I have one here from Sir Hugo Swire.
Sir Hugo Swire 27:35
Thank you to Malcolm and to Martin. Martin and I have had discussions on this subject, way back, and when he came to the UK. My question is this: How can other ASEAN countries be better coordinated and encouraged to stand up to China’s increasingly aggressive and provocative behaviour in the region?
Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind 28:08
I’m very happy to respond to you on that question. There is an important point to bear in mind and which Beijing should bear in mind. They are often described as seeking hegemony and becoming the world power. But when the British Empire became the world power, or subsequently, the United States, the world is a very different world. We extended our power around the world, because most of the countries we controlled, were very weak, were very backward technologically. And we were the country where the Industrial Revolution began, the United States became the superpower in 1945, when the rest of the world have been devastated by the World War. Now, China today is in a very, totally different situation. It is surrounded by countries that are just as economically prosperous as China. And in some cases, even more prosperous than China. China has caught up with them. But these countries that surround them, are themselves also democracies, and observing the rule of law. One thinks of South Korea, Japan, of Taiwan and other countries in Southeast Asia, not all of them, but quite a proportion of them. And so, China is not surrounded by weak and defenceless countries. And the answer, I think, to the question you raise, is that what we are already seeing is a degree of enhanced cooperation very slowly, very tentatively, because many of these countries don’t want to unnecessarily provoke China. But let me give a couple of examples. A few months ago, India and Japan for the first time in history, had joint naval exercises. What on earth did India and Japan, thousands of miles apart, have in common – except China. It is about borders, sharing borders with China. Vietnam would not historically be expected to see the United States as one of its close allies. And yet the Vietnamese communist government have made it clear that they have very friendly good relations with the United States and want cooperation with the US and other countries in helping contain China. And so, what we are also seeing is because of China’s vast size, it has two dimensions; it had the Pacific dimension on its East coast, and it has the Indian Ocean to the South – with other countries in between. If you know, listen to what the governments, the academics, the think tanks, and others are saying, they don’t refer to the Indian and Pacific Oceans as completely separate when it comes to geopolitics. The term now is used as Indo-Pacific. And that is purely been adopted as part of the new thinking as to how if we have to, the international community may have to contain China. And when China realizes that, and perhaps it is realizing it, I hope it is, and not what exists at the moment. But what is gradually happening, the more it seeks to destabilize its neighbours and control their behaviour, it will build up not a NATO equipment – I’m not talking necessarily about a middle military alliance, God forbid that we don’t have to actually go that far – but there will certainly be a geopolitical alliance, which could have a military component to it. And that means China cannot simply cherry pick as it were picking off one country at a time in for an indefinite period ahead. So that is my belief, not only what could happen, I think it’s already beginning to happen. And you only have to think of the examples that I mentioned a few moments ago.
Malcolm, thank you so much. There is a tendency these days for pragmatists, we might call them cynics, to talk about being realistic about the world as it is, as opposed to what it could or should be. This is quite wrong. Of course, we must aspire, as Martin tells us in terms of values, aspire to make the world that which it should be, which is very other from what it is now. My next question comes from Lord Dobbs.
Michael Dobbs 32:12
Good, good morning. And thank you for the for the fascinating insights. And could I just ask you about the Chinese response to the suggestion that the British government might offer Hong Kong citizens with overseas passports, access, greater rights and possibly settlement rights in this country? I suspect that the Chinese will not welcome that. But I would welcome your views about how far they will take their opposition to that suggestion, and also a discussion of why… What are the motives for what I assume will be opposing that suggestion?
Martin Lee 32:51
Well, I think one obvious motive is not to allow the creme de la creme of people to leave Hong Kong, to the UK, or to pick up the citizenship offered by the Americans, I can well understand. And they are complaining that the reliance on the exchange of memoranda to – Malcolm can tell us – the exchange between the two governments upon the signing of the Joint Declaration. And they have actually said that it is against international law. Interesting, if they now play that the British government is in breach of the international law. And I think that they are certainly in breach of the Joint Declaration by walking out of it altogether. Isn’t that the right time for the matter to be submitted to the International Court of Justice? Both governments are complaining against each other, so who should submit to the jurisdiction of the international court?
Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind 33:46
Should I perhaps add a comment back to me on that? I mean, the whole issue of citizenship and migration rights is obviously a hugely politically sensitive issue, not just in the United Kingdom, but essentially, almost in every country around the world. Now, and back in 1997, although I do remember the people in Hong Kong saying why can we not have citizenship rights? It was not only very difficult from the United Kingdom’s point of view, because of the sensitivity in terms of immigration issues within Britain, the Chinese government, as Martin has indicated, were very strongly against any movements of that kind. And, of course, there was no immediate need to contemplate a right of entry. The situation sadly, has changed dramatically. So that the reason why, and I’m not in the government, but I’m pretty clear in my mind why they have done this. And the reason why the government have spoken out the way they have done in the last week on visa rights, possibly leading to citizenship is for two reasons. First of all, to help the morale of people in Hong Kong, that they’re not being forgotten, that anything that can be done of a practical kind, to think in terms of their long-term future is something in the British government and the British public are very keen to contemplate. But secondly, also it’s a message to China. It goes back to the point I was saying earlier, they must be aware that if they push Hong Kong too far, if they destroy two systems, then they will lose the goose that lays the golden eggs. And although Hong Kong is less important to China today financially than it was in 1997, because of the growth of Shanghai, Shenzhen in other parts of China, it still is hugely important. I think, correct me if I’m wrong, but when all those international companies that are contemplating investment in mainland China, something like 60, or 70% of the capital is raised in Hong Kong, it can’t be raised in Shanghai or in mainland China itself. And of course, what international companies contemplating investing in China want, is to know that if there are any disputes, will they be determined by the rule of law. And they don’t mean Chinese rule of law. Famously, or notoriously, I remember a conversation with the Chinese Foreign Minister in 1996, when the people of Hong Kong said when you go to China, Mr. Rifkin, please emphasize the importance of the rule of law. And when I saw Kenji Chen, I made this point to him, and he said to me, ‘don’t worry, Mr. Rifkin, we in China, we to believe in the rule of law in China, the people must obey the law.’ And I said, ‘hold on a moment, when we talk about the rule of law, it’s not just the people, it is also the government must be under the law’ which he couldn’t comprehend. From the point of view of the business community in Hong Kong, rule of laws and internet, other international investors, that is crucial. And that is what China would lose and be left with an empty husk as part of its integrated territory.
Quite so. And the idea that in some sort of way, magic wand can be waived in Hainan. Hardly a place where law of any sort as much role is clearly no more than a fantasy. Now, our next question is from a good friend from Australia, Latika Bourke.
Latika Bourke 37:26
I was very interested in your comment about HSBC being craven and you said that, you know, the behaviour was reprehensible. But what can government do? Other than call for boycotts of HSBC, which is currently the case? Should there be something that action? And how would you go about that?
Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind 37:46
Well, why I said they were craven – HSBC, and I think Standard Chartered as well… I understand why they did it. And they and we, there appears to have been some threats from the Chinese government. They’re very good at giving threats to people, if they don’t conform, they will be punished. So, they clearly succumbed to that. What they should have done given their own business interests, they could have easily put out a statement saying we recognize the need for a national security law, and we must hope that legislature in Hong Kong will carry out what was the original commitment to produce one, and we hope the Chinese government will give them more time to do that. Something like that, which would have been consistent with their business interests… and without letting down the people of Hong Kong. So far as how we react to that. I mean, Hong Kong has its own customers, many of its customers will dislike what happened, some of them may have moved to other banks. I don’t think we’re going to damage… they’ve tarnished their reputation. I don’t think it calls for government action. I don’t think that’s, that’s appropriate. But the public and particularly those who use HSBC, will make up their own minds as to whether they wish to be associated with that bank, given this behavior.
Martin how do you feel about the fact that institutions like that, whose existence is intertwined with that of Hong Kong, and who’ve benefited from the word go from the enormous freedoms which Hong Kong has enjoyed, that they should now in some sort of way, be bending down and kowtowing to the very forces which are seeking to destroy those freedoms? There seems to be such a fundamental contradiction there. What are your thoughts on that point, if I may ask?
Martin Lee 39:25
Well, let me tell you a few years ago, various banks actually advertise with Apple Daily, Jimmy Lai’s publication, and they actually paid for advertisement. And then Beijing had a word with them, and they extracted the pool of their advertisement. But the point is that communists would go to these banks and these national institutions, and they are told, you’ve got to do what we tell you to do. Not just doing the way, they said, Malcolm suggests, because that is not good enough. They want to be able to enact this piece of law for Hong Kong. So, you cannot say, please leave it electable. That is a problem. So, they either follow exactly what they’re told, or they don’t. And then China will then hit in every way to make it more and more difficult for them to do business in Hong Kong, and certainly not in China too. So that’s, and recently, because China wanted to go to get on with this legislation for Hong Kong, they summoned all our tycoons to Beijing, and each of them had to follow suit. I pity these people. I think these basically are Hong Kong people, they look at the business, and they say, what do we do? But I quite agree to all these people, I think they got a bottom line. But that bottom line can be further and further lowered. That’s the trouble.
Matthew Henderson 41:22
Thank you very much, Martin. Yes. Now, a different tack. I suspect. Our next question is from Admiral the Lord West.
Admiral Lord West of Spithead 41:40
Bearing in mind all of this plan to change legislation, the South China Sea, attacks on Taiwan, massive attacks on intellectual property and cyberspace, bullying our small nations… Isn’t it time that we should take some deterrent action rather than appeasement to show China that the international community won’t put up with their behaviour? Appeasement, we know, for example, exactly what it had achieved with Hitler. And it finally led to a war. So for example, should we maybe encourage the Western, the main westernized trading nations to recognize Taiwan, set up a new Southeast Asia Treaty Organization on the same sort of scale, as we did with NATO and revitalize likeminded nations to review the successful world order established, post-World War Two and make it fit for purpose in this new world, and work with our allies to review all trading links with China, review Chinese investments, educational links, because I believe urgent action is needed – and this would show that we really mean business… and maybe the leadership in China would think twice about the way they’re going. Thank you.
Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind 42:53
So, shall I come in? I hope Lord Westfield, forgive me if I say, I always get slightly nervous when former first sea Lords call for a deterrent rather than anything else, because it implies use of the facilities they were once in charge off. But if I may make a serious response to the question that has been raised. I think the question of whether you can have the degree of alliance and cooperation, particularly with Asian countries must obviously depend on whether the Asian countries themselves want that formalization of the way in which the Chinese threat is dealt with. I think at the moment, they would see that as too provocative, and they still hope, rightly or wrongly, that a more gradual process, a more diplomatic process, other methods are more likely or certainly more acceptable, to resolve some of their difficulties. I’m becoming increasingly sceptical whether that view is correct. But you, Britain, the United States, the West, can only cooperate with Asian countries, insofar as East Asian countries want that cooperation. A particular point, if I may, on Taiwan, because of course, Taiwan has been in a situation where it has got rid of its dictatorship. It’s become a thriving healthy democracy with the rule of law, economically, it is very successful. And of course, the reason why the Chinese government detest it so much, is because Taiwan is a living repudiation of the central argument of Xi Jinping and his colleagues. They have tried to say to the Chinese people, not just to the rest of the world, that in order to have economic progress, it is worth living with a one-party state with the denial of your personal freedom and with the kind of approach to the rule of law that we have in China. This is a deal you are right to make. Now in fact, is ludicrous because it’s not. You don’t just have to look to the West for an alternative, and not just to Taiwan. Taiwan, South Korea, other countries, other countries in that part of the world were not democracies, they have become democracies with the rule of law, and most of them got the prosperity China has today 20 or 30 years ago. So, this is something which needs this battle of ideas and needs to be won. When I hear as I have heard, not in person, but in reports, Xi Jinping, saying, we reject Western values, the ideas of democracy and the rule of law were invented in Europe to meet European needs. It’s absurd. It’s like saying Islam or Christianity are not relevant except in Palestine, because that’s where they first happened, which is obviously ludicrous. So, we’re talking about universal values. And China, even today, China is the exception, along with a few others, is the exception to the progressive march of public involvement. And one final point, if I may, one of the achievements of China is to create several hundred million middle-class Chinese highly educated. Is it realistic to believe that for all time, hundreds of millions of well-educated Chinese, many of them, have travelled abroad, will go back home and accept that it is legitimate to be in a country that denies you access to the internet, that denies you any involvement in your day to day political life, that makes as a government that is accountable, particularly when you see other Chinese across the straits in Taiwan enjoy, and in Hong Kong, enjoying just these sort of rights? So that’s why Beijing, the government there are very nervous, far more nervous than they like to appear at these special meetings of the Parliament, when everybody puts their hand up at the same time.
Thank you very much, Martin, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Martin Lee 47:01
Well, a lot of governments look at China, as China trade. So, there is a lot of money, I have to say, including the British government for many years. I remember when I was given this treatment by the Foreign Affairs Committee of your parliament. At that time, the premier of China actually was there in London, offering huge objects. I think the amount was something like $30 billion per country. So that is the way China was successful in pushing this One Belt One Road policy, for example, very often by bribing government official, the president of whatever… the Prime Ministers of various countries. They do it this way, there is a lot of money. But that sort of deal may not actually be to the benefit of these various country at all. But that is the way they do business. And the world loves doing business with China because there is money and that’s the problem.
Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind 48:26
Thank you, Martin. I don’t want to exceed the role of moderator. but I would also like to observe if I may, very quickly, that one of the ways that the CCP justifies its continued totalitarian autocracy is to convince its people that they are the only way – that the party is the only way – to protect the Chinese people from a hostile world. And the more that agenda can be whipped up, the easier it is to justify continued constraints and depression. Anyway, now, sorry, Duncan Bartlett has a question for us.
Duncan Bartlett 48:59
Thank you, Matthew. And you mentioned, Malcolm, you mentioned earlier on, about putting international pressure on China, perhaps to reconsider the introduction of the new security laws for Hong Kong. I wondered if there were any recent examples of the international community, forcing China into a rethink, particularly on any foreign policy issues.
Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind 49:29
I’m not, I’m not aware of any I can, at this moment in time. But actually, what happens with these governments… I had a lot of time in the 1980s, during the Cold War period having to deal with the Soviet Union. And very often, and the Soviet Union in its public statements was just as intemperate, just as unhelpful as the Chinese government today. And yet, if you could distinguish matters that were not fundamental to their perception of their vital interests, then you could get movement. And then sometimes diplomacy was better than strident public statements. But it depended on how much of a sacrifice they thought they would be making if they were to respond. So, the relevance of this today is we have to either recognize and convince China that yes, it will achieve much of its objectives, by its current methods, but it’s also losing its place in the world simultaneously, by the way in which it carries out its activities. Let me just give you one relatively trivial example, but very, very important. When some airline offering a flight to Taiwan has not made clear in its marketing material, that Taiwan is part of China, or when some Scandinavian University has given a platform to some Chinese dissident or, or to somebody who supports the Dalai Lama, then China, which is a great world power, not only bullies, these airlines, or these universities, but it’s also utterly disproportionate. I mean, can you imagine if the British government, even if it had the power to do so, we’d make ourselves look ludicrous if we tried to put pressure on an airline in South America or a university in Korea, because they said or did something we disapproved of. We’d be told Don’t be so ridiculous. So, the Chinese government, and this is the Communist Party is not the Chinese people, the Chinese Communist Party is so it’s so nervous. So, whatever its public position, it knows it doesn’t have legitimacy. It knows that once you allow a crack of dissent to become acceptable within China, then the whole edifice might slowly begin to crumble. And that is I think, the reason, but I think it ought to be possible, because these are very bright people that we’re talking about the people who run the Communist Party in China, They’re not foolish, they’re not stupid, they’re not ignorant. But they’ve been caught up by their own ideology, and by their own self interest in preserving their power. So, we have to try and build round that. And in some areas, I don’t want to be over optimistic, you can get change even with the governments of that kind.
Thank you. Martin, will you offer your thoughts
Martin Lee 52:37
This Congress Party is also very pragmatic, and they will do things when they finally realize that it is in its own interest to do so. And so far, I doubt if Xi Jinping has got the best advice, he could be given by his Communist Party carried out by the Hong Kong government, in relation to Hong Kong method. I doubt if he has been told the truth of Hong Kong.
Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind 53:07
And because this is what used to be described, and was notably so described at Davos in 2017, about Win-Win, is now revealed to be zero sum. Very good. Our next question is Nicolas Maclean.
Nicolas Maclean 53:27
Thank you. We’ve already talked about the British government’s initiative on BNOs. And it will be very helpful if Malcolm and Martin could look forward in their crystal balls as to how the process of the long-term chess game might play out if the British government and various allies around the world do move ahead, in that very sensible direction. How is China likely to retaliate? And how is the West likely to respond to that?
Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind 54:06
I think that what is the most likely scenario, unless the Chinese government have a change of heart in a good direction is that the current salami tactics continue. As Martin, for example, predicted I suspect correctly, that the national security legislation is enforced in Hong Kong, and that the next will be an extradition bill, and so forth. And so as that goes forward in the wrong direction, if it’s not just a question of getting laws on the statute book, if the Chinese government decided to use that legal base, or statutory base to destroy and are actually not just hypothetically, removing long held freedoms in Hong Kong, then people in Hong Kong in increasing numbers will say is there a long term future for me in this territory? And young people will not have automatic citizenship rights elsewhere, but such is their ability that many countries around the world would only be too happy to offer them political asylum, because that’s effectively what it would be. Older people will have legal rights to the United Kingdom or perhaps elsewhere, and that process will begin, and it will begin slowly. But if the Chinese government’s behaviour was to accelerate, so that process would accelerate, and you would within a couple of years, it wouldn’t be overnight. But within a couple of years, you could, for all practical purposes, have the end of Hong Kong, as we know it, and at that stage, the Chinese Communist government, unless they sent the People’s Liberation Army, would not physically be able to prevent people leaving, and the best people, and a lot of ordinary people would seek to leave.
Martin Lee 55:57
And things really look bad for Hong Kong, but then we have to look at the bigger picture happening all over the world. And then I talked about the CCP-20 virus, but there is this Coronavirus, which is hitting the whole world. How is it going to end? When is it going to end? Nobody knows. Except one thing. Most countries in the world would be bankrupt by the end of it? What would the world do? This is something I tried to think about. But of course, it’s so big, much bigger than all the three world or two world wars put together. It’s going to hit every country almost. So, China would have to face certain consequences too, because of the delay in telling the truth to the rest of the world over this violence. And people are now already talking about compensation. So, Mr. Xi Jinping has got a lot of headaches. And then when he sees the pressure caused by the other virus, what is it going to do? Does he not want? Does he not want to stop the rest of the world ganging up against? Would he not think? How can I win back the trust of China, which Dung Xiaoping had over the joint decoration? These are serious questions for him. So, if we look at it by wearing blinkers, we see the downside of it will vary. But if you look at the bigger picture, who knows what would happen?
Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind 57:53
On the Coronavirus implications, the attempt by the Chinese government to conceal the virus had broken out in Wuhan for several weeks, as Martin correctly refers to, it has a very disturbing similarity to what happened in the last years of the Soviet Union with Chernobyl, when you had that massive nuclear disaster in what is now Ukraine, but then part of the Soviet Union. And I remember at that time, and it’s not in dispute, that it was not just the rest of the world that was unimpressed by the initial denials, it had a massive impact on the attitude of the Russian and other Soviet peoples, in a view of the legitimacy of the Soviet regime. Here you had your own government denying not a natural, but a nuclear disaster in its own territory. And of course, the people who suffered most were the people who lived in the proximity of Chernobyl and whoever lives were endangered. Now that did more to, it wasn’t the only reason, but a Soviet Union that was already weakening, actually, perhaps collapsed quicker than it would otherwise have done because of that. Now, China is not in that situation. It’s not in a process of internal collapse. We know that. But legitimacy is something and trust in your own government is something which in a totalitarian system once you’ve lost it, credibly difficult to get it back again.
Matthew Henderson 59:30
Now, earlier on we had a question, Brendan Cole, would he like to have another go now please?
Michael Dobbs 59:43
My question is for Martin, if possible. Just in response to the thousands gathering in Victoria Park yesterday for the commemorations. The gathering had initially been banned due to Coronavirus restrictions. At least that was the pretext. I was just wondering what your thoughts are on, given the fact that the Chinese media is really seizing on the US protests to claim how much China enjoys greater stability? Might the US protests shape China’s immediate response to Hong Kong? I guess by that I mean, do you anticipate Beijing holding back in Hong Kong so it can capitalize on the propaganda coup of the unrest in the US? And do you think that Beijing will continue to make those kinds of comparisons between the unrest in the US and demonstrations in Hong Kong coming up in the coming months?
Martin Lee 1:00:38
Well, I have to say there are certain remarkably similar things happening in the USA as in Hong Kong… the reaction between the people and the government, and the law enforcement agents and so on. But of course, in the States, at least now, policemen will be guilty, or see committing offenses and are being charged. In Hong Kong, not a single policeman was charged. Even though TV cameras, it captured many times, the fatalities on the demonstrators were completely subdued, and blood flowing from the head and still they knock their heads on the road. And none of the policemen were ever arrested. So, you see certain similarity, but of course, in the States, they are looking forward to an election in November, which can change order. In Hong Kong we don’t have any democratic elections and we are not supposed to, you know, I don’t see how Beijing would ever allow us to have even though it was promised, in our basic law, we would have it that we could 10 years after. But of course, in China would like certainly people to laugh at the Americans, oh, you have democracy look at their democracy. Right. They talk about freedom… look at their freedoms. today. They were… they’re having a good time… in Hong Kong, Beijing people pushing the level of propaganda and machinery, state machinery, having fun. We all know, yes. The police force in many parts of the world commit offenses, but they’ve got a way to address…they’ve got the democracy, but we don’t.
Matthew Henderson 1:02:52
Thank you. We have a question now from a former colleague of mine Alp Mehmet
Alp Mehmet 1:03:17
Yes, Sir Malcolm has partly answered my question, which was regarding settlement rights for some 3 million Hong Kongens, which was rejected on impractical and unrealistic grounds by the UK Government nearly 30 years ago. The BNO status was granted instead – and I recall vividly how much to the dismay of people like Mr. Lee the wonderful Mr. Lee and Emily Lau for example, it was. How will offering a path to settlement now really help the Hong Kong people in this struggle for the high degree of autonomy that was promised in the joint declaration? Is it in fact, encouraging an exodus and as Sir Malcom put it, an exodus that will eventually leave an empty shell for the Chinese Communist Party, so cocking a snook at the Chinese rather than helping Hong Kong?
Matthew Henderson 1:04:26
Thank you, a most intriguing angle.
Martin Lee 1:04:32
Well, actually, as far as I’m concerned, and I think a lot of people in Hong Kong are concerned, we are looking for a sustainable, long-term solution for Hong Kong. And the only way is to bring China back to the original promise containing Sino British Joint Declaration in a way it’s not that difficult. It’s already there, in black and white and also enshrined in our Basic Law and mini constitution. But of course, there is a plan B, for some other people. It will be a wonderful thing for them. They do, they don’t have to worry about facing in prison, but not just in Hong Kong, but in China, if the if the extradition bill would become law this time. So, and of course, when people see that things are going back in the right direction, then they don’t want to leave the city. It is our home. We love this place. And we don’t want Hong Kong to be completely changed. We don’t want our way of life will be changed. We are Hong Kong people. We should be ruling Hong Kong, these are the people, the Hong Kong people, we should be moving Hong Kong, with democracy. And so, I still rather have that as our ultimate goal. Passports are good as a plan B, if everything should fail, but we mustn’t be so pessimistic, we must go for the right thing. And when there are enough governments concerned about Hong Kong in willing to help Hong Kong. We have never been in this position before never. Because every governor talked to you, in your day, I know, had their eyes on China trade. And that is so difficult to make them think and even consider doing the tiniest thing for Hong Kong. But now we have, we have so much good intention on the part of so many governments. That is the golden time. That golden era reminded me of what the British government has to say about relationship with China, golden era. But now, let’s talk about Hong Kong. Let’s talk about agreement. Let’s talk about China’s way forward as a world power, and all these things will come together. Same result, Deng Xiaoping’s One Country Two Systems, it is not easy, but one man can make it happen.
Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind 1:07:16
If I could just add one point to what Martin has said, what the Chinese government, possibly, as we speak are thinking to themselves is that for the last three or four years, the Hong Kong issue, 99% of it has been a dispute between Hong Kong and Mainland China. What’s happened in the last three months is it’s now become an international issue. It is now still Hong Kong versus China. But it’s now China versus a very substantial part of the international community, including some of the most powerful and wealthy countries in the rest of the world. And that has implications not just at the diplomatic level, but also the economic and trade level. Because what is happening… if you think in the United Kingdom at this moment, when issues like Huawei and 5g were being considered and being decided upon a few months ago, it was the discussion was purely about risk. What is the risk to our national security of allowing a Chinese company to be involved, and the government concluded, you can manage risk, and I actually agreed with the conclusion they reached you can manage risk, what has happened and is a direct consequence of Xi Jinping’s policies, not just in Hong Kong, but more widely, that we are all saying well hold on, the level of risk you experience becomes a lot greater if your international relations with the country in question have deteriorated because of their behaviour. You can sometimes have a very good relationship with a country that has a different political or social system, if they are not aggressive if they’re not bullying their neighbours, if they’re not seeking to impose themselves on other countries. But if and then we’ve seen particularly in the last three, four months, a severe deterioration in Chinese government behaviour, not just on Hong Kong, but on all the other issues that we were discussing about earlier, then what is happening in Britain, and in the United States and in other Western countries has its implications for trade, and it does mean there’ll be less trade, and that in some respects, we internationally will lose out because whenever you limit free trade, that is what happens. But politics tends to sometimes be even more important than the interest of a bank or financial institution. And that is what’s now happening. And the Chinese government have to ask themselves now, is this going to just be a one off? Or is it going to get worse, and the evidence at the moment is it will get a lot worse for them unless they change their behaviour?
Matthew Henderson 1:09:47
Quite so. It’s no coincidence that we call this event Lessons for the Free World. What has made Hong Kong, Hong Kong from the very beginning is the fact that freedom was intrinsic to it. And when those freedoms are basically eroded, the least the rest of the world can do to say you still have some choices. Now we have another question, Christine Emmett.
Christine Emmett 1:10:18
In the UK, to offer a Chinese solution to something is to offer both parties a way out of a situation where nobody loses face. How can the CCP be offered a way out of the Hong Kong situation in particular, without losing face?
Martin Lee 1:10:38
Now, I entirely agree. We Chinese people are very concerned about face. But as I said earlier, the Communist Party is also very pragmatic, it will be looking at his own interest. Now it feels because of all the things that Malcolm also mentioned about China, being now in a world power and all that, and having to face all these governments, as enemies, or as friends. Now, all these things are coming in. And also, even for China trade. A lot of people, including the British government, thought that if they would displease China, they will not give the best context to you, in fact, wrong. And China is very smart. If they believe this particular company in England, produces the best product, and the price is reasonable, they will go to it. Even though the British government may stand on principle in relation to Hong Kong. Time and time again, you see that happen. But in fact, if you come down to them, you are in their pocket, and they will give you the occasion to sweeten the big ones. There’s no need to give it to it looks the other way. So, face is another one. If they see that it’s important for them to, in fact, change cause, they will find they will find a short ladder for them to climb down. You don’t have to worry about it. They know what is in their best interest. Don’t let us assume that is a matter of face. They will not be fooled.
Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind 1:12:24
Yeah, I very much agree with that. And I think the additional point I would make is that no one either expects, nor would it be realistic, to even think it’s likely that China will somehow cease to be one of the new superpowers by its size, by its history, by its economic prosperity. It not only would expect to be, but inevitably, it’s not something that can be prevented, nor should we try and do so. So, the issue is, as a superpower, is it going to behave responsibly or irresponsibly? And you don’t lose face by behaving responsibly, you realize that not everything that you might have expected in an ideal world are you going to get I mean, if you take Taiwan, for example, a sensible Chinese government would say, Taiwan has not been part of China and ruled by China for over 100 years. It’s now a nation, could be a very friendly nation, if we were friendly to it. And what happens in the long term, if Chinese people one day want to reunite, then that’s a separate issue. So, you know, it’s terribly difficult to make parallels, but if you think of the progress we’ve made in Ireland, between the people within Northern Ireland and between Northern Ireland, and the Irish Republic, which in its own way, was just as divided as China’s relationship with Taiwan, on the issues of unification. It’s taken a heck of a long time. But long last, we have a situation where all the parties are committed to diplomatic solutions and to consent as a basis for any future political change, including reunification of the island of Ireland. That’s the end of the parallel, but in some form or fashion, if the Chinese government want to, there’s lots of concessions they could make without losing face, they would win friends, they would gain respect, and they will be treated with the seriousness that they’re entitled to be treated, given the nature of the country itself.
There is a thing called confidence building measures. Unfortunately, that idea doesn’t seem to be part of the PRC toolkit, but perhaps it might be. Thank you. Now we have a question from Michael Danby.
Michael Danby 1:14:58
I endorse Martin Lee’s comments about Chinese government having good sense. They’re very abusive of Australia at the moment. But the iron ore price continues to go up, because China is very adept in its own interests, and is continuing to buy huge volumes of our iron ore. But my question is to submit to Malcolm, Malcolm, in 1998, Bill Clinton put two American aircraft carrier battle groups in the Taiwan straits when China became very threatening. I find the build-up in Hong Kong and elsewhere of the Beijing government ominous, and I wonder whether a diminished and divided America would be able to replicate the same kind of military support for Taiwan. What would you expect of the Americans? If there was an explicit threat to Taiwan? What would you expect of Britain and of countries like Australia?
Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind 1:16:15
I think you’ve got to be very careful, you should never use your military potential, unless in the last resort, you are prepared to actually engage in combat. Now, one of the reasons and people use this as a historical example, why Crimea was annexed is that Putin recognized, and he was correct, that whatever the strength of feeling in Washington or London or Paris or Berlin, we were not going to go with to war with Russia, because of their policy on Ukraine. Nevertheless, Russia has suffered hugely in other ways. And the issue is not yet resolved and will not be resolved until Russia changes. So, in a comparable way, yes, by all means, move your aircraft carriers around send signals, but the signals have to be accurate signals. Otherwise, that famous Chinese expression, the paper tiger comes to mind. My own view is rather than contemplating a military response in Taiwan, I think the time may or may be coming – choosing my words carefully – when Western countries and other countries throughout the world say we are no longer willing to put up with this fiction, that Taiwan is not an independent state, it is an independent state. And we will increasingly build relationships with that country, on that assumption, unless China ceases its behaviour. And, of course, hugely important to China is the success it has had in saying you cannot have relations with China, unless you break relations with Taiwan. Well, that argument is not looking quite as overwhelmingly pointing in one direction, as seemed the case until recently. And if I can give – I like giving parallels, which I know are not exact – but if you look at the extent to which Israel for example, now has infinitely more meaningful, substantive relationship with its Arab neighbours, with Saudi Arabia, with the Gulf states, with Egypt, with Jordan, most of whom, apart from one or two don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist. And that is the way in which the Middle East is changing. For good or bad, I’m not offering a value judgment on it. But it’s happening, Israel’s relationship with for example, the Saudis, it’s known, said to the Israelis, if you want to attack Iran, you can fly your airplanes over Saudi, and we’ll turn our radar off while you’re doing it. Yeah, my enemy’s enemy is my friend. So, the parallel in the case of Taiwan is for the Chinese to realize that they may lose many of the political and diplomatic successes relating to Taiwan, if they continue to threaten it with invasion or other aggression of the kind we’ve been seeing.
So, Martin, do you have any thoughts on how what’s happened in Hong Kong will affect the prospects for peaceful reunification between Taiwan and the mainland?
Martin Lee 1:19:25
Well, I certainly believe that Deng Xiaoping wanted to have reunification with Taiwan first, and then Hong Kong and Macau. That was his ambition. That was his great China dream. But he soon realized that the Americans were blocking. So, he then turned his eye on Hong Kong, and hence that famous meeting with Margaret Thatcher in 1982, leading to two years in negotiation, and then finally, coming to this solution and he was confident about the Joint Declaration. That was why he had to register with the United Nations. He wanted the international community to be the witnesses of that joint declaration, he was so sure that it will succeed. In which case, Taiwan could be reunited with China also under this principle of one country two system. Plus, one thing more that Taiwan could actually keep its Army, Air Force, and Navy, otherwise the same as Hong Kong interests… so they are offering Taiwan even more. So clearly, if the Hong Kong should be shown to be a success, that would certainly find a little more support in Taiwan a little more to begin with. And then Hong Kong goes on, he goes on, and we have our elections, and Beijing doesn’t interfere, the more and more time it will, particularly the young, younger generation, we see the advantage of having a good trading relation with China, then slowly, you can then have the possibility of peaceful reunification. That is whatever you want. And it is still possible. But with the if Beijing would walk away from the Joint Declaration, that would make it impossible. And China would have to go to war with Taiwan. But how do you retain Taiwan? Even if you could win the war? How much can you actually stand with a lot of soldiers in Taiwan to maintain control is impossible. So that is a very important point for Hong Kong. And that is why I say if the Hong Kong issue is handled correctly by Beijing, then it’s a win win win situation for everybody. And so far, I’ve never talked about independence for Hong Kong, because it’s not a viable option. And I also would like our young people in Hong Kong, to stop using any force, decide to go take to the streets, certainly not violence. Because once you resort to violence, you can never win. How can you be trying? How can you even be the Hong Kong Police, the 30,000 well-armed and we don’t even have a single pistol, a single club. They have so many weapons. So, I hope this is the way to solve a problem within China’s own basic principle, basic policy regarding Hong Kong.
Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind 1:22:41
Splendid, thank you. Now moving on, if I may, we have a questioner whose name is Clive Soley.
Clive Soley 1:23:13
First to Martin I’m sorry that some of his predictions from the 1990s are coming true. What my concern is… so there is a growing cooperation that has been pointed out between various nations around China and have felt threatened in recent times. And that cooperation is very important, both military, economic and political. But one of the ones we don’t talk about very much is India, which as we know has had a number of border disputes, which is still has with China, and would not sit back idly and let the world be dominated by China in the way that was mentioned in the opening comment. So, my question is, quite simply, how do our two speakers think India fits into this puzzle? Thank you.
Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind 1:23:55
Thank you so much, this is a most important widening of the discussion. If I may offer a few comments, India is about to overtake China in terms of population, and will be in population terms, the largest country in the world for the foreseeable future. But of course, economically, and militarily, it is much weaker than China. What the Chinese government has been doing is a series of adventures in the both the Northwest and the northeast of the Indian Chinese border. And the belief is that that is not primarily to try and increase its territory, although it has occupied what was previously controlled by India. But it’s more basically trying to send a signal to the Indian government, don’t interfere with our affairs, don’t give sanctuary to the Dalai Lama, because we can make life difficult for you as well. I think that you have to look at India-Chinese relations distinct from almost the rest of Asia, because of the sheer size of both of the countries, there could be military options. There have been military incidents on their border, serious ones. And that could easily happen again. So, I don’t think I can speculate beyond that.
Matthew Henderson 1:25:23
Thank you, Martin. Well, we are drawing towards the close of our event. And I hope we’ll have time for a few final words from both of our distinguished panellists. But our last questioner is Anne Crossfield.
Anne Crossfield 1:25:47
My question is bearing in mind some of the comments that have been made, particularly by Lord West. My particular view on this is that the world does have to get tough with China. I’m a lawyer, I’m a barrister. So, my question is, would a joint US UK and possibly other Western Allies summit, be able to halt this position with China in its tracks, so that we could stop these very, very worrying developments, which are threatening the rule of law globally?
Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind 1:26:24
My immediate response is only have a summit of the kind that you’re contemplating, if you know that that summit is going to reach agreement. The worst thing is to call together all the governments because you broadly share political values, and then find there’s a deep division as to what to do about it. And then China in the example you’re using, would be the only beneficiary. So, I think there’s an awful lot of pre-work that would have to be done at a diplomatic level, by what are always delightfully called Sherpas, people who help the various governments eventually get to the summit that they have in mind. And only if that preliminary work illustrated that there was a potential consensus as to action, then you have the summit, to put, as it were the final authority on what you’ve decided.
Martin Lee 1:27:18
Of course, I said earlier that now that both the Chinese government and the British government accuse each other of breaking agreements, international agreements, that makes it possible, actually, for the matter of Hong Kong to be taken to the International Court of Justice. And both governments I hope you submit to the jurisdiction of the court. The other the other alternative is for the United Nations to appoint special rapporteurs to look into the Hong Kong situation. That is, of course, a distinct possibility.
Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind 1:27:53
That sadly probably vetoed by China. Because you can’t get an action, if a permanent member of the Security Council disapproves. And I fear that is what they’d be likely to do.
Matthew Henderson 1:28:06
Well, alas the time has come to draw the threads together. And if our two panellists are willing, I would very much like to ask them, perhaps starting with Sir Malcolm, to offer us your final thoughts, lessons for the world, what needs to be done now to make things better than they are?
Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind 1:28:25
I think putting it very briefly, I think the issue of Hong Kong is now firmly, not just on the regional or Sino-British stage, it is on the world stage, it has become a global issue, as a direct consequence of recent Chinese government behaviour. We have to keep it there, because it is there that we at least have potential leverage to influence Chinese government behaviour in a way that the Hong Kong people by themselves would never be able to do. So that would be my main priority.
Martin Lee 1:29:00
I agree, this is a very good time for the world to look at Hong Kong, and to look at the way China treats Hong Kong to decide what to do in the years to come. That is why I repeat, Hong Kong is the key to China. If China handles Hong Kong the right way, the respectable way. And then the world can trust China. And it will be much, much, much better thing for China to do than it has ever done. And it will be very, very good for Hong Kong. That is why I go over this win-win situation. Thank you.
Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind 1:29:37
Well, thank you all, particular thanks to our two distinguished speakers. Thanks to our audience for some excellent and thought-provoking questions. We have, of course raised I think, more questions than answers. On the other hand, that is the role of an event of this sort. We look forward to hearing from you again, and thanks for your attendance and your contributions today. Goodbye all. Thank you. Bye. Goodbye.