Date: 18:15-19:15, 3 July 2017
Venue: Committee Room 20, Palace of Westminster
Speakers: Dame Anson Chan, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Edward Leung, Dr. Malte Kaeding
Event Chair: Nigel Evans MP
Event Host: John Hemmings, Director of the Asia Studies Centre at The Henry Jackson Society
Nigel Evans MP
My Lords, ladies and gentlemen welcome to this what is the third session today looking at Hong Kong, the first two sessions looked to be closed door events so we will say that this is an open door event and we are grateful to those who have come this evening to the House of Commons to talk about the future expectations for Hong Kong.
My name is Nigel Evans I was elected in 1992 amongst many other things I am Vice Chairman of the All Party China Group, I am Chairman of the All Party Taiwan Group and that always makes for interesting discussions whenever I see the Ambassador of China. I am also a friend of Hong Kong, a very long term friend of Hong Kong and I see from some of the people who have spoken this morning via Skype, Martin Lee I have met in Hong Kong and Nathan Law I met in Hong Kong earlier last year and I spent New Year there as well, I had a fascinating conversation with him and have been clearly following events in Hong Kong particularly over the last few days.
So without further ado because you have not come to listen to me you have come to listen to these distinguished experts, the first of which is Malcom Rifkind. Malcolm has held three of the great offices here and in Scotland both the Defence and Foreign Secretary and can I say no more than Malcolm please we would love to hear what you have to say about the future holds for Hong Kong and with particular reference to the British position.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind
Thank you Nigel. My best claim to be here was in the period when I was Foreign Secretary that was from 1995 to 97 so I did the final stage of negotiations with the Chinese government and with Legco and Hong Kong and so forth. Most of the work had been done before my arrival but there was still quite a number of issues to be addressed so it is obviously an issue which I have had a background and kept a great interest.
Coming straight to where we are now in a sense we are almost at the half-term report as to how two systems in one country has developed how it has worked, it is not quite half-term we have got another five years before that but there are pretty good indications and there is a plus and there is a minus. There are some things which we can be cheerful about and some things which we can be very disturbed about and let me comment briefly on each of these.
On the cheerful side it would only be correct and an obvious truth to say that Hong Kong remains different to the rest of China. It has a capitalist system, it has compared to China free speech, rule of law and various other aspects that we associate with a free society. It is quite different to any other part of China, it remains quite different the people of Hong Kong have far greater freedom than any other Chinese citizens so it that sense it is quite a substantial thing to be able to say that after 20 years two systems in one country has been respected.
Joshua Wong wrote an interesting piece in the Financial Times this morning that some of you would have seen in which he said (in his words) where ‘the real question for Hong Kong is therefore what happens in 2047?’ he went on to say this is a certain uncertainty. I think that is obviously right none of us know, the Chinese themselves do not know what they will do after 2047 but actually, as this audience will know much better than I do, there are already serious causes for concern.
Although the fundamentals of two systems remains in place, various attempts have been made certainly with the knowledge of the Chinese government perhaps with a connivance and an involvement to erode the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong, to reduce the quality of the rule of law and an example of this of course is the abduction of the Hong Kong bookseller to China. A clear breach of what has been required. Someone has suggested that what is being attempted and to some degree maybe being achieved is salami tactics where you gradually reduce some of the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.
So you asked me Nigel to comment specifically from a United Kingdom perspective. I think it is rather important to remind ourselves what was said in the joint declaration in the basic law because that is the foundation, there were international treaties, the whole legal basis of what happened in 1997.
A couple of brief quotations to remind ourselves. In the joint declaration in 1984 signed a document and it has been said of that document the whole makeup is a formal international agreement, legally binding in all its parts, an international agreement of this kind is the highest form of commitment between two sovereign states.
Now I noticed and I was rather disturbed to hear that a gentlemen last week Luke Kang former foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing said the arrangements during the transition he was referring to the joint declaration that the arrangements in the transitional period signed by the joint declaration he said are now history and of no practical significance. He added the British side has no sovereignty, no power to rule and supervise Hong Kong after the handover.
Now let’s just remind ourselves what was said not just in the joint declaration but also in the basic law. In the basic law article 27 – Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of speech of the press, of publication, of freedom of association, of assembly, of demonstration and the freedom of the right to join and form trade unions. It went on to say in no Hong Kong (including booksellers) no Hong Kong resident should be subject to arbitrary unlawful arrest, detention or imprisonment and various other things of that kind.
So what disturbed me was the extent that sadly the new Chief Executive of Hong Kong has declined to take up as a serious matter or even to rebuke in the mildest terms as one can tell the abduction of the bookseller.
Now let me go back to what the spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry said when he said the British side has no sovereignty or no power. Well we don’t have any sovereignty of course that is true our position you could say is exactly the same as that was of the Chinese government between the signing of the joint declaration in 1984 and the transfer of Hong Kong in 1997, for those 13 years the Chinese government had no sovereignty, no power to rule or to supervise Hong Kong, but we did not question that they had a legitimate interest in these matters. We didn’t suggest if they raised their concerns that somehow it was impenitent of them to even suggest they should have a view that should be listened to.
So just as the Chinese government when they had no sovereignty over Hong Kong during those 13 years had a legitimate interest. So since 1997 the UK government has a legitimate interest and if you have a legitimate interest then if I dare say it you have a legitimate obligation as well, you have duties not just privileges. If you are asking me what the government, whatever British government that may be in a political direction, to be fair the governments over the past 20 years have from time to time raised these matters if there are matters of concern over Hong Kong. But as China has become more economically more powerful and politically more significant, as the years have gone by, sometimes the British government has been less audible in regards to its concerns than it might have been.
Now I want to be quite realistic about this. I don’t for a moment suggest nor would I invite anyone else to suggest that the British government can force China to so something it is determined to do of course we cannot do that. There is no sanction we have that would force them to change their mind. But that is true of the people of Hong Kong as well and as the people of Hong Kong saw when there have been attempts over the last 20 years for example trying to introduce rules governing possible alleged actions against the Chinese government, there were huge protests from the people of Hong Kong and time after time the Chinese government, although they would never acknowledge it, have bent, have adapted, have taken account to some degree. So we will not force them to change what they consider to be a vital interest and that is why to be honest I have been unhappy about some people in Hong Kong talking about independence for Hong Kong. It seemed to me that it was not only completely unrealistic but it gives the Chinese government and excuse to try to justify some of their actions they would not otherwise have. This is not an argument about independence which is isn’t for most people in Hong Kong, so far as I am aware.
So I don’t want to speak for much longer let me just finish these initial comments by saying that I think the British government has a legitimate interest and obligation, not just now but right until 2047 and indeed even after that date, we will have the same legitimate interest as any government around the world who believes in human rights and freedom and democracy. We don’t have to have an historical background to raise these issues. Anson Chan whom I enormously admire and first met when I was foreign secretary I think she herself has said that she has occasionally been a thorn in the side of various people, well I have been on the receiving end of some of those thorns, not recently I hasten to add but more power to her and I hope she continues to do that. So these are my thoughts at this stage.
Nigel Evans MP
Thank you very much Malcolm. It was a miss from me to say that this is an open meeting and if anybody does want to use their social, whatever they call it, to tweet and to Facebook and various other applications that I have never heard of, please feel free to do so I think all the speakers here are happy to be on the record for saying what they are going to say today.
So thank you for that wonderful introduction Malcolm and we will take questions at the end I think that is probably the best thing to do. The next speaker is Edward Leung somebody who is a young activist in Hong Kong, somebody who stood for election there and did rather well but sadly not well enough but much better than people had anticipated which shows you that there is a popular demand for some of the aspirations that many Hong Konger’s have about their own country. So Edward over to you and you can tell us all about where you see Hong Kong going from your own perspective.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen my name is Edward Leung and today I am very honoured to be given the chance to speak on behalf of my people in Hong Kong because last year I was deprived of my political right to represent them. My case is a rather complicated one because last February during the bi-election of legislative council more than 66,000 Hong Kong people voted for me. That meant the notion of localism which was once marginalised started to resignate amongst many Hong Kongers’, especially the young generation. Unfortunately that drew the attention from Beijing’s watchful eyes.
Five months after the bi-election I attempted to run again for office in the January elections for legislative council so as to realise my dream to be the representative of Hong Kong people. However the government suddenly required all Hong Kong candidates to sign an extra document, an extra declaration which only stated certain articles about the authority of Beijing over Hong Kong in basic law without any legal consultation beforehand. On top of that they required some candidates to answer the returning officers question of whether I was going to advocate Hong Kong independence. That was clearly a political screen but I couldn’t do much about it when the executive branch was so repressive and it ceased to interfere in our legislation. Some people say politics is the art of compromise so I did compromise by signing the confirmation form and renouncing this political belief it is my official reply to the returning officer. I said no I change my stance I will comprise, yet I was still barred from running from office because they said I was not bonifide or sincere enough.
So I wondered what else I could do. It became a thought crime in Hong Kong, by calling it a crime I am not exaggerating because sooner or later Carri Lam is going to introduce article 23 again, she said so. In 2003 the foreign secretary for security Regina Ep said by advocating for independence in a verbal manner will not be considered a crime. Maybe I was too naïve to seriously take the government stance into account but nowadays by talking about it you lose a political right even though you comprise.
I fully understand that it is sad to be a constitution with no responsibility in basic law that article 23 should be introduced. Yet if this article is a constitutional responsibility what about our universal inaudible… for chief executives and also legislative council which were understood in article 45 and article 68. Not only has Hong Kong’s democratisation has been delayed by the government by more than a decade it is now a time of autocratic recession because duly elected law makers could be moved by Beijing’s interpretation of a constitution.
Beijing is using our anger, I realise that which is actually inaudible… to tighten this control for Hong Kong in the name of national security. The official Chinese nationalism has been trying to control our thought behaviour and community. Official nationalism according to Benedict Anderson is a governmental policy which involves compulsory state controlled primary education, state organised propaganda, official re-writing of history, militarism and less affirmation of the identity of the nation.
It is very easy to give examples in this case, for example the student movement in 2012 was against the national education which was prescribed as a brainwash in education because a teaching manual described the Chinese communist party as an advanced, selfless and united willing party. Another example is the educational policy of teaching Chinese and Mandarin instead of our mother tongue Cantonese. We have the propaganda in Hong Kong that keeps describing the transfer of sovereignty as a very cheerful reunification even though the majority of Hong Kongers have never agreed nor had a say. Another example is the umbrella movement in 2014.
So all in all the official Chinese nationalism led to a centralised station in Hong Kong and localism emerged as a resistance to assimilation and centralisation. Localism in Hong Kong represents a local perspective on our history. We want to preserve our own narrative on the past, present and future of Hong Kong. We want to retain our identity as Hong Kongers’ in our Hong Kong culture including Cantonese and traditional Chinse captors. We want to have an accountable government. That is to say a democratic one because I believe Hong Kongers’ morally deserve it.
At this moment over a hundred protesters, most of them are in their twenties or early thirties are facing different prosecutions and some of them were sentenced for more than three years. Whilst we are paying the price in Hong Kong the international community needs to act. Twenty years after the transfer of sovereignty China has dissolved our contract, the British joint declaration. As the Chinese Foreign Ministry declared the joint declaration is an historical document that no longer has any practical significance. Whilst the joint declaration is the background to our constitution and basic law I cannot think of a way to preserve the independent judicial power and the rule of law when the government disrespects this international agreement in this manner.
Before it is too late the international community must reveal its current foreign policy towards China. Investigate the violation of joint declaration, the evocation of our human rights and rule of law and must importantly to encourage political reform in Hong Kong so that conflicts in Hong Kong can be solved on a large scaled. We need to realise and remember that something is more important than the almighty inaudible. Hong Kong is not a borrowed place on borrowed time anymore. Hong Kong is our home. We are not doing this for us but for the next generation and our children’s children. So thank you very much.
Nigel Evans MP
It is great to see that when people say that young people are not interested in politics and that clearly isn’t the case in Hong Kong. When I was your age I was involved in politics Edward trying to keep a bus service going in Swansea, you have certainly taken it to a different level I have to say so well done. Dr. Malte Kaeding who is a university lecturer at Surrey who got his PHD in Hong Kong Baptist University amongst many other things which he specialises in democratisation in the Greater China which includes Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, so one out of three I guess isn’t bad as far as the other two I think we are going to hear about them now. Over to you Malte.
Dr. Malte Kaeding
Thank you very much for the kind introduction and I have been asked to talk about the dynamics between Hong Kong and Beijing, especially Beijing’s influence as a driver for political change and I think we have heard very nicely about this from Edward.
I think John mentioned at the beginning that I should talk or consider what could be done to return the city to its political calm immediately after the handover. I think this is a very difficult question and I think first of all we need to think about whether or not it was really that calm inaudible..
I remembered I studied in the early 2000s in Hong Kong as an exchange student and it didn’t feel calm at that time and I think now we can see it is much more polarised since all of the developments over the last decade and I think it is a direct consequence of Chinas policies towards Hong Kong which I would call trying to achieve this ideal amount of control and ideology, ideology was just mentioned by Edward and interest. I think particularly after the 2003 mass protests against article 23 the national security law, Beijing tried to achieve this control through two ways. First of all institutional through trying to set up some form of democracy with Chinese characteristics and informal though business links and I want to talk about these two.
So this has been going on for quite some time, I think what is new and in recent years, especially when we look at last week, is really this open defiance of international standards treaties and I think what you also have to remember is that at least 60% of the population of Hong Kong vote for the democratic parties or opposition parties and I would argue also defined an entire generation of its citizens. So to look at institutional control I would argue that this institutional control and direct intervention into Hong Kong politics especially elections is now openly practiced by the representative of the Chinese government in Hong Kong. What we can see is they are almost creating a kowaris party participating in elections through independent candidates and I think this is very dangerous development here because what we can see over and over is that institutions are interpreted, that they appear to be democratic but the reality is they are controlled on the ground through non existing party laws in terms of financing and so on. So I think this is a very dangerous development. Of course this is confirmed by the interpretations of the basic law in recent time in last November.
The second side is the economic controls so we heard about already this afternoon about economic integration with mainland China and increasing dependency of the Hong Kong economy in China but I think what we also need to look at is direct interests of the Beijing government in Hong Kong and maybe you read about the Panama papers from last year, where it became apparent that Hong Kong is really essential for a lot of offshore companies and oiling to very powerful figures in Beijing so that means that there is a really complicated well of interest by Beijing therefore this control from Beijing over Hong Kong is so important. So this is why they worry so much about political stability in Hong Kong.
The results of this policing of Beijing is the creation of what I call these multiple realities on one side you can see that there are these established democratic institutions which Chinese characteristics and there is this one reality where Beijing is saying that everything is going as we promised so remember the 2014 decision you mentioned of the 31st August. But at the same time we can see these desperate youth who don’t trust these institutions any longer and fight for more rights and the independence of Hong Kong. So I think that if this continues, if Beijing continues on this path of pressure and does not adjust and give new hope to Hong Kong and this becomes very, very dangerous path and this one country two realities are about to collide. Thank you very much.
Nigel Evans MP
Thank you and the final speaker is Anson Chan who is a former Chief Secretary in both the British Colonial government of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong specialist region government under the Chinese sovereignty. She is also a former member of Legco. You have been described as the iron lady; we love iron ladies in Britain. After retiring from the civil service Anson did not show up in public often but did take part in the protest march for democracy against Donald Tsang’s reform package and has since participated in subsequent marches for universal suffrage. Anson over to you.
Thank you Mr Evans. Since this is the only opportunity I am going to have this time round to speak on the record and in the House of Commons I would like to open my remarks by noting that this year as we mark Hong Kong’s 20th anniversary of our handover to Chinese sovereignty, the British government has not seen fit to mark this milestone in any meaningful way. Other than a very short statement issued by the Foreign Secretary which doesn’t even begin to take China to task for various infringements and undermining of one country, two systems a high degree of autonomy in people in Hong Kong where we have seen in recent years.
It seems to me that at the very least the British government on this occasion owe to the people of Hong Kong a frank appraisal of how well or not well one country two systems has worked in the past twenty years and to the extent that there has been an erosion of this concept one country, two systems, so what is the British government going to do about it?
At the same time it seems to me that the British government also should particularly on this occasion mounting a robust defence of principles underlying one country two systems, the joint declaration and the basic law that is after all based on the principles laid down in the joint declaration. They should be reminding China of its obligations that they made to the people of Hong Kong and the wider international community at the time the joint declaration was signed in 1984.
Right now to the topic of the day I have been asked to speak about the future of Hong Kong’s democracy. I think the argument could be made that the British should have started introducing democracy much earlier than they eventually did. In Hong Kong we did not have local elections until 1985 and it wasn’t until 1991 that we had a small numbers of members of our legislative actually directed on the basis of one man, one vote. By the time the British seriously began to grip this problem I think there are very few cards in the tent to negotiate with the Chinese. That said I think at the time when one country, two systems was crafted, there is some evidence even within China there was view that maybe China could move towards greater democracy in the 1970s and the 1980s. So you have in the basic law actually a sort of timeframe for the introduction of one man, one vote.
The basic law actually made clear that ten years after the handover which is the year 2007, the people of Hong Kong can decide on their own how fast to move towards universal suffrage and indeed at that time all political parties of different political affiliations signed a statement supporting universal suffrage for the election of the chief executive and all members of the legislation in the year 2007 and 2008. But of course the goal posts have been moved time and again so that today in the year 2017 that goal seems to be even more elusive. It looks as we are not going to see any general universal suffrage for the election of the Chief Executive until next time round and as for electing all members of the legislative I do not know when we will actually see some movement.
Now one man, one vote is not just a slogan. There is a practical significance and reality to achieving one man, one vote because for as long as our chief executive does not enjoy a popular mandate inaudible in other words lacks the necessary political legitimacy Mrs Carri Lam and her successors will always find it extremely difficult to effectively govern Hong Kong. Never mind about the current very, very strained and fractious relationship between the executive and the legislator largely man made and the doing of one person. I think Carri herself realised that she needs to work very hard on this front and I am sure she will takes steps to at least improve the relationship, but that is not going to make the governance any easier.
We have been urging Mrs Carri Lamb to open discussions on universal suffrage and she has said that the climate is not right, this is a very controversial subject and we are stuck with the August 31st very rigid framework handed down by the inaudible national people’s congress which in effect gave us a so-called one man, one vote whereby two or three candidates are anointed in Beijing. The threshold for even being nominated is set at a very, very high level – you have to obtain at least half of the 1200 member election committee which will effectively rule out any democratic member to even be nominated because he or she would fail to secure the necessary 601 vote. We have seen this abundantly displayed with the election in March of this year that returned Mrs Carri Lam.
On this occasion as I pointed out in an earlier presentation, the liaison officers in Beijing do not even offer to disguise the fact that they were rigging the election with intimidation, inducement and cohesion. Mrs Carri Lam herself realised that she is where she is simply because the liaison office has intervened.
But what I want to note on this occasion if even and we do not accept, but even if you accepted the framework on August 31st it is simply not true that the government are certain there is nothing they can do. I will give you a few examples.
The first there is at the moment an impediment to anyone who wishes to stand for election against being a party member but this is not a requirement in our constitution in other words it is not inscribed in the basic law, it is actually just in local legislation that places a ban on a chief executive candidate having political affiliations. In other words if you wish to stand for election as a chief executive you have to sever you party affiliation. This is local legislation. In other words if there was a consensus and there is consensus amongst different political parties including the left-wing which is the largest political party in the legislative council, there is general agreement that the way forward for Hong Kong on constitutional reform is to develop hard political party lines so that one of these days, sooner rather than later, you will have a Chief Executive which has a pro-government party in the legislator and therefore will be able to push through more effectively government programs and legislative proposals etc. So that is the first thing that could be considered.
Secondly we have been urging my little think tank Group Hong Kong 2020 and may other organisation have been urging the introduction of more objective criteria for determining who is eligible to be a member of this 1200 election committee. In future it may be increased to 1600 it may be even a larger number. At the moment there is no objective criteria they are purely subjective criteria set by the government in order to achieve one purpose and one purpose only and that is to return members who are told the Beijing lie.
We have four sectors comprising the election committee. To open up discussion on how these four sectors or indeed in the future it may be more sectors, how members in these four sectors could be turned so that you raise the legitimacy and the representativeness of this election committee. In the future we will have a nominating committee but basic law also makes clear that the nominating committee will be returned by members by democratic process and the basic law also explains what is meant by democratic process. It is by what you and I understand to be a democratic process not the Chinese interpretation which they are not flaunting before us, not their interpretation of what is a democratic process. For example the basic law sets out very clearly that the two international conventions on political, economic and social rights which defines what is meant by universal suffrage should continue to apply to Hong Kong after the handover. There can be no doubt whatsoever what is meant by genuine universal suffrage. It means the right of every person not only to be able to vote at regular and fair elections but also very much the right to stand for election.
Mrs Carri Lam thinks that by resolving so called difficult livelihood issues such as addressing the problem of income disparity, making housing more affordable, increasing job prospects and training for the younger generation, that this will be enough to keep Hong Kong people quiet and that in due course Hong Kong people will forget about democratic rights. I think she is very wrong. Hong Kong people will never give up fighting for universal suffrage particularly in the light of the recent few years where we have seen a steady erosion of everything that we do, our core values, our lifestyle, rule of law and the protection of basic rights and freedoms. The younger generation particularly believe that it is only through genuine universal suffrage, the right to elect our future leaders that you can stop this deterioration in this one country, two systems.
Quite frankly if this rate of deterioration continues and if the rest of the world doesn’t speak up particularly Britain as a political signatory to the joint declaration then my view is you do not have to wait until 2047 for one country assistance to exist only in name. Particularly in the light of what the Chinese foreign ministry has said very recently about the fact that in their view the joint declaration no longer has any practical significance. I hope sincerely that the British government will not just rest on the inaudible that they issued and they will take more action and a stronger lead to remind China of its obligations to Hong Kong and to the wider international community. Thank you.
Nigel Evans MP
Thank you Anson that was very powerful and your criticism of Britain at the beginning and at the end was merited and well deserved and there has been some coverage here in the media but hardly what I had anticipated. I remember giving an interview once in Beijing several years ago about the time of the Olympics and I was told by one of the journalists that if they ever dared to point out any problems at all with the loss of life in construction they were called in to justify why they had said them remarks and it was very difficult for them to understand the freedom of the press, that we have no control over them and never mind the Chinese. I would also like to point out Jeffrey Clifton-Brown and Fiona Bruce are here, both members of parliament both interested in the region and Jeffrey and I have both led delegations to China and have got great interests in the region.
Right let’s get on to questions, keep them short and sharp and say who you are please.
Steve Tsang from SOAS. I wanted to ask whether the 3 members of parliament whether you would be prepared to actually engage with Beijing on the points that Rifkind raised about the joint declaration around the rights of people in Hong Kong that the UK has an obligation to keep the treaty afterwards. There is a wider dimension to it which is the Chinese government can and it has formally announced that the international agreement no longer needs to be respected which is not convenient for the Chinese government. Which over government can take the treaties seriously? If every government raised with the Chinese government and go through all the international agreements they have signed just to confirm that all those agreements are still in place. That they have not suddenly been decided by the Chinese government to be invalid that perhaps the foreign ministry in Beijing will see that this is not really the smartest news for Chinese to promise.
Nigel Evans MP
Well as a Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Taiwan group, you know where I stand as far as standing up on various issues. Perhaps we could have a chat with you afterwards we have the interests of Hong Kong and Hong Kongers’ but let’s at least use this as an opportunity to have some questions to the rest of the panel. We will speak to you afterwards.
Before China becomes a inaudible democracy to what extent do you think the CCP leaders in Beijing dare to really allow the Hong Kong people to enjoy universal suffrage?
Sir Malcolm Rifkind
I will just make one point in answer to that question it is a point that hasn’t been raised this evening, but is very much in the mind of the Chinese government. One of the reasons the country had to be acknowledged was not just Hong Kong or Macau of course the big prize was Taiwan. If the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong where to be destroyed over the next twenty years or after 2047 of course that would make it even more difficult and problematic that the Taiwanese would even contemplate voluntary re-joining the Chinese motherland. I think for the Chinese government there will be sensitive to that issue even when they appear to be slightly dismissive of Hong Kong’s own interests.
I think Hong Kong has been used not really as a model for Taiwan to be honest I think it has been used as a hub to transfer all the money from CCP. Frankly speaking I think that is the truth right now and I don’t think Taiwanese will ever consider re-joining the so-called unification at this moment because they already have the poplar sovereignty in their country so why would they join an authoritarian regime, I cannot think of a reason.
In the answer to the question of whether CCP will allow universal suffrage I really wonder whether in my lifetime I could see it to be honest because without any major change in the national spectrum or international arena they won’t be a chance as long as most of the government right now are compromising human rights in mainland China, Hong Kong and also a lot of violations on human rights around the world by kidnapping citizens overseas back to China because they were all claimed as Chinese first, British second or Canadian second or Swedish second. I think the government around the world they do not really turn a blind eye to it but they simply do not do enough this moment in time.
Nigel Evans MP
What percentage of the people in Hong Kong want universal suffrage would you say?
Well more than half.
Nigel Evans MP
If there was a referendum, although it doesn’t look likely that you will get one..
Yes absolutely. That is true.
I am not as pessimistic as Edward. I think what we suffer from at the moment is a basic lack of trust. We don’t really have a well-established channel of communicating with the top leadership, everything has to be filtered through liaison officers and by the time they reach the ears of the top leadership I think they have been totally distorted so they don’t really get an honest appraisal of what is going on in Hong Kong, how people really feel and what young people’s concerns are. Somehow maybe with the new chief executive, maybe she can help bridge this gap. We need to be able to sit down and discuss our concerns with Beijing.
One of the excuses frequently thrown at us for dragging their feet on universal suffrage is that contagement effect so then China will be agitated for when it wants to vote. I don’t think there are many people in the mainland who are agitated people from one man, one vote but I think there will be increasing numbers for a more transparent and a more accountable government. This is the inevitable momentum of human progress. You have more of the main leaders seeing more of the world, they are being educated overseas and through social media, they themselves will very soon demand accountable, transparent government.
We in Hong Kong always felt that if only Beijing would trust the people of Hong Kong, give us one man, one vote and we will demonstrate through our action at the ballot box that we will return a chief executive that on the one hand can work with Beijing but very much be seen in the eyes of Hong Kong people to be our chief executive helping Hong Kong to defend one country, two systems and representing Hong Kong’s people’s views in Beijing. To the extent that we make a success of this and I am convinced that we can make a success of it, maybe mainland Chinese authorities can use the Hong Kong model as a basis for deciding to experiment with the introduction of democracy in mainland China. Not necessarily at the pace that we have progressed but it will serve as a sort of basis for them to consider.
Nigel Evans MP
Malte is there any demand within mainland China for some form of proper suffrage that they are currently denied?
Dr Malte Kaeding
Ok that is a good question because of course we don’t have any surveys the way we have here. But I think what Mrs Chan mentioned in terms of accountability definitely and there are many ways at looking at democracy for accountability I think there is a great appetite.
I just wanted to come back to the point of whether or not this is realistic and I think at the moment it isn’t to expect universal suffrage for Hong Kong. I think one reason mentioned that we don’t have any neutral person between the liaison office and it is politicised in their own interests. There has been a lot of criticism against people demanding independence because it will trigger a reaction by China but I think if we think about universal suffrage what does it actually mean, it doesn’t mean defect to sovereignty, of course China will not allow this. So localism or independence people are under pressure now it could be people demanding universal suffrage tomorrow I don’t see at the moment any move into this.
I seen that Hong Kong has long been seen in the law as a medium between China and the West so to what degree can Hong Kong remain as a different system from China but Hong Kong people inaudible… I mean for example we have just mentioned maybe Hong Kong is the only one place in China inaudible..
Nigel Evans MP
I think it is a good question and I think I tried to look at this in the presentation because I think and this goes back to what Edward was saying that for pure economic purposes, Hong Kong has been treated differently at least to keep economic interest. I mentioned the Panama papers and you know that a lot of mainland officials are trying to get Hong Kong ID cards for their families so they think oh these overseas investment, they know themselves that China is so unstable and Hong Kong will offer some kind of stability. So I think for the foreseeable future we will see some kind of difference between Hong Kong and China as long as it is economically useful for Beijing.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind
Could I just add one point I think from an economic point of view I think that we need to recognise also that Hong Kong’s importance or leverage in relation to China is much less than it was in 1997. At that time Hong Kong’s GDP was 20% of the whole of China when it became part of China and now it is not 20% it is 3%. Not because Hong Kong has declined but because of the extraordinary expansion of China’s own economy.
I think that is only to be expected, Hong Kong’s contribution to our motherland has never been just about size.
Thank you Ben Rogers from CSW, I am a human rights campaigner and I lived in Hong Kong for the first five years after the handover. I’m sure we would all have our frustrations with the United Nations but I am just wondering and it is a question for all the speakers but particularly Anson Chan and for Sir Malcolm, given that the joint declaration is if I understand correctly an international treaty lodged at the United Nations is any thought being given by anybody but particularly the British government to raising what China has said in the last few days about the joint declaration at the United Nations and using whatever mechanisms there may be at the UN if indeed the treaty is lodged there to protest.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind
I doubt if its status in the United Nations simply being lodged in the UN makes much of a difference either the United Kingdom government wants to raise the issues or it doesn’t. If it wants to raise the issues it has many opportunities to do so what could include in the United Nations, for example the Foreign Secretary whoever it is makes an annual speech at the general assembly of the UN covering various issues around the world, could quite easily raise it in that forum if that was the policy so I don’t think that the UN has a unique role to play and in any event the UN will only get involved if its members states particularly on the security council have a unanimous desire to see it do so.
Nigel Evans MP
Can I ask you Malcolm are you disappointed like Anson Chan about the reaction of Britain so far?
Sir Malcolm Rifkind
I am a little bit disappointed because I think that British Prime Ministers and governments can often overreact to the damage that might be done to wider relationship with China. When I was Foreign Secretary it was a much more sensitive time because we were actually involved in the negotiation. I met the Dalai Lama and my officials in the Foreign Office were trying to discourage me from doing so, so we reached a compromise so instead of meeting him in the Foreign Office, I met him in my official residence and the press were not invited but it was known that I had met him. And there was a protest and they made an issue of it but there were no consequences. David Cameron of course met the Dalai Lama and that was discouraged. The Dalai Lama is not a specific British responsibility however important the joint declaration is and I agree with Steven Tsang when he said the Chinese government could not describe one international treaty that they have signed as of no significance unless they are going to delegitimise and devalue all the other international treaties that they have signed with many states around the world.
Nigel Evans MP
Anson do you think the United Nations proves a vehicle or not?
I actually recollect that Robin Cook, the then Foreign Secretary was actually asked a question, what would happen if China breached the conditions in the joint JD and he actually said we will take the case to the United Nations. So what has become of that?
Sorry I am just going to pursue this particular point having been responsible as Malcolm knows and Anson knows that for the last 4 years the negotiations with the Chinese and the joint declaration was central to all our work. During my time in the foreign office I am actually certain that if any Chinese official made the statement which has just been made, there would have been consequences simply by immediately summoning the Chinese Ambassador here in London and asking the British Ambassador in Beijing to go and call on the foreign ministry to protest. The word protest is not one they like to express concern so I am rather surprised this hasn’t been done and I was hoping that since we have such a galaxy of MPs here someone might bring some influence to bear on the foreign secretary at the moment to say that that should be done…
Nigel Evans MP
Why do you think it has not been done?
Well I don’t know that it hasn’t been done all we have heard that there is nothing said in public. If it hasn’t been done it ought to be done and I think that actually undermines concern. I will just make one tiny point on vocabulary. One of the things this man said was that the British had no authority to supervise what was going on in Hong Kong, I just made the point in an earlier meeting that during the last period of the joint liaison group we were saying that after 1997 the British government would monitor what was going on in Hong Kong in light of the joint declaration, the Chinese said no you are not allowed to supervise and we said no we are not talking about supervising we are simply monitoring. There is a confusion of vocabulary which is probably explained by the words in Chinese. The word should be monitor and if he is using supervise again he is going back and in a sense misunderstanding but our position should certainly be to continue to monitor.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind
If I could just give another demonstration about the problems with vocabulary. When I was Foreign Secretary I went to Beijing having been in Hong Kong and people said please when you see Chen Shu Sheng the Chinese foreign minister raise with him not just how many parties we are able to vote for in Hong Kong but whether we will still continue to enjoy the rule of law. So I promised I would do that and when I saw Chen Shu Sheng it was all done through translation but I said minister the people of Hong Kong are very concerned that they will continue to enjoy the rule of law when they become part of China and I have never forgotten his reply. He said don’t worry Mr Rifkind in China we to believe in the rule of law, in China the people must obey the law. I said now hold on a moment when we talk about the rule of law it is not just the people who must obey the law, the government must be under the law and the courts must be independent of the government. He couldn’t understand what I was talking about. Someone summed it up kind of well they said it’s not rule of law its rule by law and they mean two totally different things. Putin is like the Chinese they both believe in the rule by law not of law.
I think at the moment we have so many first handers that people say oh during the negotiations working with China and during the transition period and I think that I believe most people in here that knew how hard it is to negotiate a deal with China. At the moment China is growing stronger and stronger, we have seen Chinese influence in all sorts of areas the same time we also see that China is trying to export a set of Chinese thinking or a way that they wish people to do things. For example I have spoken to a lot of people on this panel earlier today that when they are going to some kinds of forums or going to invite certain speakers that they might have pressures from certain Chinese people saying that perhaps you should not do that because that will have consequences. Obviously sometimes there is positive response from the British side saying no we will continue doing what we believe is right. It seems to me that this government is not quite getting the idea right that you don’t necessarily have to agree with everything China says even if you want to maintain good trade relations because when it comes to international relations diplomacy is all about comprising and also about manoeuvring for different interests hoping to get the best deal which will fit for both countries. It seems to me that Britain in the past at least since 2010 since the collation government started, our government haven’t quite made a strong statement regarding some fundamental factors which really matters to the people of Hong Kong which is the commitment. This is not just the matte of the joint declaration this is also the interest of the crown subjects in Hong Kong.
Nigel Evans MP
Sir Malcom is there a sense that the United Kingdom aren’t prepared to stand up for what they signed up to at the handover, simply because they are economically petrified that they are going to lose out to trade with China?
Sir Malcolm Rifkind
I think you are putting it in too strong a way I think the British government still believes in the joint declaration, still believes in what we have all been describing this evening. I think there is an element of pessimism that whatever they said and whatever they did would not actually have an impact on the Chinese governments approach. I think they are over pessimistic. Remember and I am not trying to excuse it in any way but even more important than the United Kingdom is of course the United States and the deep problem that should disturb us all in relation to the matters we are discussing is the current President of the United States is not interested in values and human rights not just in Hong Kong or China but in almost any other part of the world. It is not an issue he has raised in relation to his priorities. He is the first President of the United States since 1945 not to make it a central part of America’s foreign policy. So when China sees that the United States as a country is disinterested in human rights as an issue at least as far as the President is concerned then it is even less likely that any other individual government is less likely to have the impact that they would like to have. I am not excusing them I have already said I think they should act.
Nigel Evans MP
China was an integral part of Trumps campaign if you recall, time and time again he mentioned China.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind
Yes but it wasn’t human rights he was mentioning.
Nigel Evans MP
No it was all trade and how he was going to be protectionist against China. We are going to leave in just a few minutes so I thought I would give the opportunity for each of the people who have spoken this evening just to reflect on where Hong Kong is going and where it is going to be in 10 years’ time. I want to start with you Malte and end up with you Edward because you are the future of Hong Kong. As I said I met Nathan last year and had a good chat with him and our thoughts are with him at this very difficult time because we know what he is confronted with which is the possibility of jail and financial ruin. For a young man who is standing up for something he believes in I think that is something we all ought to think very carefully about. So Malte in ten years’ time perhaps where’s Hong Kong going to be?
Dr. Malte Kaeding
I think it will not look happy I would say I think we would look at Carri Lam muddling through Beijing I think we will continue to push for more control and I think the younger generation will have more hopelessness but then at the same time I think that the ideas of localism and independence will continue to grow until the opportunity arises to express these more openly. I am worried it might go more radical views because if we have in society people who are thinking about much more radical things than we have seen so far.
My crystal ball is not very clear so if you ask me what is likely to happen in Hong Kong 5 years from now I can’t tell you. I will say this. I think a great deal will depend on how much flexibility Beijing will allow Carri Lam to have. She hasn’t started off quite on the right footing because clearly she has not had a completely free hand in choosing her team and we will have to see how she and the team performs. But a great deal will depend on whether Beijing will continue to instruct the liaison officer to keep their hands off the SAR government and allow Carri to get on with running the country. I am sure left to her own devices her instincts are right to an extent and she will do a much better job than her predecessor. We hope of course that Beijing will see the need to get genuine dialogue going on with Hong Kong people, particular with our younger generation and understand where they are coming from. Somehow we should look at how we can set minds at ease.
The voice that is calling for independence is an extremely small voice but of course at the moment it plays into the hands of Hong Kong detractors. For us in Hong Kong whether it is my generation of it is the younger generation we don’t really have a choice but to continue to stand up and fight and defend for what we believe to be right. In this respect I think at the moment a lot of Hong Kong people particularly younger people feel increasingly that it is a voice in the wilderness nobody seems to care. The joint cosignatory to the JD certainly doesn’t care. You have to somehow give hope to our younger generation and the best way you can do this is to demonstrate that you are prepared to hold China to the promises that they made in the JD and in the basic law and Britain needs to do much more in extending and defending Hong Kong’s interests.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind
Edward in a moment of supreme pessimism you wondered if there would be human rights in China never mind Hong Kong anytime in your lifetime. As you represent the future, unlike some of us, that is a pretty awesome expectation. I’m not sure if you need to be quite as pessimistic not because I know the future but you know I can recall in 1988 going to communist Hungary, East Germany, seeing the Berlin wall and I remember the Hungarian communist minister saying to me Mr Rifkind do you know the definition of East German string quartet I said no what is an East German strong quartet and he said it is an East German orchestra which has just returned from a tour in West Germany. Twelve months later the Berlin wall disappeared and the whole communist system collapsed. So I am not saying something comparable is about to happen but just don’t rule it out we just don’t know and in the next 5 years never mind in the next 50 years. As we look at where we are regards to the two systems in one country, it could have been a lot worse the past 20 years, they could of made a determined effort to destroy the system and they would have got away with it, they would have suffered a lot in terms of reputation but they could have done it. Will they do it over the next 27 years I doubt it. My prediction would be that on two things they will stamp down hard – on any question of Hong Kong advocating independence and on attempts to use free speech in Hong Kong to criticise directly the Chinese government and the Chinese leadership and indeed to expose corruption at the highest levels in China. That I think they will, ignore the freedoms of Hong Kong but the rest of it in the balance of their self-interests points otherwise. The balance of their self-interests let them have a separate system it won’t be a communist system it will be a capitalist system it won’t have the communist party running Hong Kong until at least 2047 that is my least bad prediction.
According to a survey conducted by BBC recently it says about 80% of young people in Hong Kong age from 15-29 want to leave Hong Kong permanently and I think that is the expectation of our generation in Hong Kong. In the past we have been saying that Hong Kong is dying and I think my generation now thinks that Hong Kong is dead. There was a reason why they think it is this way. Anyways I think it is really hard to picture Hong Kong 10 years later because if I go back 2 years ago I was still in Hong Kong struggling to graduate, I was worrying how I would get a job so it is really hard to predict the future but I can say something in certain. We will have a generation sentenced by this government heavily the price will be paid. For those people who are going to be sentenced I think they will be tied with Hong Kong forever because they will never have a chance to live overseas. If we have a generation like that that means we will have a generation to fight. So I think maybe it is a little bit more optimistic rather than a pessimistic reality. Thank you.
Nigel Evans MP
Edward Hong Kong is a fantastic place, it is vibrant and I love going there and it is clearly worth fighting for. If your prediction is right that many young people believe it is deadened wood and would prefer to leave then that is exactly what will happen it will be dead. It is because of the young people who actually believe in something worth fighting for and Anson even an older generation believing there is something worth fighting for, that the human spirit can never be quashed or destroyed because it actually believes that there’s something that they are going to be successful at achieving. So my own prediction is the young people will not give up and they will fight and eventually there will be the freedoms of voting and universal suffrage that you are all speaking.
Can I thank the Henry Jackson Society for affording us the opportunity of coming here this evening, of bringing these 4 amazing experts together, for allowing us an opportunity to listen to what they have had to say and answering our questions. It has been absolutely superb, incredibly enlightening, fitting for 20 years on. Could you put your hands together, thank you very much everyone.