Civic Party Chairman Alan LEONG Kah-kit and Party Leader Alvin YEUNG has started their week-long visit in the US. They were speaking at a Roundtable at Asia Society Policy Institute in New York on Hong Kong’s Future on 7th May (Speech avaliable in English only).
Asia Society Policy Institute Opening Remarks May 7, 2018
Chairman, Civic Party
1. It was 2007 the last time I had spoken at the Asia Society. It was then 10 years after HK’s sovereignty had reverted from British to Chinese, and also 7 years after China’s accession to WTO.
2. Chief Executive (CE) Election in 2007 was just over with me having run against Donald Tsang. At that time, we expected some delays in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) honouring its promises under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law but still believed that it will. Given what happened to both Hong Kong and China during the past decade, however, such an expectation can no longer be repeated without doubts and reservations.
3. In June 2014, the State Council published the White Paper on “The Practice of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ Policy in HKSAR” by which Beijing claimed to assert overall jurisdiction over and perform constitutional duties in Hong Kong. The high degree of autonomy promised to Hong Kong at once came under threat.
4. On 31 August 2014, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (the Standing Committee) by a resolution on HK’s CE Election insisted on Beijing having pre-screened candidates before referral to voters in a secret ballot. Universal suffrage promised by the Basic Law came to nothing.
5. Repeated interpretations of the Basic Law by the Standing Committee had in effect constructed an extra tier of adjudication above HK’s Court of Final Appeal, at least insofar as political matters are concerned.
6. There have been other instances making Hong Kong people anxious that the Basic Law is being observed in the breach. These included (a) the Standing Committee’s Decision to apply Mainland laws at the Express Rail Link Terminus in the heart of Kowloon thus ousting HK court’s jurisdiction; (b) the notorious Booksellers Case in which suspected Mainland law enforcement agents had abducted HK residents to the Mainland from HK; (c) Pressure being brought to bear on HK Administration to pass national security laws pursuant to Article 23 of the Basic Law that could pose as threats on rights and freedoms enjoyed by HK people; and (d) Imprisonment of student leaders Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law when they had intended no violence while acting in civil disobedience.
7. We see 13th NPC’s resolutions to amend the Chinese Constitution in March this year to make it possible for President Xi Jinping to enjoy life tenure, to blur the demarcation between CCP and the State and to restore strong man politics by deifying one supreme leader. These together with some allegations of China’s breaches of WTO rules and bilateral agreements have fueled suspicions of liberal democracies led by America that China under Xi would be moving further away from values and institutions they have been practising.
8. We must register for Hong Kong our strongest protest against our having been included in the list of countries to be penalized for steel and aluminium exports to America under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.
9. The trade talks just concluded in Beijing, led on American side by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and on Chinese side by Vice Premier Liu He apparently had nothing resolved between the countries. Whatever will become of any trade war between the two countries, Hong Kong must not be affected.
10. When America supported China’s accession to WTO in 2001, you must hope that China would accept the same rules-based order for international trade. If America has evidence of China having fouled WTO rules or breach any bilateral agreement, then it should have resort to WTO dispute resolution mechanism or sue China for breach. If America leads by not abiding by the rules, then it cannot possibly expect China to respect the same rules-based order. A trade war would only drive China further away from values and institutions practised by liberal democracies.
The way forward
11. Hong Kong is the only place in China that has been inhabited predominantly by ethnic Chinese and yet practises separation of powers and rule of law with self-disciplined legal professions and an independent judiciary. We use our laws to protect rights and freedoms, including liberties of individuals and freedoms of information, communication, competition and movements. Our laws keep public powers under check. Hong Kong people hold dear to our hearts universal concepts of an open society, fairness, equality and the right of creative and diligent individuals to excel. In short, all the core values and institutions of liberal democracies of the world are not only found here but have flourished and are sustained in today’s Hong Kong.
12. It is true that Hong Kong has in recent years been under pressure to yield to the Mainland system, but we are continuing with our well-spirited defence of our values and institutions according to the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. Hong Kong treasures its status as a member of WTO in our own right and a separate tariff region and customs territory from the Mainland. Hong Kong can be trusted to abide by WTO rules, regulations and decisions irrespective of whether the same accord with Beijing’s wishes. It cannot be emphasized more that Hong Kong remains a different system in the “ONE COUNTRY, TWO SYSTEMS” Model and it will be in everybody’s interest for Hong Kong to remain so.
13. When President Xi wants the world to believe that the China Model is superior, what better proof does the world have better than Hong Kong for making the case that the same core values and institutions practised by liberal democracies not only work, but they work for and amongst Chinese people, with the pertaining culture and history?
14. I am here to convince you that ignoring Hong Kong is a mistake. Indeed, Hong Kong’s significance increases as China rises in prominence and at the historic juncture when President Xi apparently wants to substitute values and institutions of the China Model for those practised for centuries by the world’s liberal democracies.
15. By making sure that Hong Kong remains connected to the world and in ways the same as those obtained during the British colonial era is not only in Hong Kong’s interest but the world’s own.
16. The world cannot understand China without first understanding Hong Kong, and what has been happening here. What China did, is doing and will do to and in Hong Kong instruct the world on why and how things are happening or will happen inside and outside of the country and the course China is likely to take. By ignoring Hong Kong, China watchers cannot watch accurately nor predict with precision.
17. While there is not much America should or can do directly to help Hong Kong’s democratic cause, please keep a keen interest on what happens in Hong Kong and to speak up whenever you see something wrong. I heard there had been talks about reviving a China-Hong Kong Caucus in Congress, which, if true, at least shows that Hong Kong is back on your map.
18. And, as the treatment of Hong Kong I have asked for is justified on our being uniquely different from Mainland’s system in the ONE COUNTRY, TWO SYSTEMS Model, it is only fair that America keeps abreast of Hong Kong affairs and be satisfied that our system continues to maintain those values and institutions shared by liberal democracies of the world.
19. On that note, I hand over the discussions to be moderated by Mr. Daniel Russel. Thank you.