The US Senate and the UK Foreign Office criticize the CCP. Bitter Winter interviews John Patterson (HK Watch) and Edward Chin (2047 HK Monitor).
by Marco Respinti
While police violence against peaceful demonstrators asking for liberty and democracy escalates every day, on November 19, the US Senate unanimously passed a bill protecting human rights in Hong Kong, the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” (S.2922), sponsored by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
Originally, it was introduced as a bicameral and bipartisan piece of legislation (H.R.5696) on June 13 by Representative Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), former Co-Chairman of the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China and now its second highest ranking member. The House approved it by voice vote on October 15. After the Senate passed an amended version on Tuesday, the bill is ready to go back to the House for its final step. If passed, it will land on the President’s desk in the White House to be signed into law.
The bill finally breaks the silence on Hong Kong. It urges China’s CCP-controlled government “to uphold its obligations under international law” and “its commitments to Hong Kong, including allowing the people of Hong Kong to rule Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy and without undue interference, and ensuring that Hong Kong voters freely enjoy the right to elect the Chief Executive and all members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council by universal suffrage.” It also explicitly asks for “the establishment by 2020 of open and direct democratic elections for all members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council and to support press freedom and journalistic independence, including the continuation of international broadcasting programming in Cantonese that is readily accessible to Cantonese speaking populations in China and in Hong Kong.”
Under this Senate bill, Reuters reports, “US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would have to certify at least once a year that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to qualify for special U.S. trading consideration that bolsters its status as a world financial center. It also would provide for sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong.”
Also on Tuesday, the Senate passed, again unanimously, a second bill (S.2710) that would prohibit the commercial export of weapons and other items to be used by the Hong Kong Police Force, including tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and stun guns.
Just a few hours later, the UK Foreign Minister, Mr. Dominic Raab, issued a statement on the staggering case of Mr. Simon Cheng, a 29-years-old young man from Hong Kong who has been working for the UK government for almost two years. He worked as a trade and investment officer at the British consulate in Hong Kong. He was detained for 15 days during a trip to Mainland China in August and tortured.
The two statements by the US and the UK came on the same day and may give the impression that the West suddenly woke up in front of the tyrannical repression of Hong Kong. It may be a wrong impression. Time will tell. However, the UK has a moral and legal obligation to support Hong Kong citizens, as it promised before handing over the territory to Communist China in 1997. “Simon Cheng was a valued member of our team,” Mr. Raab said. “We were shocked and appalled by the mistreatment he suffered while in Chinese detention, which amounts to torture.”
“I summoned the Chinese Ambassador,” the British Foreign Minister continued, “to express our outrage at the brutal and disgraceful treatment of Simon, in violation of China’s international obligations. I have made clear we expect the Chinese authorities to investigate and hold those responsible to account.”
It may now be more difficult for the CCP to remain silent. Mr. Johnny Patterson is the Managing Director of Hong Kong Watch (HKW), a UK-based registered charity that researches and monitors threats to Hong Kong’s basic freedoms, the rule of law and autonomy as promised under the “one country, two systems” principle, which is enshrined in the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration. He has closely followed the Cheng case, and welcomes Mr. Raab’s words, recalling that “the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is also working to support Simon and his fiancée, including their right to move to the UK”
Patterson finds “the treatment of Cheng utterly outrageous.” Reacting to fake news fabricated by the CCP, he told Bitter Winter that, “There have never been British black hands behind the protests, only Hong Kong citizens standing for freedom. For a member of the UK consulate’s staff to have been treated in this way is a total outrage. Simon Cheng is a British National (Overseas) Passport holder, i.e. a British national tortured by Chinese state security bureau interrogators. This is why we have been campaigning for greater rights for those who hold BNO passports. It is vital that the UK government acts now.”
But the whole BNO question is somewhat double-edged. “The BNO passport,” Mr. Patterson explains, “was a fudge compromise, which worked while China honored the one-country, two-systems principle. But as the joint declaration is increasingly being ignored, the passports become a matter of national shame, as Hong Kong residents holding these passports are British nationals who cannot even access consular protection. The Sino-British Joint Declaration was a good faith agreement which guaranteed the rights and freedoms of those living in Hong Kong—it is now being systematically disregarded, and the UK has a duty to step out.”
Mr. Edward C.K. Chin is a hedge fund manager, and the main organizer of 2047 HK Monitor. This is a group of professionals who work in the Hong Kong financial industry, the legal profession and the universities. They call for true democracy in Hong Kong as enshrined in the Basic Law. Mr. Chin told Bitter Winter that, “Simon Cheng was physically and mentally tortured, and this shows that, with all of China’s modernization, some areas are still very weak and below international standards. Respect of human rights is one of these areas. The passing of the ‘Human Rights and Democracy Act’ by the US Senate is a good start. I wish it could be used as a deterrent against the pro-Beijing bureaucrats and show that there are international consequences when the city and the people of Hong Kong are attacked and mistreated.”