Almost four months into the Sino-US trade war, Washington appears determined to turn the dispute into an ideological conflict.
Earlier this month, US Vice President Mike Pence delivered a speech at an event organized by a conservative think tank.
In his speech, Pence said in the past Washington was adopting a Beijing-friendly policy in the hope that China would move toward greater freedom and liberty, respect of human rights, including personal freedoms, private property and religious freedom through extensive exchange and dialogue with the West following the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
However, Pence pointed out, as the economic power of China is continuing to grow, such hopes are rapidly fading. Contrary to what the United States has expected, Beijing has been stepping up its crackdown on civil rights across the nation.
Given that Hong Kong is part of China, we can definitely feel that change even without Pence’s speech.
Over the decades Hong Kong has been able to maintain its status as a world-class metropolis not only because of our economic strength but also, perhaps more importantly, because we share a similar set of universal values with the international community such as freedom, the rule of law, human rights and democracy.
And thanks to our shared values with the free world, Hong Kong has been able to stay largely unaffected even when China is at odds with other countries over economic or political issues, such as the ongoing Sino-US trade war, and to continue to fulfill our role as the mainland’s gateway to the world.
The prevailing view is that even though a part of China, Hong Kong remains a member of the international community as far as its values are concerned.
This explains why the first-generation leaders of the People’s Republic of China didn’t hurry to reclaim the sovereignty of Hong Kong after 1949, and instead, adopted a policy of “long-term planning and full utilization” towards our city. They were perfectly aware that Hong Kong, given its unique status, could fulfill the role of being the mainland’s door to the rest of the world.
Such a role proved instrumental in maintaining the importation of strategic materials into the mainland amid western embargoes following the outbreak of the Korean War.
Beijing’s policy of “long-term planning and full utilization” towards Hong Kong didn’t change after the 1997 handover.
Rather, it was formalized and further consolidated under the “one country, two systems” principle. Although Hong Kong has returned to China, it will remain in step with the international community in terms of social system and values, thereby continuing to prosper and remaining stable and also fulfilling its role as the mainland’s gateway to the world.
Unfortunately, in recent years, the international community has begun to realize that Hong Kong may be gradually deviating from the universal values of respect for freedom, the rule of law and human rights following a series of controversial political developments such as the denial of visa for Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet, the mysterious disappearance of staff members of Causeway Bay Books, and the outlawing of a political party.
As a result, some countries and regions are intending to review their relations with our city.
Suffice it to say that ruining the core values of Hong Kong is tantamount to destroying the mainland’s only window to the rest of the world, and in the end, Beijing may turn out the biggest loser.
As such, what the SAR government can do in order to help and contribute most to the mainland is to make every effort to preserve freedom, the rule of law and human rights in the city, while striving to prevent any incident that would further undermine our core values from happening again.
As for our political and business leaders, they should make good use of their connections to build a bridge of communication with the rest of world using our city as a stepping stone.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 24
Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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