Date
15 December 2018
Liberal Party’s Felix Chung (inset) believes matters related to the Sino-US trade must be taken up on a more urgent basis now than a debate on national security law. Photo: CNSA/HKEJ
Liberal Party’s Felix Chung (inset) believes matters related to the Sino-US trade must be taken up on a more urgent basis now than a debate on national security law. Photo: CNSA/HKEJ

Why the Liberal Party decided to withdraw Article 23 motion

In a dramatic twist, Liberal Party leader Felix Chung Kwok-pan suddenly announced on Monday that his party had decided to abandon a non-binding motion in the Legislative Council that calls on the government to launch a consultation and discussion over enactment of Article 23 of the Basic Law.

The reason for the abrupt U-turn over the national security law discussion, according to Chung, is that there is an even more pressing and imminent issue facing Hong Kong right now — the Sino-US trade war and its potential implications for Hong Kong.

A member of the Liberal Party said over the past weekend that the party leadership learnt that quite a number of local business owners who have substantial dealings with the United States have expressed  grave concern over the recent report published by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC).

In particular, the business owners were feeling deeply unsettled with the report’s recommendation that the US government should review its export control policy for “dual-use technology”, civilian technology which may have military applications, “as it relates to US treatment of Hong Kong and China as separate customs areas”.

They were worried that if Hong Kong’s status under the current treatment is canceled, it will spell big trouble for the city, not to mention that it would also strangle the future development of the innovation and technology cooperation between Hong Kong and Shenzhen in the Lok Ma Chau Loop.

That Liberal Party member also learnt that some business figures had complained that the Hong Kong administration appears to be “at a loss” as to how to deal with the trade war situation.

Business owners are said to have warned that if Hong Kong’s status as a separate customs area is withdrawn by the US, it would immediately force a lot of Hong Kong manufacturers out of business.

Amid those concerns, they urged the Liberal Party to turn up the heat on the government in terms of response to the USCC report, rather than ignite another controversy (i.e. Article 23) at this critical point.

Chung told us that he was also deeply alarmed by the USCC report because it was the first time the commission proposed concrete recommendations of sanction against Hong Kong.

He probably wouldn’t be that worried if Barack Obama had still been in office, but given the new dispensation in Washington now under President Donald Trump, the situation is different, Chung said.

Amid the economic concerns, the party felt it would be unwise to give any extra ammunition to the US to escalate its actions by pressing ahead with a motion on controversial national security legislation, Chung suggested.

It is understood that the government wasn’t notified of the motion withdrawal beforehand.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 20

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

JC/RC

Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.

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