Divided West can do little as China tightens up on Hong Kong

Divided West can do little as China tightens up on Hong Kong

Divided West can do little as China tightens up on Hong Kong

LONDON — From Tokyo to Brussels, political leaders have swiftly decried Beijing’s move to impose a tough national security law on Hong Kong that cracks down on subversive activity and protest in the semi-autonomous territory.

But the rhetoric has more bark than bite. For people in Hong Kong, the question is: Will international anger and statements of concern make any difference?

Individual countries have little leverage over Beijing on human rights, experts say. A joint effort could make a difference, but co-ordinated action seems unlikely given strained ties between the Trump administration and many of Washington’s traditional European allies.

“The U.S.A. and EU are moving in different directions in many areas. It is perhaps to China’s advantage that that should be so,” said Rod Wye, an Asia-Pacific associate fellow at the Chatham House think-tank in London. In particular, Europeans do not want to be drawn into the U.S.-China trade war, he said.

“Expressions of concern are certainly not going to change the Chinese intention one little bit,” he added.

A joint U.S.-European report released this week on relations with China described “a deep sense of frustration, fatigue, and futility. The stronger China gets, the less willing it has become to even engage perfunctorily with the West on the issue.”

The report — from the Asia Society, the Bertelsmann Stiftung and George Washington University — said that concern about human rights abuses in China remains deep, from the new security law in Hong Kong, which went into effect Tuesday night, to the repression of Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region in western China.

China routinely dismisses all such criticism as interference in its domestic affairs. One of the crimes in the Hong Kong security law explicitly outlaws receiving funding or support from overseas to disrupt lawmaking in Hong Kong or impose sanctions on the city.

“This issue is purely China’s internal affairs, and no foreign country has the right to interfere,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said.

Many fear the law will be used to curb opposition voices and see it as Beijing’s boldest move yet to erase the legal firewall between the mainland’s Communist Party system and Hong Kong, which was promised a high degree of autonomy and civil liberties under a “one country, two systems” principle.

Britain called the law “deeply troubling” and said it “lies in direct conflict with China’s international obligations.” The U.S. warned that China’s repeated violations of its international commitments “is a pattern the world cannot ignore.” And the European Union warned that China risked “very negative consequences” to its reputation and to business confidence in the global financial hub.

Steve Tsang, who directs the China Institute at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, said that if the EU were to join forces on the issue with the “Five Eyes” alliance — the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — the group would have real economic clout. The EU is China’s largest trading partner.

But he said it was “far-fetched” for either British Prime Minister Boris Johnson or President Donald Trump to work with the EU on the issue.

“It is reasonable for Beijing to calculate that both the U.K. and U.S. are paper tigers,” Tsang said. “Boris is focused on Brexit. He is happy to co-operate with anyone except for the EU.”

Chinese experts said the West isn’t able to sway China because of fundamental differences in their views. The West stresses political rights, while China emphasizes economic rights, said Yu Wanli, an international relations professor at Beijing Language and Culture University.

“It is not that China is trying to withstand pressure from the West, but it is that China’s own policies have achieved results,” Yu said. “China doesn’t need to care about pressure from the West.”

Stressing a legal and moral duty to its former colony, Britain on Wednesday announced it is extending residency rights for up to 3 million Hong Kongers eligible for British National Overseas passports, allowing them to live and work in the U.K. for five years. In Brussels, the European Parliament last month passed a resolution calling on the EU to consider taking Beijing to the International Court of Justice.

Reinhard Bu¨tikofer, chair of the European Parliament’s delegation for China relations, said lawmakers are considering other measures, such as a ban on exports of “technology utilized to oppress Hong Kong citizens.” Other options include a “lifeboat” offer for Hong Kong democracy activists, and pushing for the United Nations to appoint a special envoy to the city.

“The major burden is on the incoming German presidency to rally member states in following through in what they have indicated in the past, that this would not remain without consequences,” Bu¨tikofer said.

In the U.S., the Trump administration has said it will bar defence exports to Hong Kong, cancel policy exemptions that give Hong Kong special treatment, and impose visa restrictions on Chinese Communist Party officials “responsible for undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.”

Zhao, the foreign ministry spokesperson, said the U.S. will never succeed in blocking Hong Kong’s national security legislation through sanctions.

Wye, the Chatham House associate fellow, said the impact of such measures on China is likely to be marginal.

“I don’t think Beijing has anything particular to fear because the sanctions they’re talking about are mainly withdrawing special status in particular areas of Hong Kong and treating it more like the rest of China,” he said. “So the people likely to be hurt are Hong Kong businesses and Hong Kong people rather than Chinese businesses and the Chinese government.”

Sylvia Hui, The Associated Press

Hong Kong

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Town of Sylvan Lake has launched a new contest to attract a new business. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

Alberta reported an additional 399 cases of COVID-19 Thursday, on 9,217 tests, for a test positivity rate of 4.3 per cent. (Image courtesy CDC)
Red Deer down to 562 active COVID-19 cases

8 new COVID-19 deaths, 399 additional COVID-19 cases

Mike Ammeter (Photo by Rebecca Hadfield)
Sylvan Lake man elected chair of Canadian Canola Growers Association

Mike Ammeter is a local farmer located near the Town of Sylvan Lake

Students and staff at Gateway Christian School wore pink Wednesday in support of Pink Shirt Day, a worldwide anti-bullying initiative that was started in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Public Schools)
Students, central Alberta community celebrate Pink Shirt Day

Mayor of Sylvan Lake Sean McIntyre supports anti-bullying cause

City of Red Deer has nearly doubled its active COVID-19 case count since Feb. 10 and has 75.6 per cent of the Central zone’s active cases. (File photo)
Another new high: Red Deer hits 574 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports 13 new COVID-19 deaths, 430 new cases

Bookings for COVID-19 vaccines for people age 75 or older start Wednesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Updated: Delays for seniors booking for vaccine appointments

By 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

Alberta premier Jason Kenney, right and Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, provide details about Bill 13, the Alberta Senate Election Act., in Edmonton Alta, on Wednesday June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Minister Doug Schweitzer talks on Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit

Provincial government rolling out new benefit this April to better help small businesses.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Minister Rick Wilson poses with Katie at the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin, both wearing her Pink Shirt Day design. Facebook/ Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin Boys and Girls club Pink Shirt day design focuses on kindness

Katie with the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin created this year’s Pink Shirt Day design.

Black Press File Photo
Valentine’s Day shooting in Maskwacis leaves one male in hospital, one male in custody

19-year-old Francis Edward Nepoose from Maskwacis has been charged with attempted murder.

Sentencing delayed in the stabbing death of Samantha Sharpe, of Sunchild First Nation. (Red Deer Advocate file photo)
Central Alberta man not criminally responsible for killing his father in 2020: judge

Psychiatrist testified Nicholas Johnson was psychotic when he killed his father

The cover of “Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care.” (Submitted)
Ponoka-born author writes history of old mental hospital

“Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care” covers 1911 to 1971

Most Read