Hong Kong Update—Autonomy and National Security

Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Jorge Silva/REUTERS

Adjunct Senior Fellow for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; Professor and Faculty Director Emeritus, U.S.-Asia Law Institute, New York University

Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Notre Dame

Chancellor, University of Oxford; Former Governor, Hong Kong (1992–1997)


President, Museum of Chinese in America; Former Executive Director, China-Yale Association

Panelists discuss China’s national security law and Hong Kong’s autonomy, the delayed legislative elections, and the state of the pro-democracy movement. 

MAASBACH:  Thank you so much and thank you the Council on Foreign Relations for this very timely conversation on Hong Kong. I'm Nancy Yao Maasbach. I have the pleasure of serving as the president of the Museum of Chinese in America based in New York City. I will be presiding over today's extremely timely discussion. We have well over four hundred people registered for this meeting. And we will do our very best to get as many questions in as possible during the Q&A period. And again, this discussion today will be on the record and it will be made available at

Quickly to introduce three incredible panelists who really need no introduction, but welcome Lord Patten. Lord Patten, of course was appointed governor of Hong Kong in April 1992 and held that position until July 1, 1997, or maybe June 3, 1997 is more accurate. When he oversaw the return of Hong Kong to China. He currently was elected in 2003 to be the Chancellor of the University of Oxford, and welcome Lord Patten.  We also have Professor Victoria Tin-bor Hui, who studied at Columbia University where she did her doctoral, and she's an avid and prolific writer on current issues in Hong Kong contentious politics is her expertise. And we are so happy that she could be here to lend a real on the ground look at what's happening in in Hong Kong in the region. And of course, the wonderful Jerry Cohen, who I had the great pleasure of working under in the early 90s. But he is the foremost expert on law in East Asia and having shared that knowledge with students in many institutions, and currently still serves as the Adjunct Senior Fellow of Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Thank you all for being with us today.

This could not be as you know, more timely considering the NPC yesterday their decision, but before we get into the current topics, I thought it might be interesting and useful to frame it in the context of the last twenty-three years. Ironically, or coincidentally, it was twenty-three years ago in 1997 that we had the hand over. We experienced a handover ceremony and yet, article twenty-three was always the biggest issue in the basic law. So maybe I can start with you, Jerry, could you have seen 2020 Hong Kong this way? Looking back? I mean, what is your historic sort of moment and how do you think it's played out?

COHEN:  The past is quite relevant, of course, especially since those who justify the operations of the mainland secret police in Hong Kong say it's really just building on the precedents of the special branch of the Hong Kong Colonial Police. Well, I first went to Hong Kong in 1961. I lived there from ‘63 to ‘64 and the Hong Kong situation has always reflected conditions in the mainland. And in those days, of course, Hong Kong was a colonial government. Of course, you had a police operation, but it wasn't anything like today. Things were discrete. And although the U.S. and Beijing intelligence operations were also going on, the Hong Kong secret branch which thought some of us studying China in Hong Kong must be CIA agents. They were discreet. There was political freedom in Hong Kong, but social and economic instability because you had sixty thousand people just enter Hong Kong in April, May ‘62. Because of the terrific tragedy of the Great Leap Forward starvation in China. And the political intellectual tragedy of the campaign to suppress the rightist in 1957-58.

Of course later Hong Kong in the sixties was in turmoil because of the impact of the Cultural Revolution and you got popular support for police activity to suppress the turmoil. By the 80s, of course, Hong Kong, thanks to the Deng Xiaoping policy was in a dynamic period. It was promising. I remember when the Joint Declaration was made, there was considerable, I thought there was too much optimism about the future. People didn't realize the terms of the Joint Declaration had to be given concrete meaning and the struggle was only beginning. Of course June 4th, ‘89 changed everything, the basic law had to be accommodated to respond to that. And then in the 90's, especially after Lord Patten took over as governor, you had an attempt to secure Hong Kong's liberties against the forthcoming handover. So Hong Kong's been through a lot we've seen since the handover, which I now call the takeover, and you've had increasing Beijing efforts to control the vice of Hong Kong and it's culminated now, in what we're contending within our discussion today.

MAASBACH: Thank you so much, Jerry. And Lord Patten, you were there handing over. Could you have foreseen this twenty-three years in? I think there was some hopefulness that perhaps China would look more like Hong Kong and Hong Kong, less like China. Could you comment?

PATTEN: Well, I hoped things would turn out as China promised. My biggest critic at the time in Britain, was a very distinguished Sinophile called Percy Cradock, who'd been ambassador in in Beijing, and was an advisor to Margaret Thatcher, at least for time. And he once said, he's on the record of saying, the Chinese leaders may be thuggish dictators, he said, but they're men of their word. And they want to keep promises that they make. Well, we now know that at least part of that is true. And they've broken their word. The Joint Declaration was an international treaty lodged with the United Nations. And the main themes in the Joint Declaration were incorporated in Hong Kong's constitution called the Basic Law. And what's happened in the last few months is to ride a coach and horses through both those agreements, both those sets of commitments.

Hong Kong, when you think about it, according to the great political scientist, Samuel Finer, was the only society you could think of which was liberal, but not democratic, partly democratic. And any attempt to have increased the pace of democracy back in the 60s, 70s, 80s, was always attacked by the Chinese leadership, because they said to Britain, look, this isn't one of your other colleagues, this isn't Singapore or Malaysia. You're not preparing the country for democracy, and then handing it back for independence. You're handing it over to China because you've only got it on a ninety-nine year lease, at least most.

So there was always hostility from China about any democratic development. But they went along with our attempts to safeguard the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, Bill of Rights and so on, and incorporated in the Bill of Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which of course has been shredded by recent events. And I just want to say one thing about them. Twenty-four hours ago, Jimmy Lai was arrested, charged with treason. And we're told by some in Beijing that he's guilty of treason. That's how the Chinese law operates. Jimmy Lai was one of—I think more than half the population in Hong Kong—who was a refugee from events in mainland China. And he left he left Guangdong, his parents had been attacked by the Communist Party under Mao Zedong stowed away on a boat. He got to Hong Kong age twelve, and he had an extraordinary style of sweeping the floor in a factory; became a hugely successful entrepreneur starting the Giordano textile chain. That was attacked by the Chinese leadership because he was very critical of the Communist Party. And most recently, he established the next magazine group Next Digital, which campaigned openly for Hong Kong's continuing autonomy, which had been promised and campaigned as well, for greater democracy.

And as you know, from the papers, Jimmy Lai, who exemplified many of the things which have made Hong Kong so successful, was yesterday arrested with two sons, two-hundred police officers about, were in his offices, looking at what the journalists have been writing, picking up papers. It's a great assault, not just on Hong Kong's freedom of speech, but on Hong Kong's rule of law. And I think that it exemplifies the attempts by China to turn Hong Kong into a replica of a sort of Beijing police state. I think somebody said during the Vietnam War, we destroyed the village in order to save it. And I think that's the idea of the Chinese Communist leadership, which is different from the leadership up to about 2009-2010. In that period, things in Hong Kong went pretty well. Since Xi Jinping came in, there's been tightening of a political grip right across the border, including on Hong Kong. And I think the attempt now is to destroy the example of a liberal society in Asia and a great financial harm.

MAASBACH: Thank you Lord Patten. Victoria, Hongkongers have not been idle in their protests against the mainland's enforcement of tightening. In 2003, there was already a protest against national security reform and it was taken off the docket. In 2012 we also saw China's interest in amending the curriculum of the Hong Kong school system, which was also highly protested. Of course the Umbrella Revolution for universal suffrage going back to Article 23 in 2014, even Fishball Riots, you know equivalent to like hot dog vendors in New York City, there were was also rioting, and the annual visuals of at Tiananmen on June 4th, and of course last year. How are Hongkongers and it's only really I feel like gotten into the global media stage in the last two to three years. But tell us what the sentiment on the ground is with this tightening.

HUI: I think that with the tightening these days, a lot of people of course in the police have made it impossible for people to go protest. But what is very interesting is that Lord Patten was just talking about the arrest of Jimmy Lai, the Hong Kong people would rush to buy all the print copies of the Apple Daily. And also they all were buying out a lot of the stocks of Apple Daily. So the Hong Kong people these days are practicing what scholars who say art of resistance, everyday forms of resistance. There are things that basically you can you can make it criminalize, you know, people standing up with upholding just plain sheets of paper. But how do you criminalize people for even buying copies of newspapers or buying stocks? And so these are really amazing signs of how Hong Kong people resilient.

But at the same time, if we go back to 1997, I've been thinking, who are the people who are the most heartbroken about the evolution over time? And you know how Hong Kong got to today? I've been thinking if you know, is it Lord Patten? Is it me and people who are very hopeful as of 1997? And it is also very sad today that I just spent the last two weeks writing and a piece be still being edited at the journal for the Journal of Democracy, that maybe you know why it is so hard to write because it feels like writing obituaries of yourself these days. And another really horrible thing is being someone born in Hong Kong, grew up in Hong Kong. I can no longer go home and how do we get to today? I will also say that the one country, two systems model had a very bad birth in the 1980s, because when the British Joint Declaration was signed in 1984. We had very liberal leaders in Beijing, (inaudible), but these leaders would later than be brought down after Tiananmen and Tiananmen completely shadowed how the one country, two systems would be perceived by Beijing. And that Basic Law was promulgated a year later in 1990.

These are important because from day one, you talk about how Hong Kong people—through doubts they didn't last over two decades—were protesting at every step of the way. But Beijing from day one was trying to understand systems in the sense of not Hong Kong's freedoms versus China's one party dictatorship. But Hong Kong's capitalism is a feed the mainland socialism. And the whole idea was to try to keep Hong Kong as just a capitalist city without freedoms. How do you deal with a society that always enjoyed unfettered freedoms to protest two to three months democracy? Well, now that we know the solution in order to deny democracy, you kill freedoms, as well. The whole model without freedom doesn't work, but what is also significant is that Beijing in trying to kill that it is also killing his own model capitalism without freedom. We now know that it is not possible to maintain Hong Kong's capitalism without preserving his freedom.

MAASBACH: Thank you, Victoria. Jerry, let's talk now about the national security law. June 30th, PRC and MPC imposes this partial equivalent security law, so covering secession, and subversion, terrorism, collusion with foreign or external forces, but they leave out treason, sedition, and theft of state secrets to be implemented through Article 23. What does this mean for Hong Kong on a daily basis? I think in the evidence of what Lord Patten shared with Jimmy Lai, and what has happened to him. Is that just a signal from PRC that this is something that they're going to enforce?

COHEN: You know, a few weeks before the law came out. A former deputy police commissioner in Hong Kong, who favored the new laws said what they need in Hong Kong is operation tornado. An operation that would go instantly into effect that would maximize the fear that would deter people into compliance with the new regime. And of course, we've seen visible evidence of this as Lord Patten pointed out, in Jimmy Lai's, detention, but that's just the beginning. And we don't know what's really taking place underneath, because from the beginning what I feared the most was the emplacement of central secret police authority in Hong Kong, where they could no longer hide behind secrecy, occasionally kidnap people quietly. But now they can openly operate and intimidate people the way they've been doing for seventy years on the mainland.

And this means surveillance. This means people are being watched all the time. They are being interviewed. They're invited to tea or a meal very politely or maybe their families are visited. Maybe their children's school is visited. All kinds of intimidation are brought to bear through their employer. What we have seen repeatedly is fear, quiet intimidation. And it's reinforced by the occasional public prosecution that we've now seen starting in Hong Kong. So this is to me the most sinister thing and we're waiting for the shoe to drop now on what is going to happen to Jimmy Lai and company. What will happen to the four youngsters twenty-one and under who've been picked up because of their internet communications—will they be sent from Hong Kong to the mainland for trial? The security people have the power to do that. And if so, the detention there will not be equivalent to the Hong Kong prison detention and the treatment, the interrogations will not be as mild as what people in Hong Kong even though they've been abused occasionally have been accustomed to. So we're seeing a gradual public enforcement of this whole system of intimidation to back up the much more widespread secrecy surveillance system that has now been imposed on Hong Kong. This is intimidating. It's paralyzing. It will lead to many people giving up in despair trying to leave and others simply accommodating to make the best of life. The way, people in the mainland have long had to make the best of life.

MAASBACH: Thank you Jerry. Lord Patten, I think some of us are very curious that yesterday, the NPC issued such a terse and relatively vague eighty-two-word resolution to basically extend the current LegCo term by a minimum of one year as proposed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam. But I think they left it vague in the sense that it wasn't really responsive to any definitive thoughts around the four incumbent opposition leaders who were barred from seeking reelection. Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki, Dennis Kwok, and Kenneth Leung. Do you think China is trying to signal something now that the global attention has really focused on what is happening in Hong Kong? Is China trying to signal any way because they could have been much more heavy-handed with that resolution?

PATTEN: What they've what they've done is to stop the elections, which they were terrified of, because they were going to be won by the pan-democrats. And they've also tried to cherry pick among legislators to get rid of the ones who may be too effective in arguing for democracy. But I think that the main thrust of what Jerry just said and is terribly important. Perry Link, the wonderful American scholar of China talks about the law in China's China as being like the Anaconda in the chandelier. You know, it's there, you don't know when it's going to drop on you. And that is what the rule of fear and means in China, not the rule of law, its laws, which cause fright, as, as has just been said.

And to relate that to what happened to Jerry and to Jimmy Lai, and to the question of free speech and free flow of information to our contemporary concerns about epidemic disease. We all know that whatever the precise reasons for the coronavirus, it certainly spread much more rapidly in the beginning, despite the heroic efforts of China doctors because of the secrecy of the Chinese Communist Party, because the police were sent in to try to shut up those people who wanted to blow the whistle about what was happening in Wuhan in late December, January. So, freedom of speech is one of the really important things of free media to stop this sort of thing which produced SARS and which has produced this pandemic, which is sweeping through the world, devastating societies. Hong Kong has dealt with the pandemic extremely well, because it had the experience of SARS and it has the experience of openness. And it had the experience of doctors threatening to go on strike, unless there were quarantines produced to stop people coming in from China. So it's not just that the freedom of information is important in a sort of general way. It's important to good government. It's certainly important, as we'll probably talk about later, it's certainly important to the health of the Hong Kong economy and its importance in the whole Asian region.

MAASBACH: Thank you. Victoria, if you could respond to that if you have additional comments. But also thinking about people like Joshua Wong, just seventeen, leading the Umbrella Movement, but also the technology in which the most recent protests were organized via social media, you know, a young next gen tool. Where are we with young people from Hong Kong? How should the world stage respond? What can we do to support that next gen?

HUI: That is very important, because we have Carrie Lam calling protesters and many of them are young people, "enemies of the people." This is a very CCP kind of term that Hong Kong people would never have used. So what do you do with these enemies of the people or also the police have called “cockroaches,” you try to eliminate them. So it is very scary. And then we have already heard from the education chief that he's going to try to make all the students from kindergarteners to call university students to love the national security law. And then we also have the security chief saying that one of the priorities of the National Security Law is to clean out all the "bad apples from the education system." These are all very scary acts, but also want to go back to echo to what, Jerry said earlier. The Hong Kong people for so long have been trying to deal with, trying to figure out how to deal with their own chief executive and their own politicians who are often pro-Beijing and pro-regime. But what has been striking with the national security laws in Hong Kong—people these days are not dealing with their own leaders. They're actually dealing with the Chinese Communist Party and all these state agents.

And so all the processes or procedures about prosecution or persecution, probably then in China, Hong Kong people should really learn about them. It's just as important that last year there was a lot of talk if Beijing was going to roll out to military tanks into the space of streets. Except that the military tanks would be a very bad analogy because in China these days, they actually use the police officers to beat people up. And this is what has been going on in Hong Kong. And back to the question about early on that you know what to do, what do we make after the initial NPSC decision that we're just going to have the entire probably to have the entire Legislative Council just go for another year? Well, if you haven't already disqualified elections, you have already, essentially make sure that the Legislative Council after you disqualified six elected legislators in 2016, that essentially the current Legislative Council is so stacked that Beijing could push through any bills. And therefore, what's the point? It is really a gesture of, trying to make a compromise or anything, I'm not sure.

MAASBACH: I appreciate that. Thank you, Jerry.

COHEN: I think the reluctance of the National People's Congress standing committee to deal with the question of the four Democratic legislators who have been disqualified from the future election, and decide whether they should be able to continue, is just enabling Carrie Lam to save a little face. It's making it look like they're throwing a bone to the masses and saying, you see, we're not taking all the action we could against Democratic legislators we're letting us serve in the remaining year of this term.

But of course, they can't do much with the current government controlled legislature. And it's totally illogical to say they're disqualified from future service, but they could be permitted for the current service. But I want to go back to Jimmy Lai, because it's illustrative of a lot of things that I share Lord Patten's aspiration for him. Mr. Lai said the other day, "I'm not going to leave Hong Kong. And if I go to prison, I'll be able to catch up on my reading." Well, I think that's very optimistic because that assumes he's not going to be taken to Beijing from Hong Kong. Last year, the attempt to create an extradition proceeding or rendition proceeding for people from Hong Kong and including any of us who happen to be there, to be taken to China for trial, led millions of people to protest and quash that effort.

But what this law has done, it has brought justice in the mainland to Hong Kong and surreptitiously with no mention of extradition provided for people to be taken to the mainland for trial, and if Jimmy Lai is taken to the mainland for trial, I can assure you, he is not going to have any say to oppose it, but he will be forced to leave Hong Kong. And you won't be surprised to find out. He won't be catching up on his reading because if experiences are any guide, people who were detained in China for the investigation of political cases are treated for indefinite periods of incommunicado incarceration. They're subjected to torture, mental and physical. They’re required to confess to crimes they haven't committed. And then they're brought to alleged trial before communist controlled courts. So this is the reality that has been brought to Hong Kong. And we're waiting to see how quickly Beijing will dare to implement it. It may be take weeks while they're processing the case. And indeed, maybe they're crossing the river by feeling the stones, maybe how people in Hong Kong and the rest of the world react will affect the prospect for who will be taken back to China.

MAASBACH: Thank you Jerry, Lord Patten, if I can ask you a question before we segue into the Q&A in the next couple of minutes, and also maybe bundled with your additional thought on Jerry's comments, but Hong Kong obviously has been a business and financial hub in the region, globally, and I'm wondering, do you have a sense of how the national security law might affect Hong Kong status. There are some who argue that the national security law will serve as a deterrent and help Hong Kong return to a state of stability. So that business and finance you know, and some people are even suggesting that things are going on business as usual, perhaps to protect somewhat the economy in Hong Kong, but then others feel that there may be pressure to morph the corporate culture into some sort of political sentiment, that you'll need to choose if you're pro- or anti-PRC. What would you say?

PATTEN: Well, Hong Kong's huge, astonishing success has been based on a combination of independent courts and the rule of law and free markets and freedom of information. And those have been a spectacular success story. China is based on other different things, cronyism, and corruption, capital controls, those are all very different elements. And because of the difference of Hong Kong, Hong Kong has been crucial for China, in its relationship with a financial system, which is globally determined above all by the dollar. 70 percent of the direct foreign and direct investment which goes into and out of China goes through Hong Kong. In 2018, I think I'm right in saying that $35 billion was raised by Chinese companies in Hong Kong alone in comparison to $20 billion raised everywhere else. So Hong Kong's enormously important as an asset to China, and I think it's very unlikely that all those hedge funds and so on, a lot of them will stay there, they will make a fuss about getting an awful lot of people are going to think to themselves, you know, what, if I have to choose between Singapore or Tokyo or Seoul and Hong Kong, it's going to look rather easier to be to be in one of those other places.

So I do think it's going to have a tremendous effect. And ironically, when I was governor of Hong Kong, I spent a lot of my time every year campaigning in Washington, lobbying in Washington to ensure that Hong Kong was treated differently from the rest of China. Now what's happened, of course, with Hong Kong being treated as just another Chinese city, the U.S. Congress, Senate, and House of Representatives have reached the obvious conclusion. And I think that's inevitably going to be damaging for Hong Kong, both in practical terms, and in its image terms. I just want to say one thing, in addition to Jerry's point, if Jimmy Lai isn't taken off to China, to the mainland, if he's dealt with in Hong Kong, it won't be the same as it has been up to now. Because the under the new system, the chief executive will be able to choose the judges. It's an extraordinary system with the plaintiff as it were, could choose the judges, she'll be able to adjust and she and the government will be able to decide whether or not the case is heard, in secret and with a jury. So it's a completely rigged system, even if it's the one that's applied in in Hong Kong itself, and not in China. But I totally agree with what you said about the horrors of being taken off to be dealt with in the mainland.

COHEN: Nancy, you see, jury trials seems out of the question if these people are going to be tried in Hong Kong. Moreover, there will be difficult questions of constitutional law you have two conflicting legal systems. You have the Anglo-American common law heritage of Hong Kong, and then grafted on that, in controlling that is the socialist continental European system that Lenin adapted to the Soviet system, and that Chairman Mao imported and it's the latter system that controls and if judges in Hong Kong are confronted by any question of interpreting the new law and its relationship to existing Hong Kong law. They are not going to have the option of making the decision. That decision is going to be made by the Standing Committee to the National People's Congress. The law, national security law makes it clear. They make a big fuss about well, the court of final appeal in Hong Kong will deal with these questions that it has a foreign Judge of it. Nonsense, that court will not have an option of considering these questions. They may not even be allowed to get to the court. If they do, it will still be the standing committee of the NPC that will decide.

MAASBACH: Our conversation has definitely spurred a lot of questions in the queue. So CFR if I can cue you to go to the first question.

STAFF: (Gives queuing instructions). We will take the first question from Chase Untermeyer.

Q: Thank you very much. I have a question for Lord Patten, please. And that is, does the United Kingdom, as the cosignatory with China of the agreement on Hong Kong have any cause of action against China in the International Court of Justice (ICJ)? I don't for a moment presume that this would affect Chinese behavior. But it would at least strike at what you mentioned that China brags on itself as a model international citizen, always faithful to its treaty obligations. Thank you.

PATTEN:  First of all, I agree. I don't think it would make much difference to the way China is behaving during this rather loutish period and its affairs. And after all, look at the results of the attempts of the Hague Tribunal to get China to agree to international maritime law. I'm not sure exactly what the British government is able to do in the ICJ about the breach of the Joint Declaration, but it's certainly in a position to raise the issue at the UN. It's done already so in the UN Human Rights Commission, and I hope that if it's got the chance of raising it with the ICJ as well, it will, the most important thing, not just in relation to Hong Kong, but more generally, is that is that societies which believe in the rule of law, particularly perhaps liberal democracies have to work together in dealing with China. And whether it's on the South China Sea, or whether it's in threats to Taiwan, or whether it's Hong Kong, or whether it's in its complete disregard for the rules of order, which have made the world so prosperous, and on the whole, so secure in the last few years. So I think we have to work together on those things, and perhaps in the ICJ with a case as well.

MAASBACH: Thank you. Next question.

STAFF: We will take the next question from Stapleton Roy.

Q: Thank you. My name is Stapleton Roy. I'm with the Wilson Center here in Washington, DC. Hello, Lord Patten, good to see you again. Jerry, I have a question. We're dealing with an enormous tragedy here. And the question is, could it have been different? Have you been able to look at the draft, of the National Security Law of 2003 that was withdrawn because of protests and the current national security law? At the root of my question is the issue of whether if the demonstrators had not strayed into one China issues, and raised issues that were clearly unacceptable to Beijing is there some way that we would not have ended up with this egregious imposition of the essentially the destruction of the one country, two system arrangements for Hong Kong if there had been more restraint?

COHEN:  Stape, that's a good question. We always say that the saddest words of tongue and pen are "it might have been," but it's highly debatable if cards had been played differently in 2003, what would have happened or would have been better. Obviously, the law that has emerged today is far harsher, and more comprehensive than that local law contemplated in 2003. But there were good reasons for rejecting it and fearing it the. And of course, we may have a chance to consider in the future, I noticed, I think in today's South China Morning Post, there's an interesting op-ed, of somebody trying to focus on the future, seeing whether centrist forces in Hong Kong could make another try. Another try at improving regulation in Hong Kong moderating it so that Beijing would not maximally implement the national security law that it seems bound to do now.

And this relates to the trying, again, for universal suffrage in a meaningful way in Hong Kong. Recognizing difficult choices were made a few years ago. To reject the option that was presented of universal suffrage but not for any candidates you could nominate, so this may be a future question also. But now the question is clouded by a national security law that won't allow opposition forces the same degree of freedom to take part in any new effort to salvage Hong Kong. I personally think that the future of Hong Kong, because of the constellation of political forces in Hong Kong and abroad, is very dim, I don't think it will be reduced to another Shanghai or even Guangzhou. But it won't be what it has been it will be seriously diminished. But many people including foreign businesses—I represented for twenty years foreign investors in China and they prefer like foreign investors everywhere, stability, even if it's as stability of a desert. Recently the great Australian scholar of China, Geremie Barmé quoted Tacitus, “To the effect that they made a desert and they called it peace.” Well Hong Kong could become a desert and it may be peaceful and foreign business, while it will certainly fleet considerable extent, will nevertheless remain and it may find business eventually will calm down and it may be slightly better than Shanghai.

MAASBACH: So if I can encourage terse or succinct second thoughts by Victoria than Lord Patton, we do have a queue of ten more questions. So Victoria, then Lord Patten.

HUI: Okay, great. I want to emphasize that in 2003, the issue was that the provisions at the time that the draft law did not conform to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The government could have gone back to the drawing table to draft a better bill, except that they basically just shoved the whole thing for all these years, and I should emphasize that basically this current Legislative Council rushed through the National Anthem Law, despite opposition. They have enough votes to pass any law, according to you know, the basic law requirements that Hong Kong has to pass a national security law on its own. And I should also emphasize that I was writing the article and I went through a long list of all those actions that have been condemned as undercutting the bottom lines of one country, two systems, according to Beijing officials, that includes students’ class boycott that includes medical workers’ strikes, that includes the primaries that the Democrats held. Basically everything undercuts one country in Beijing's view, so what can you do? Lord Patten, did you want to add to that?

PATTEN: I wanted to add one thing about the national security law and Article 23 of the Basic Law and so on. We did of course, offer the Chinese to discuss with them and back before 1997 what should be in a national security law and as you can imagine, they weren't frightfully interested in helping us. But one of the myths, is that there isn't a national security law in Hong Kong. There is there's a law against treason, there's a law against terrorism, that there's a law against sedition. And there's the crimes ordinance. On what basis of almost ten thousand young people and others been arrested so far. Under the crimes ordinance. There's plenty of national security law, what there isn't, is the national security law which the Chinese Communist Party wants, which of course is to people living in a free society, that's really the issue.

MAASBACH: CFR, could I collect both Minky Worden and Ko-Yung Tung question in one go?

STAFF: Okay, we'll take the next question from Minky Worden.

Q: Hi, Minky Warden from Human Rights Watch. Hong Kong has endured for twenty-three years post-handover by its courageous and resilient people always pushing back and defending freedoms and human rights. But what the national security law does is effectively criminalize the defense of human rights. I also wanted to point out that among the deeply dumb decisions Beijing made over the last few weeks is to name as wanted criminals, U.S. citizens like Samuel Chu, and also overseas Hong Kong Chinese leaders like Nathan Law. So I wanted to ask Victoria in particular, now that the defense of Hong Kong has been criminalized, what can the world, those of us outside Hong Kong, do to defend human rights and to push back against the exterritorialy of the national security law? Thanks.

MAASBACH: Would it be helpful to pick up Ko-Yung Tung's question? I wonder if it might be similar.

STAFF: Okay, we'll take the next question from Ko-Yung Tung.

Q: Hi, Ko-Yung Tung from Harvard Law School and Jerry's former student. Mine is little different from Minky's question, and I will phrase it as a question. But the question is this, to me what happened with the national security law and the deplorable situation in Hong Kong? To me it's not shocking. It's deplorable, but not shocking. So being a pessimist, but the question is whether or not this was merely a matter of when and not if that what has happened in Hong Kong was just acceleration twenty years before because then one country, two system was going to end in twenty more years but just happened now.

MAASBACH: Yeah, Victoria, would you like to respond to both Minky and maybe give context to Ko-Yung?

HUI: Yes, and I'm glad that Minky brought up the situation of Samuel Chu. This is also basically what I said earlier that as someone who was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Hong Kong, I became a U.S. citizen, but then I cannot go back to Hong Kong, because it's just Hong Kong Democracy Council that has been behind pushing for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and Hong Kong Autonomy Act, and also now further pushing for asylum and refugee status for Hong Kong people. And according to Beijing, these basically, of course, are everything and because everything undercuts one country, two systems, but we are American citizens lobbying our own government to reform a better U.S. policy.

But this also goes back to what Lord Patten said earlier. A more effective way to counter China's claim of extraterritorial jurisdiction is for all the democratic countries to work together. That's the only way to counter Beijing's influence. And because otherwise, Beijing is very good at playing divide and rule. And then another going back to what Ko-Yung said earlier, that in a way, yes, I go with my arguments that when countries had a bad birth, in the aftermath of Tiananmen from day one for Hong Kong people, the conviction is that we have to have democracy to protect Hong Kong's freedoms. But in the eyes of Beijing, we have to deny democracy and how do you deny democracy? Kill Hong Kong's freedoms. So in a way, you're quite right, it's actually long incoming, it's basically not something provoked by Hong Kong people every step of the way, but basically every step of the way that Beijing has been trying to deny democracy and kill freedoms in Hong Kong. And at the same time, going back to the point about 2047. If you're going to be dead by 2047, why fight now, but I still remember the days in 1980s when Chinese leaders would go around promising Hong Kong people. Why fifty years? Because by that time we expect China to be like Hong Kong. And by then there will be no need to protect Hong Kong from the mainland system. That was the understanding.

MAASBACH: Great. If no other comments on that question, maybe we can move to the next question.

STAFF: We'll take the next question from Joan Spero.

Q: Thank you, in a way, my question has already been asked several different ways, but I'll state it anyway. Why is this happening now? What is going on in Beijing? What is going on in Hong Kong? And has brought these two forces into clash at this particular moment?

MAASBACH: Lord Patten did you want to share on that?

PATTEN: Yeah. I think undoubtedly, 2011 with that statement agreed, I think by the presidium, the Chinese leadership had become very nervous about the impact of the internet on their ability to continue to control things from the center. I think they were nervous about the impact of globalization and urbanization on their ability to exert control. And that led to that extraordinary statement. And I think I'm right in saying that thought it was before he was the dictator emperor, Xi Jinping was responsible for drafting, in which he talked about the importance of getting a grip on culture, on religion, on civil society, and so on. And the first thing that happened when Xi Jinping became a party leader became president, was the Orwellian named communicate number nine, in which the party leadership set out the real threats which the Communist Party had to face, all the different sorts of liberal democracy which they dislike: civil society and rule of law, freedom of speech, historical research, which meant that so many people in China had no idea that the most famous picture in the Western world of China was the Tank Man. So in 2011, certainly 2013, the Chinese leadership was focused on trying to tighten its grip. And I think that's had an impact everywhere. I think it probably explains the appalling things at the genocide that we're seeing in in Xinjiang. I think it explains the crackdown on the lawyers of human rights activists. I think it explains the crackdown on civil society and religion. And I think it explains, to some extent, what's happened in Hong Kong because Hong Kong is a precise exemplification of all those aspects of liberal open rule of law society, which the Chinese Communist Party, identified in 2013, as the enemy to its ability to continue to control China.

MAASBACH: Jerry, did you want to add to that?

COHEN: I wanted to second what Lord Patten said earlier about Hong Kong's had a lot of security laws, and they've had no problem applying them. So it's nonsense this defense that will every country and every place has to have a security law. The question is what's the content? Now as Xi Jinping, it's clear, he has learned from and is fearful of the Gorbachev example. And he has said as much what's more ironic, is his treatment of his father. His father was one of the leaders of Mao's colleagues, Xi Zhongxun. He was exiled by Mao internally within the country, but exiled from politics. He returned to Beijing after sixteen years and resumed the leadership position in the National People's Congress. And he distilled his wisdom of decades of working for communism by saying the Communist Party will never fully succeed unless it allows differences of opinion, (inaudible) and if that doesn't happen at both the elite level and the mass level, the party will never fully succeed. Now, Xi Jinping has resurrected Confucianism. Confucius told us how important it is to have filial piety respect for your father. And Xi Jinping has elaborately manifested respect for his father in principle, but in practice, he has absolutely violated the distilled wisdom of his father's life. Because he refuses to allow differences of opinion and indeed, he sees. That's the price of continuing power. And this is what Hong Kong is experiencing today.

MAASBACH: Thank you. Next question, please.

STAFF: We'll take the next question from Eugene Gholz.

Q: Hi, I'm Eugene Gholz. I'm a professor at Notre Dame down the hall from Victoria. I guess I wanted to ask about the next steps. I'm curious about the Chinese next steps about the rest of the world's next steps. So, the events that you've described are shocking and deplorable and, it's very sad but my limited understanding, partly from talking to Victoria in the past, is that the track record of external pressure to preserve rights and democratization in other countries is relatively weak compared to the internal generation of such pressures. Right, that contentious politics from inside is what's really important. And so I can say, I wish Hongkongers well, and indeed I wish people throughout China well, in making a difference. But, the rest of the world, we can say, hey, this seems like a bad thing. It seems like going back on a previous commitment, we can complain a bit, but in terms of practical steps, what we do, can you tell me more about how we can respond in a productive way, or what's productive for people in Hong Kong, given the situation, which it strikes me is more important.

MAASBACH: And as a reminder, Steve Mnuchin, has stated that the U.S. stands with the people of Hong Kong, and that the U.S. will use our tools and authorities to target those undermining their autonomy. Jerry, did you want to comment?

COHEN: We can talk about all the symbolic efforts, including sanctions against Carrie Lam, etc. But we don't impose sanctions on Xi Jinping. And we know that's where the buck stops. What we could be doing it's realistic, is not just talk about opening our doors in the UK, in the U.S., and other countries that are liberal democracies, but actually doing something to give people in Hong Kong who want to leave and many understandably don't want to leave, some may want to but can't afford it. Right now we hear a lot of welcoming in principle, but we're still waiting for real clarification from the UK, the U.S. and others. And that means also providing the financial wherewithal to make it possible for people to come who aren't rich. And this is where we can put our money where our mouth is, and many will want to come and the next issue we'll confront is, will Beijing try to stop them? Will they deny exit permits to people in Hong Kong? Who are not BNO, British National Overseas Passport holders? And will they contrary, of course to the International Covenant on political and civil rights deny exit to their own people in Hong Kong, but we should put them to the test. In our society and the UK, and others will all benefit if we can get people in Hong Kong to come. This is contrary to our whole domestic political situations that are so hostile now to immigration. But if we're serious about wanting to help Hong Kong, not just with eyewash, not just with gestures, that's what we should be doing.

MAASBACH: And Lord Patten you had some thoughts about students, and what the global landscape might do for students from Hong Kong.

PATTEN: Yeah, first of all, it's not just relevant to Hong Kong, it's relevant to what's happening in Xinjiang and elsewhere, it's extremely important that we don't allow China to pick us off one by one, which is what normally happens. I was very pleased by the by the so-called Five Eyes working together in order to create an agenda of how we actually try to tackle China. We don't want to have a cold war with China. We don't want a wall around China. But we do want what Gerald Segal used to call it “constrainment.” Allowing China to understand that we'll work with China when there's a public good involved, but we'll take time out from working with China when it's behaving extremely badly, and it's terribly important for people in Hong Kong to know that the world hasn't forgotten about them.

 Secondly, as well as creating alliances on the China issue, and I think the Secretary of State's trying to do that in Central Europe at the moment. It's terribly important to be practical, as Jerry's been saying. And one of the ideas I've floated, and it's relevant to all the Anglophone countries, I think, is that we should offer scholarships, bursaries to young Hongkongers and to study in our universities, if they want to do so that would be a very practical way in which we can help some of these young people who haven't qualified for a British National Overseas passport because of their age and maybe because of family background in some cases. So two things, first of all, continue to work together and call out China. Whenever it behaves badly. It doesn't like being embarrassed internationally. And secondly, and make some practical offers for those young people in Hong Kong, who deserve our assistance, not just verbal, but practical as well in order to get on with their lives and in the way that they would want to.

MAASBACH: And it seems only appropriate that Lord Patten would have the last word on this moderating discussion today, which I thought was extremely fruitful. On behalf of the Council on Foreign Relations, Lord Patten, Jerry, Victoria, thank you so much for your scholarship, your advocacy and your leadership. And as a reminder to the audience, this recorded session will be made available, it is on the record. So please look for it because the more we inform the public, the more useful this will be. So thank you, everyone and have a safe and healthy balance of your summers. Thank you so much.

PATTEN: Thank you very much.

COHEN: Thank you.


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