In the midst of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of the PRC, it is easy to be submerged in the debates on the future direction of this rising nation, which holds more and more power over other states.
It is easy to forget that the last major colony to have left the United Kingdom was Hong Kong, in 1997. Yet, just two weeks ago, one of Britain’s own has been denied access to this once familiar city.
(Pic: The Guardian).
Benedict Rogers, (pictured above), is the deputy chair of the Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission. He has been a champion of political freedoms in Hong Kong, as well as in Burma. Earlier this month, Rogers flew to Hong Kong, and was denied entry without any explanation before he was deported to Thailand. For someone who has lived in Hong Kong for five years, Rogers would have to face the sad reality that he may no longer be welcome at the place he once called home.
In face of international backlash, China’s explanation was that sovereignty includes border control, and China has absolute sovereignty over Hong Kong; thus, by reason, China has sovereignty over the Hong Kong border. This sounds like a textbook example of categorical syllogism. Surely China has the right to protect its borders and shield the country from external threats – so what has Mr. Rogers done to merit such an extravagant reaction?
On Rogers’ account, he was there on a private visit to see friends, an action which was deemed threatening to Sino-British relations, and evidently warranted this great nation of China stamping him out with its claim to sovereignty. According to the Foreign Ministry of China, Rogers’ entry was barred on the basis that he may conduct “illegal and violent activities or movements under the guise of democracy and freedom”; one would expect that such a serious allegation against the deputy chair of the ruling party’s Human Rights Commission would be corroborated with ample evidence.
While the evidence may seem lacking to the untrained eye, the People’s Republic of China makes up for it with their conviction in their bare assertion against Rogers. Hong Kong’s borders seem to have gained a new function, which is, as Amnesty International put it, “a tool for suppressing conversations regarding democracy.” This may be true, or this may be false – the point is we will still be left in the dark, or perhaps the PRC would give us a hint and shed some light on the subject.
When asked whether the former governor of Hong Kong – Lord Patten – would be denied entry when he visits the city, Chief Executive Carrie Lam refused to comment, hinting that the Chancellor of the University of Oxford may well see the day when he may be denied entry to the place he once also called home. She further clarified the misunderstanding that the Central People’s Government took over immigration matters in Hong Kong, emphasizing that it is not the case – should Lam’s statement stand true, does that mean that Rogers is seeking to dismantle the Hong Kong government, or otherwise, wreak havoc upon Hong Kong with his revolutionary antics?
Some may argue that it would be inappropriate for a country like the United Kingdom to interfere with the affairs of a former colony. But as a signatory of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the United Kingdom has the obligation – nay, duty – to ensure that the articles as set out in this international treaty has been respected and enforced. As for business interests in regards to China – let’s face it, money matters, but is trust built on documents which seemingly fall short of meaning anything to the other party?
As we look to the east now, we notice people ‘disappearing’, we see more than one-hundred political activists in a single city to be jailed in the coming year, and we see people who dare utter the word ‘democracy’ being barred from entering Hong Kong soil.
It is time to re-evaluate who or what is the true threat to Sino-British relations.
Find more from Athena Tong, @thepowerofawish
Pic: Mitch Altman (Flickr)