Herbie Gomez .
IF there is one thing the political unrest the world is seeing in Hong Kong is telling us, it’s this: Beijing cannot be trusted to keep its promises.
When Hong Kong officially stopped being a colony of the United Kingdom in 1997, Beijing promised to respect its democracy and autonomy as a special administrative region for 50 years based on the so-called “one country, two systems” principle. Before the 1997 handover was the adoption of Hong Kong’s Basic Law that guaranteed that the Communist Party of China-ruled Beijing would not mess with its capitalist economic system, the Hong Kong dollar, legal and legislative systems, and citizens’ rights and freedom for half a century. The adoption of that mini-constitution was stipulated in a 1984 treaty between the People’s Republic of China and the UK.
Now, Beijing has been accused of repeatedly violating terms in the Hong Kong Basic Law and the international agreement itself through covert acts, infiltration tactics, and propaganda. The UK is obviously upset with what’s been happening in Hong Kong; the British Foreign Office stated that Beijing treated the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration as void.
It was when Beijing reneged on its promise to allow Hongkongers to choose their chief executive that started the so-called “Umbrella Movement” protests in 2014. That was supposed to happen a decade after the 1997 handover. That never happened. Rather than allow Hong Kong’s people to elect their chief executive, Beijing made its widely perceived sit-down puppies in city’s election committee select a leader — a puppet leader that is.
Beijing subsequently had pro-democracy lawmakers disqualified from taking their seats in Hong Kong’s legislative council via a jaw-dropping court interpretation of Hong Kong’s basic law. Then came the abduction of Hongkongers who sold books critical of Beijing — they were detained in mainland China, acts seen by the British as undermining the “one country, two systems” principle and serious violations of their 1984 China-UK treaty.
In paper, the treaty gives Hong Kong immunity from Beijing’s dictatorship until 2047. But it looks like Beijing can no longer wait and that is why it is doing everything it can to stifle dissent by attempting to crack down on “subversive” Hongkongers. It tried to subject them to the mainland’s criminal justice system via an extradition bill. That way, there wouldn’t be a need to “kidnap” booksellers and the like, and grill them in the mainland.
Today, more and more people in Hong Kong, especially the younger ones, prefer to identify themselves as “Hongkongers” to differentiate themselves from the Chinese subjects of Beijing. It is also a political statement that they don’t want their freedoms to be beholden to China’s one-party dictatorship. They have all the moral right to do so in that it’s their future that is being threatened by the increasing political repression and control of Red China represented now by strongman Xi Jinping.
Results of a July 2019 survey by the University of Hong Kong show that only nine percent of the 18- to 29-year-old residents of the former Crown Colony and 38 percent of those over 50 feel proud to be called Chinese citizens. It goes without saying that in Hong Kong, 91 percent of all those born after 1989 and 62 percent of those who have lived for at least half a century do not want to have anything to do with Xi or his party.
Now comes Xi’s “best friend,” Rodrigo Duterte, floating the idea of Malacañang “setting aside” The Hague arbitral ruling because he was supposedly asked to do so and promised by President Xi of 60 percent of revenues from Beijing’s planned oil exploration in a territory recognized by the world, except China, as ours. Lest we forget, the ruling based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) is that China’s “historic rights” claim to the resources within its cooked up “nine-dash line” is legally baseless.
Come to think of it, if China doesn’t recognize that ruling, then why would it ask Duterte to set it aside? It’s because China sees it as our ace — our greatest legal weapon. That Duterte is toying with the idea of doing that makes him, from where I am sitting, the biggest single threat to our national security today.
(Didn’t he “seriously joke” about turning the Philippines into a province of China?)
Hongkongers want out because of Beijing’s broken promises, and here we have one who has been sweet-talked, and willing and seriously thinking about selling out at the expense of over 100 million Filipinos. I hope Duterte won’t because the moment we “set aside” that ruling is the day we surrender everything or the only weapon in our legal arsenal to Beijing.
Why Duterte thinks Beijing can be trusted when most of its Hong Kong citizens don’t is something that really baffles the mind. Pastilan.