On March 14 British foreign secretary Liz Truss condemned the Chinese authorities for violating “freedom of speech” after reports that the UK-based NGO Hong Kong Watch was found to be in violation of Hong Kong’s National Security Law.
Hong Kong Watch, led by a group of British anti-Chinese politicians including Hong Kong’s last governor before returning to China, Chris Patten, has a history of supporting key figures instigating unrest and violence in the special administrative region, several of who have openly collaborated with foreign governments. Although the National Security Law taking effect in 2020 has put an end to the insurrection, the group has continued to operate out of the United Kingdom and attempts to interfere in the city’s politics.
As this incident occurred, the rest of the world is otherwise distracted by the crisis in Ukraine. Ironically, so to speak, Western countries in conjunction with this have comprehensively pursued a wartime-level censorship campaign against Russian media platforms, including most notably Sputnik and Russia Today. This has included effectively banning them from social media, removing their channels from YouTube, removing RT’s broadcasting license and removing them from Google Search results.
Beyond these policies, Twitter now bans any account which is deemed to too closely support Russia’s narratives. Several European countries, including the Czech Republic and Slovakia, have effectively rendered support for Russia a criminal offense.
All of these acts of course are done in the name of “national security” which whilst being technically a sovereign right of states, nonetheless presents an extreme hypocrisy for Western states who evangelize so-called “freedom of speech” to others. If the UK and its allies for one can make such decisions to take action against certain news outlets in the name of national security, why then is China’s Hong Kong not given that same right?
Whilst Hong Kong is guaranteed, as they point out, certain autonomies as enshrined in the Basic Law, nonetheless the National Security Law has been implemented and forced precisely because the 2019-2020 riots presented a serious threat to the security, stability and order of the city as a whole, with US-backed riots having promulgated serious violence and widespread destruction of local infrastructure.
One might ask, would any state behave in the same way given the situation? Absolutely. When Canada was struck by the anti-vaccine “freedom convoy” protests a month or so ago, none of which were as violent as the events in Hong Kong but nonetheless disruptive, the response of authorities was to utilize emergency laws which gave police additional powers to forcefully disperse protests, including the seizure of assets such as the trucks involved, the freezing of bank accounts and prosecuting the ringleaders of the protests. Did anyone, apart from those backing the protests, proclaim any violation of “freedom of speech” and human rights? Of course not.
The West allocates themselves special national security-based powers which supersede rights, but then demands their rivals act out of principle. What is branded as “disruptive riots” back home are praised misleadingly as “peaceful protests” overseas.
On such grounds, the United Kingdom has absolutely no right to lecture the Hong Kong SAR about freedom of speech or to continue to interfere in its internal affairs. The Sino-British declaration was never about affirming that Britain would continue to stand as a “gatekeeper” of the city’s affairs, or that it would in turn be able to dictate the terms of its future exclusively to Beijing.
The island city continues to have its own administrative, bureaucratic, legal and economic systems which are autonomously controlled and distinct from those of Chinese mainland as a whole. However, the provision of national security and foreign policy, as set out in the Basic Law, are sovereign rights.
It is both hypocritical and bad faith to assume that a descension of Hong Kong into a state of lawless and anarchy constituted a fair exercise of democratic rights, because to be sure that is not the view of any government in the West concerning their own populations right now, or anything which contravenes the narrative on Ukraine either.
The author is a South Korea-based English freelancer. The views are his own.