The head of a leading Hong Kong opposition party told an audience in New York on Monday to monitor developments in the city amid growing threats to the freedoms it had been promised by Beijing.
Civic Party chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit said the international community could use Hong Kong – where Western-style civil liberties have been adopted and practised – to help make a case against the so-called China model of development which, critics have claimed, is authoritarian dictatorship in disguise.
Leong and Civic Party leader and lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu were in the United States for a week-long visit, during which they were expected to meet House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, as well as foreign policy and trade officials from US President Donald Trump’s administration.
Leong told a seminar the international community should not ignore Hong Kong.
“President Xi [Jinping] wants the world to believe that the China model is superior. What better proof does the world have than Hong Kong for making the case that the same core values and institutions practised by liberal democracies not only work but they work for and among Chinese people,” he said.
Defenders of the China model hold that the country has made great progress toward developing a unique system that combines economic success with political stability because it does not adopt Western-style democracy.
Leong said: “Ignoring Hong Kong is a mistake. Indeed, Hong Kong’s significance increases as China rises in prominence and at the historic juncture when President Xi apparently wants to substitute values and [the] institution of the China model for those practised for centuries by the world’s liberal democracies.
In a rare move, the two Hong Kong politicians also spoke in Beijing’s defence against the backdrop of the US-China trade war initiated by Washington.
“America supported the accession of China to the [World Trade Organisation] in 2001 … If America has evidence that China has fouled the WTO rules or breached any bilateral agreement, it should have resolved [the matter] through the WTO resolution mechanism or sued China for breach,” Leong said.
“If America leads by not abiding by the rules, then it cannot possibly expect China to respect the same rules-based order. A trade war would only drive China further away from values and institutions practised by liberal democracies.”
The duo were speaking at a seminar on Monday night Hong Kong time at the Asia Society in New York.
What China did, is doing, and will do, to and in Hong Kong, instruct the world on why and how things are happening or will happen inside and outside of [China]
Alan Leong, Civic Party chairman
“What China did, is doing, and will do, to and in Hong Kong, instruct the world on why and how things are happening or will happen inside and outside of [China],” Leong said.
Leong also stressed there was growing doubt in Hong Kong that the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, was being observed by Beijing.
As examples, he cited the National People’s Congress Standing Committee’s ruling to allow mainland laws to be applied in the high-speed rail terminus in Hong Kong, alleged abduction by mainland law enforcers of Hong Kong residents in the Causeway Bay booksellers’ case, and the imprisonment of student protest leaders.
The Civic Party chairman said he hoped President Xi could “come to [his] senses” and not to destroy Hong Kong’s status as the country’s “only international financial centre” by abridging the freedoms it had been promised under the Basic Law.
The duo’s visit coincided with brewing concerns in the West over developments in Hong Kong. Last month, the European Commission voiced concerns over the “gradual erosion” of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and questioned the implementation of the “one country, two systems” model of governance in its 2017 annual report on Hong Kong.
Stay out of Hong Kong’s affairs, government warns, after US report highlights ‘chilling effect on political protest’ in city
A report by the US Department of State, also issued last month, highlighted “a chilling effect on political protest and the exercise of free speech” caused by government actions and Beijing’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy.
In January, there was also a debate on democracy in Hong Kong at the British parliament.