By Andrew Dekany
China Daily’s recent article about fake news by Professor Grenville Cross must have left many readers fearing for the future of satire, with a second reading resulting in initial hilarity being replaced by concern.
Hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers – on occasion in excess of a million – have turned out regularly to express their deep disillusionment and revulsion. This in spite of threats of being beaten, pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed, hit by water cannon, detained or worse.
Cross chooses to ignore the rising tide of evidence of police brutality and public anger lapping at his feet. He does not mention the recent open letter from 44 Parliamentarians and dignitaries from 18 countries calling on Carrie Lam to stop police brutality. Nor does he mention the landslide vote for pro-democracy candidates in the recent district council elections on a record turnout.
Instead, he places the blame for the current situation firmly at the door of so-called “black-clad thugs” and fails to acknowledge that the vast majority of protests have in fact been peaceful. To attribute the widespread protests to a tiny minority who are engaged in violence beggars belief.
Professor Cross also fails to recognise that the disproportionate use of force by the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF), coupled with erosion of the one country, two systems model and a failure by the Hong Kong Government to address the grievances of protesters, may together or individually have caused or contributed to the very violence that he condemns. He simply chooses to ignore the root causes.
We have been here before. It was the decision requiring candidates for Chief Executive of Hong Kong to be pre-approved by Beijing which triggered the umbrella movement in 2014.
Violence is never justified – period – but Professor Cross is living in a strange parallel universe when he describes the HKPF as behaving with “great courage, huge professionalism and vast restraint.” We have all seen footage of the HKPF acting in an extremely violent and unjustified way. A report by the Washington Post shows that the HKPF break their own guidelines about police brutality but face no consequences for doing so.
Professor Cross also takes aim at Benedict Rogers, Chris Patten, David Alton and a British think tank called Hong Kong Watch. I do not speak for any of them. The deep and widespread concern about the deplorable situation faced by Hongkongers goes far beyond the individuals and organisation mentioned, however, and far beyond Britain’s shores.
I offer the fairly obvious reflection that if the concern of British activists for human rights in Hong Kong has provoked such unhappiness in official quarters, they must be doing something right.
I hope that activists, not only in the UK but in the USA and elsewhere, will continue to do all they can to help those who are suffering in Hong Kong. After all, they are simply trying to obtain or restore rights which were promised by China in the Sino-British Declaration. As a fellow lawyer, I am sure that Professor Cross will appreciate the importance of keeping to agreements.
Andrew Dekany is a UK solicitor who lived in Hong Kong between 1994 and 1996. Views expressed are his own.