Skip to content

Defending the Rule of Law in Hong Kong

For the past eleven consecutive weeks, the Hong Kong people have been protesting the proposed extradition bill and later, how the authorities have mistreated people. Beijing has turned a deaf ear to them and even plans to use either the army or police forces from the mainland to bring “order” to Hong Kong. How should the West handle the CCP’s threats?

Before answering that question, let’s first try to understand this question: What do the Hong Kong people really want and what are they defending?

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has called the Hong Kong people “Hong Kong separationists” or “dogs of the British colony.” We all know that is not true; they are not asking for Hong Kong’s independence; they are not asking to go back to the U.K., either.

Are they asking for universal suffrage? Yes, they asked for it in the Occupy Central movement in 2014 and are asking for it now. However, one may wonder, “The Hong Kong people didn’t have universal suffrage under British rule. They didn’t ask for it then. Why now?”

This is because universal suffrage is not their essential appeal. Their essential appeal is for the “rule of law.”

Being a global financial center and trading hub, the rule of law is a must for Hong Kong. It needs that to assure people that they can be at ease doing business in Hong Kong: their personal safety is guaranteed, the security of their assets is protected, contracts are honored, legal processes are trustworthy, and officials’ abuse of power is systematically prevented.

Hong Kong enjoyed the rule of law under the British rule and continued with it under the “One Country, Two Systems” in accordance with Beijing’s agreement after it took over in 1997. However, as the CCP has gradually gained more control over Hong Kong, adherence to the rule of law has been deteriorating and the CCP has been replacing it with “rule by the Communist Party.” Chinascope has published an analysis explaining that in China, it is not the “rule of law” and not even the “rule by law” that has prevailed, but just “rule by the Communist Party.” {1}

Among the five demands that the Hong Kong people have made, four are related to the “rule of law.” They are: the withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill, the government’s retraction of its characterization of the violent clashes as “riots,” unconditional release of arrested protesters and dropping charges against them, and a completely independent investigation of police behavior.

So, what the Hong Kong people are doing is defending Hong Kong’s rule of law. The request for universal suffrage is a means to enable that defense. An executive that the public elects is more likely to honor the public’s interest and the rule of law while an executive that the CCP selects will likely be the CCP’s puppet. This was not an issue during the British rule because the rule of law was already honored under the British, and thus, the Hong Kong people didn’t ask for the governor to be elected.

Now let’s come back to the opening question: How should the West handle the CCP’s threats? Should the world acquiesce to the CCP’s use of force to end the protests in Hong Kong?

No, definitely not. The moment the CCP uses the gun instead of a humane approach to solve the Hong Kong issue, that is when the new era for Hong Kong starts. It will be the era of “rule by the party” in Hong Kong. The rule of law will be gone and Hong Kong will no longer be a global center.

The damage is not just that.

If the world lets Beijing expand its “rule by the party” to Hong Kong, we are telling our companies that they must kowtow to the CCP if they want to do business in China. In fact, many of them have already practiced bowing to the CCP all these years and done it very well.

If the world lets Beijing renounce its promise that “One Country, Two Systems” will not change for 50 years, we are telling Beijing that it can sign any trade deal with any country and any organization, knowing that it can break its promise at any time. Beijing has already done that in many instances. Its WTO promises are just one.

If the world lets Beijing use tear gas, bullets, or tanks to put down protests in Hong Kong, we are telling Beijing that we do not care about human rights and we can tolerate a “Thuggish Regime.” We already made that mistake in responding to the Tiananmen Massacre.

The Hong Kong people have shown the world that they are willing to use their human flesh to defend the rule of law in front of a mighty state machine. If Beijing has its way with Hong Kong who is next?

Now it is time for the U.S., the West, and the whole world to join them, to show that we are committed to defending the rule of law, the spirit of the contract, human rights, and at the moral level, what it means to make a promise and to keep your word! We are also telling the thugs and evildoers that immoral acts have consequences.

{1} Chinascope, “China: Rule of Law or Rule by the Party?” April 5, 2015.