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Executive Councillor Ronny Tong

2020-01-19

Executive Councillor Ronny Tong

2020-01-19
Disinformation is the biggest threat to One Country Two Systems

Is it not the famous writer, George Orwell who once said, “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable”? There may be a lot of poetic licence in what Orwell said at the time but sadly what he said has become more and more true in modern day politics. A case in point may be the latest report on China issued by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China of the United States.  In this report, there is a chapter on Hong Kong and Macau where the Commission made no less than three “findings” in relation to the recent events in Hong Kong. The Commission found: first, there is “further erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy and fundamental freedoms under the ‘one country two systems’ framework” by reason of the proposed amendment to the Extradition Ordinance; secondly, the Hong Kong police had used “excessive force and inappropriately operated crowd-control equipment“; and thirdly, the Chinese Government had “employed propaganda, disinformation and censorship in an apparent attempt to shape reporting on the Hong Kong protests”.

The key accusation here, of course, is that Hong Kong’s autonomy and fundamental freedoms under the “one country two systems” had been “further eroded”. For what is worth, to people interested in Hong Kong affairs, it is perhaps instructive to examine both the accusation and the alleged reasons or evidence in support thereof to see how far, if at all, such accusation bears scrutiny. 

First, how will an amendment to an existing law “erode” Hong Kong’s constitutional system or the freedoms it protected? The report, of course, did not either mention or note that the existing extradition law was enacted by the British Colonial Government before Hong Kong’s Handover and contained all the necessary legal safeguards to human rights common to most common law countries or places; or that the amendment was modeled after the model treaty issued by the United Nations of which the United States is a member; or that under the amendment if passed, the executive would have no power to order an extradition without the sanction of the Court. But the most illogical thing is, on the one hand the Commission called for the preservation of the Rule of Law and an independent Judiciary in Hong Kong and yet, on the other hand, it accuses an extradition regime safeguarded by the same judiciary of “eroding” the autonomy of Hong Kong. In this respect, it is noteworthy to remember what the former Chief Justice of Canada said after having sat on the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong. She said, “(Hong Kong Court) is immune to outside pressure, and unlikely to suffer deterioration.” This view is shared by most if not all eminent jurists around the World. Apparently, the Commission has a lot to learn from them.

The accusation as to police brutality is to be expected. After all, where there are riots, there are allegations of police brutality; but compared with what happens in the United States, England, France and most recently in the largest democracy in the World, India, what Hong Kong police does pales into insignificance. It is a fact that after seven months of turmoil, only one death was caused by the rioters and none by the police. That speaks volumes about how Hong Kong police was handling attacks that ranged from arrows, firebombs to words. It is also noteworthy that the report did not refer to any police shootings, common place occurrences in the United States. The fact that the Commission apparently preferred double standards to the truth is perhaps most obvious here.

But the accusation that raises most eyebrows must be the so-called finding that the Chinese Government had “employed propaganda, disinformation and censorship in an apparent attempt to shape reporting on the Hong Kong protests”. Let’s face it, who does not do that nowadays? Most people would agree words can destabilize a country; but it is hard to see how words can “erode” independence and autonomy of a place or country. If they can, a lot of places and countries are at risk, China and United States included. 

What is perhaps most disappointing is that while the Commission stays on its high horse, it makes no reference to the fact that there is virtually no attempt by the western media, official or otherwise, to report things like an elderly was stoned to death, another was burnt alive and the throat of a policeman was slit in an attempted murder by rioters; that there was a massive disinformation campaign on the internet unsupported by facts about tens of people being murdered and raped by police while in custody; that it was undercovered police who vandalized shops, restaurants, banks and other public places and facilities including the Courts and traffic lights; that unlike India, neither China nor the Hong Kong SAR shut down the internet. It is said half truths are the worst lies. So who is lying here? 

Don’t get me wrong. I am not by any means condoning propaganda, disinformation and censorship. There is no other way of saying it but that such conduct is despicable. But sadly, it is also a fact of life in modern day politics for politicians and governments to resort to propaganda, disinformation and censorship. This is simply politics talk, and, we come back to what George Orwell said.
 
It is of course a matter of national privilege for the United States Congress to issue whatever report based on its political stance it sees fit. But for such report to be persuasive and gain common respect in places outside the United States, it has to be based on facts and reason. There is no question that Hong Kong and the “one country two systems” are going through a difficult patch. There are many threats in the way of making the “one country two systems” work. The biggest threat to us all, is propaganda, disinformation and censorship. 

Ronny Tong

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