Last colonial Hong Kong governor calls on UK to defend the city from Chinese ´pressure´

World 2020/6/5

Last colonial Hong Kong governor calls on UK to defend the city from Chinese ´pressure´

Lord Chris Patten has called for the world to ´reset´ their relations with Beijing - Bobby Yip/REUTERS

Lord Chris Patten, the last colonial governor of Hong Kong, called on the UK and like-minded nations to band together to defend against pressure from China and “reset” global relations with Beijing. 

The ruling Chinese Communist Party should not be allowed to “get away indefinitely with bullying and hectoring and breaking the rules,” Mr Patten said Friday. 

It sets “a very, very bad historical precedent if you allow the schoolyard bully to bully you one at a time.” 

Instead, nations should decide together that “we don’t deal with this nasty regime,” he said, denouncing leader “Xi Jinping and his mafioso” for shrinking freedoms in Hong Kong. But “it does mean we have to work together.” 

Mr Patten also urged the UK to review its policies in trade, investment, education and more and devise a plan “to make sure that in these areas China keeps its word, and also try to decide on those areas where we’ve gone too far in being dependent on China.”

He has previously called for a United Nations special envoy to be appointed to defend human rights in Hong Kong. 

Last colonial Hong Kong governor calls on UK to defend the city from Chinese ´pressure´

People gather in Hong Kong to the commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, despite an unprecedented ban on doing so - Roy Liu/Bloomberg

Mr Patten’s remarks come as representatives from nine parliaments, including the UK, launched an alliance focused specifically to encourage governments to adopt a tougher approach toward China, a move that will likely sour Beijing further against Western nations. 

“No nation should be able to freely jeopardise global values and human rights,” the alliance said in a statement. “If our voices are united in this, we will send a much stronger signal.”

The alliance also said that China’s “increasingly aggressive foreign policy” – meddling in democratic systems, attempting to influence foreign politicians, conducting cyberattacks abroad – has to end before countries could continue building bilateral relations. 

The group aims to affect policy involving China in the areas of human rights, trade, security, national integrity, and to uphold a rules-based international order, starting by pushing legislation in their jurisdictions to combat the treatment of ethnic Uighurs, many of whom have been detained in “re-education” camps in China’s far western Xinjiang region. 

The UK’s participation in the alliance comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a review of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei’s role in building the country’s 5G networks. A wave of other security and undue influence concerns have also been raised over Chinese involvement in key infrastructure projects, such as energy plants, and on university campuses. 

Global tensions are rising over China, especially between Washington and Beijing, leading some nations to appeal to the two countries to de-escalate and cooperate.

"It is natural for big powers to compete. But it is their capacity for cooperation that is the true test of statecraft, and it will determine whether humanity makes progress on global problems such as climate change, nuclear proliferation, and the spread of infectious diseases," wrote Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien-Loong in an op-ed published in Foreign Affairs.

The US-China battle will eventually force countries in the Asia Pacific region, already nervous about Beijing’s territorial ambitions, to pick a side. Nations in the area will “always see China’s naval presence as an attempt to advance those claims” in the South China Sea.

The US security presence “remains vital to the Asia-Pacific region,” and China would be unable to take over that role in Southeast Asia even with its increasing military might, he said, with a candour unlikely to be welcomed in Beijing.

He added that a US withdrawal in North Asia would compel Japan and South Korea to contemplate developing nuclear weapons to counter North Korea’s growing threat.

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