Ronan L Tynan
Many Hong Kongers must be asking themselves – “will I be next?”- after five workers in a local publishing house Mighty Current were systematically kidnapped over the last three months beginning with one of the joint owners Gui Minhai, a Swedish passport holder, who was abducted at his holiday home in Thailand. Three workers followed including general manager Lui Bo and two colleagues Cheung Jiping and Lam Wing-ke kidnapped at different times when they went to visit family on the mainland. Then Paul Lee or Lee Bo, a British passport holder, and the other joint owner of the firm was abducted in Hong Kong and bundled across the border. This means two EU citizens are amongst the five kidnapped by Xi Jinping’s security police, and with no sign they will be released soon the European Union must threaten sanctions against China?
These abductions must be urgently addressed because if the EU allows Xi Jinping to normalise China’s version of “extraordinary rendition” anyone who dares to criticise Xi Jinping and his CCP is at risk, and not only Chinese citizens? Especially as two of the five are Swedish and UK passport holders!
These kidnappings also illustrate why we know very little about the fundamentals of the Chinese economy when it is so clearly under stress, with no one taking GDP figures seriously and general acceptance that almost all statistics are massaged to make the Chinese Communist Party or CCP look good. Meanwhile, governments around the world are trying to work out how to cope if there is a major China crash without access to reliable information. Therefore censorship in China not only poses a threat to the Chinese people it also poses a risk to our freedom of expression, and even our prosperity…?
When I first read about the kidnapping of 5 people at Hong Kong’s Mighty Current publishing house by Chinese security agents I thought of Ai Weiwei who in spite of his considerable fame outside China was made to ‘disappear’ and it took sometime before the authorities even owned up to having abducted him. Being made to ‘disappear’ is becoming ever more common as Xi Jinping’s ruthless crack down on dissent continues. However, under the ‘one country, two systems’ agreement under which Hong Kong formally became part of China again in 1997 when the UK relinquished control, abductions and disappearances are not supposed to happen. In fact, Hong Kongers enjoy political rights and freedom of expression unimaginable on mainland China. So is Xi reasserting sovereignty in complete contravention of the “one country, two systems” agreement?
After the “new relationship” inaugurated by Prime Minister Cameron and Chancellor Osbourne with President Xi in London recently the idea that a British citizen could be snatched off the streets of Hong Kong and bundled off to the mainland was thought inconceivable? However, it seems that Cameron and Osbourne in not raising human rights with their Chinese guest we must ask did they effectively normalise Xi’s brutal crackdown and set the scene for the abductions in Hong Kong?
While attempts last week in Beijing by UK Foreign Secretary Hammond to raise Lee Bo’s abduction are welcome, it is clear that his representations are not taken seriously because even at his joint press conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi the latter appeared to confirm Bo is being held by China while officially refusing to confirm that is the case. Wang said: “… based on the basic law of Hong Kong and China’s nationality law, the person in question is first and foremost a Chinese citizen.
“It is not necessary for anyone to make groundless speculations.”
In other words, mind your own business?
The only problem is that of the five two hold foreign passports – Lee Bo as noted is a UK passport holder, and Gui Minhai, holds a Swedish passport and was kidnapped in Thailand in October – the first to go missing. This means it is harder for Xi Jinxing’s government to cover up these abductions because like it or not governments must make representations to seek to protect their citizens.
The Chinese Communist Party’s record on human rights was brought sharply into focus in London also during Xi’s state visit when Shao Jiang, a student leader during the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, protested in front of his limousine at gross human rights abuses. His personal demonstration was a reminder of what happened in 1989 when so many thousands all across China were murdered – and not only on Tiananmen Square – when the CCP brutally crushed that peaceful uprising.
Cameron and Osbourne also had no excuse in not raising rights abuses with Xi as he has been running that ruthless crack down for some time with many human rights lawyers and journalists ‘disappeared’ or in prison, with the most publicised cases that of journalist Gao Yu 71 and human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang. Both are now free having served time in prison simply for doing their jobs, but it is worth noting that Gao became very ill in custody denied proper health care, and was at risk of dying, and Pu is no longer allowed to practise as a lawyer and is still under a form of almost supervised house arrest. Therefore as Xi Jinping continues his ruthless crack down against journalists and lawyers, and indeed anyone not towing the Party line on the mainland is it any surprise the abductions have caused real alarm in HongKong? Especially as it appears the “One Country, Two Systems” policy which is supposed to guarantee their human rights and freedom of expression is in the process of being repudiated in a very disturbing manner?
Respect for human rights in China is important to everyone, and not only the Chinese people, because she has become such a powerful country. The failure of Cameron and Osbourne to even raise human rights abuses effectively normalises brutality and abuse of power. Other dictatorships and authoritarian regimes take comfort in China’s ability to apparently get away with ease with these gross abuses. However, these abductions in Hong Kong are a new and very dangerous precedent and represent a kind of “extraordinary rendition with Chinese characteristics”. The US was embarrassed into dropping rendition as policy, unless we manage to make China do the same the world will indeed become an even more dangerous place for anyone who does not adhere to the Party line.
Ronan L Tynan