February 22, 2016

YEAH, LIKE WE’RE GOING TO SEE THAT FROM OBAMA: Why the US Should Stand Up for Hong Kong: The UK’s Foreign Secretary has accused Beijing of a “serious breach” of its agreement over Hong Kong.

On February 12, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond blamed China for the disappearance of Lee Bo, a British citizen from Hong Kong, declaring it a “serious breach” of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the treaty governing Hong Kong’s return to communist mainland rule in 1997.
Lee is one of five men connected to the Hong Kong-based Mighty Current Media publishing house and its bookstore in the Causeway Bay neighborhood who, since last fall, have disappeared and subsequently reappeared on the mainland in official custody.

On February 4, mainland authorities acknowledged holding Lam Wing Kee, Cheng Chi Ping, and Lui Por, on unspecified “illegal activities.” On January 17, Gui Minhai, who had disappeared from his Thailand beach home in October, appeared on Chinese state television and gave an emotional “confession,” in which he said he voluntarily returned to the mainland to face responsibility for a 2003 drunk driving incident.

As for Lee, Hammond said, “The full facts of the case remain unclear, but our current information indicates that Lee was involuntarily removed to the mainland without any due process under Hong Kong SAR law.”

London has taken an important step. However, if it is serious about defending Hong Kong, it will have to ask other democracies for support that has not so far been forthcoming. Even before the formal transfer of sovereignty, but while China’s meddling was already underway, the Clinton Administration insisted its hands were tied. Assistant Secretary of State Winston Lord told Congress in 1996, “The United States does not offer legal interpretations of agreements to which it is not a party,” adding, “by the way, the British have not stated their legal position.”

Now that Great Britain has said the treaty is breached, the United States must go beyond its February 1 expression of “deep concern” over Lee and the fate of the other men. It should now be more difficult for the Obama Administration to avoid implementing the key provision of the U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act. That law directs the President to withdraw Hong Kong’s separate treatment in some economic and trade matters if he finds it to be insufficiently autonomous.

Don’t hold your breath. You can generally count on Obama to side with the tyrants in confrontations of this sort.

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