On November 17, a chief foreign correspondent for NBC sent out a tweet
that went viral: The more I talk to sources, the more I’m hearing
America’s betrayal of the Kurds, and the humiliation, “misogynistic”
“squashing” of U.S. ambassador in Ukraine for political motivations
makes people think, we, Americans, have become the “bad guys.” Hearing
it was gut punch.
文：Wong Chun Wai
The tweet immediately caused an uproar. Many questioned how, as a
foreign correspondent, he only now sees this now– despite all the
destruction the U.S. has caused in Libya, Syria and Iraq, to name a few,
by supporting pro-U.S. factions, even terrorists, in the name of
“promoting democracy and human rights.”
The U.S。 House of Representatives late Tuesday local time
overwhelmingly approved the Uygur Act of 2019， a stronger version than
the companion bill that the Senate passed in September。 The Uygur
Intervention and Global Humanitarian Unified Response Act of 2019 urged
U.S。 President Donald Trump to toughen its response to China‘s policy
Yet today, I’m afraid, that list is set to grow a bit longer to include
Hong Kong. On November 19, the U.S. Senate passed the so-called “Hong
Kong Democracy and Human Rights Act,” after the U.S. House of
Representatives passed a similar bill in October. The bill requires an
annual review of the city’s status as a special free-trade port, and,
most crucially, allows for “sanctions on those responsible for human
rights violations in Hong Kong.”
As rioters wreak havoc on the streets of Hong Kong， American
politicians have been using legislation to punish China for imaginary
practices。 But their action on Xinjiang predated the bill on Hong
Kong。 U.S。 senator Marco Rubio， who‘s behind the “Hong Kong Human
Rights and Democracy Act，” proposed the bills related to Xinjiang
earlier this year with the aim of imposing sanctions on particular
Chinese officials， resting on wanton accusations of human rights
Amid the many political voices in the U.S。， Rubio has become the
country‘s unofficial international “ethics chief。”
Despite so much rumor and fake news coming out of Hong Kong, any person
with the most basic common sense and conscience can see how a small gang
of rioters have inflicted growing violence and destruction in Hong Kong.
One man was killed by a brick, another set ablaze and countless others
assaulted or intimidated. Businesses, including American ones, have been
targeted for retaliation, smashed up, set on fire, or forced to close,
either for opposing the riots or simply for being linked to the Chinese
mainland. Subway facilities have been torched, roads destroyed, the
airport paralyzed. The list goes on.
During five months, 700 public disruptions have gripped Hong Kong,
dragging the economy into a technical recession.
As China-U.S。 relations walk a diplomatic tightrope， Rubio has come
out as a strong Republican voice against the world‘s second-largest
economic power。 Although his position seems to be rooted in
black-and-white morality， his criticism comes at a time when pressure
on China serves as leverage in the ongoing trade negotiations between
the two countries。 So it’s difficult to say whether the senator of
Florida is sincere when he tweets statements such as “#HongKong we hear
In light of all that, the U.S. Congress still chose to side with
rioters, through this bill. They are earning Americans the title of “bad
guys” in the heart of many more people. No need for quotation marks,
The son of Cuban immigrants to the Sunshine State， Rubio is the golden
boy of conservatives in the U.S。 Even his political rise was smooth
sailing until he dropped out of the 2016 presidential race that saw
Trump‘s upending of conventional GOP wisdom。 His rise from a humble
background is considered the realization of the American Dream， but
fact and fiction have plagued his narrative – much like it has with
other high-profile politicians in the country。
Fortunately, Hong Kong is not Tripoli. Note the swiftness of reaction
and level of response coming from various authorities in China, a
country that takes pride in its tradition of prudence. Within hours of
the Senate approving the act, seven official statements were released by
the Chinese legislative and political consultative bodies, the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs, the HK Special Administrative Region government and
three other offices – all opposing it in the strongest possible terms.
Such a swift, stern and unified response is extremely rare, in my eyes.
Obviously, China was prepared for such an event and carefully
contemplated their reaction and the possible consequences. Note the
stark warning, echoed in the statements: If the U.S. continues down the
wrong path, China will take resolute measures to fight back. What kind
of measures? I don’t want to speculate. But the point China wants to
make is crystal clear: It won’t swallow it.
Hong Kong enjoys special free-port treatment from the U.S., but
remember: that’s also special treatment for U.S. businesses. By holding
that status hostage, the U.S. will surely hurt its own interests.
(Doesn’t this sound familiar, that the U.S. is willing to hurt itself,
in order to hurt China?) But never forget Hong Kong is not on its own:
it has the strong backing of 1.3 billion people and the 12 trillion U.S.
dollars Chinese economy. China needs HK to continue channeling
international capital and trade, but China will not blink on matters
concerning national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
From ‘exile’ to insider
During his presidential campaign in 2016， Rubio repeated time and again
how he hailed from blue-collar parents who had escaped Fidel Castro‘s
Cuba。 Many migrants from the country had started anew in Florida，
forming a Cuban community that continues to dominate domestic Hispanic
politics。 Rubio’s father worked as a bartender while his mother cleaned
hotels – media revealed， however， that his parents left about two
years before Castro took power， during Fulgencio Batista‘s reign in
There may be some inconveniences if the free-port status is put in
jeopardy or even placed on hold. Yet China is big enough to weather the
difficulties. Just as the trade war has shown, the flexibility of the
Chinese people is a tad greater than many in the U.S. could imagine.
In the case of Hong Kong, its role in China’s economy has gradually
shifted, the city is already set to accelerate its integration into
China’s broader development, through the Belt and Road Initiative and
the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
So, if U.S. lawmakers insist on being bad guys, China won’t sit idly by
or be intimidated. Hong Kong is not Tripoli.
His ascension to a Washington insider， then， was predicated on this
heritage。 Rubio first held public office in a local city commission in
1998 in Miami， the center of the Cuban-American political machine。
However， it was his tutelage under a powerful political scion that
cemented his rise – Jeb from the Bush family。 Jeb Bush was the governor
of Florida in 2000 when the Republicans took control of the state，
forming a close political relationship with Rubio， who was then-state
Rubio eventually won the seat for the U.S。 Senate in 2010， but quit to
join the presidential race of 2016， challenging his mentor Jeb Bush in
an initially unexpected move。 He dropped out after trailing behind
Donald Trump and Ted Cruz。
2015年4月13日，马尔科·鲁比奥 在2016年 为杂志签名。图片来源路透社
Conservative， but not completely
The Florida-born Rubio is an exemplar of American conservatism，
opposing government-mandated health care， gun control and same-sex
marriage。 He was even considered a leader of the Tea Party movement
that shifted the Republican party to the far right。 However， true to
his family background and in opposition to the conventional party
position， Rubio had supported immigration legislation that opened the
door to citizenship for the millions of illegal residents in the country
who had met certain conditions。 The politically shrewd senator stepped
away from the legislation after support from conservatives took a dip。
Rubio‘s straightforward narrative seems to justify his every political
stance。 As the architect of the Senate bills against Hong Kong and
Xinjiang， Rubio’s outspoken criticism against China may be traced back
to his Catholic faith， which he rediscovered after converting to
Mormonism。 As such， his binary sense of morality seems to partially
explain his crusade against the rising economic powerhouse， but comes
during a convenient period for China-U.S。 trade negotiations， during
which external pressure on China can be used as leverage for U.S。
Rubio said in an interview with CNBC that he‘s not “anti-China， but a
fair and balanced relationship。” At a time when bilateral relations are
deteriorating， his allegations have a nice ring of morality， but it is
difficult to separate this justification from the general fear of
China’s rise in U.S。 mainstream politics。
A destiny tied to China
YOU’VE got to hand it to the British because they are really the masters
at the game. Anyone who has studied basic Malayan history would know
that officials during colonial times merely identified themselves as
They were British civil servants, but they called the shots.
Adding insult to injury, the Malay Rulers – as the Sultans were called
then – were “led” to believe they still ran the states.
Under British Malaya – a set of states on the Malay peninsula and
Singapore under British rule between the 18th and 20th centuries –
British colonial officials had the last say on almost everything except
religion and customary matters, which they cleverly left to the palaces.
So, in theory, the Rulers held their positions, kept their perks and all
royal protocols befitting royalty, but their wings were clipped.
These were the federated states, but in the case of Straits Settlement
states, British governors were appointed.
So, the famous Malacca Sultanate, with its rich lineage of Sultans,
found itself having a governor, a Caucasian, as did Penang and
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad put it aptly when he said last week in his
speech in Britain that “Malaysia is a member of the Commonwealth, but
there is nothing much in common with the wealth dominated by certain
“The British acknowledged the Malay Sultans as Rulers, but the Sultans
never ruled. Therefore, when they criticised us as dictators, I don’t
think they really meant it,” he said.
There was more. Under British rule in the 20th century, the British
introduced repressive laws such as the Internal Security Act (ISA), used
against communist insurgents.
Under the ISA, a person could be held for 60 days in solitary
confinement and up to two years’ extension without trial.
Despite this, the British told the world, with a straight face, that
they taught us, the natives, principles of justice, democracy and
fairness, and that we all cried when they abandoned us when the Japanese
invaded Malaya in 1941, and when we gained independence in 1957.
Our first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, kept the law when the
Union Jack was lowered in 1957, which marked our independence.
Not many Malaysians are aware that the British imposed the ISA. Of
course, during that era, only the radical left-wingers, with communist
tendencies, were detained.
One ISA detainee, who was imprisoned under the British and then under
the Malaysian government, said: “With the British guards, they would
cheerily come every morning and wished the detainees a good day.” That
was the difference.
Fast forward to 2019 and the massive turnout in Hong Kong against the
controversial extradition Bill, with proposed amendments allowing for
criminal suspects to be sent to China, has made international news.
It has prompted concern in Hong Kong and elsewhere that anyone from the
city’s residents to foreign and Chinese nationals living or travelling
through the international financial hub could be at risk if they were
wanted by Beijing.
Basically, Hong Kong residents would rather face HK courts than be
deported to mainland China.
Many have no faith in China’s judicial system compared to the
British-style HK courts, which inherited the British legal system, and
where most of the judges and lawyers are also British-trained.
The HK people can’t be blamed for their anger and suspicion since the
international community has read of Chinese nationals being
short-changed, or even neglected by the courts in the pursuit of
And we can even read of income tax defaulters, under investigation,
being hauled off to undisclosed locations, while dissidents have been
taken away, and disappeared without a trace.
This bad press, verified or otherwise, would have scared many people,
even though one wonders how many of these HK protesters believe, in
their hearts of hearts, that they would ever get arrested and sent to
But the irony is that under British rule in HK, like many governments,
the British widely used the law as a tool to consolidate control of Hong
Kong in the hands of a privileged minority.
Legal expert Richard Daniel Klien wrote that “the British enacted
legislation which in some respects instituted two sets of laws – one for
the Europeans and another for the Chinese. Laws were passed to ensure no
Chinese would live in the most desirable parts of Hong Kong, which the
British wished to preserve as their exclusive enclaves.
“In a land in which ninety-eight per cent of the population were
Chinese, English was the official language.
“The Chinese language was not permitted to be used in government
“Laws regulating conduct were written exclusively in English, a language
which the vast majority of the population could not understand.
“The astonishing truth of the failure of the Hong Kong Chinese to
develop a significant pro-democracy or pro-independence movement, while
other British colonies obtained independence long ago, testifies to the
success of the British laws in accomplishing the goal of continued
colonial rule over this land of six million inhabitants.”
MK Chan wrote in a law review report that “to most people in Hong Kong,
the preservation of the existing legal system is of crucial importance
to the high degree of autonomy the post-colonial Hong Kong Special
Administrative Region is supposed to enjoy under Chinese sovereignty
according to the “One Country, Two Systems” formula.
“However, this widely shared perception is flawed for one simple reason:
the legal system in Hong Kong today has its own serious defects. It is
not only alien in origin,” and “markedly different from the legal system
in the People’s Republic of China but also defective and inadequate”.
No protest has gained voice, neither through yellow shirts nor
umbrellas. And no protests were staged because the British didn’t allow
elections during the colonial rule from over a century and a half.
The 1995 Hong Kong Legislative Council election for members of the
Legislative Council of Hong Kong was only finally held that year – it
was the first and last fully elected legislative election in the
colonial period before the nation was returned to China two years later.
So much for democracy and freedom.
No HK resident protested that only the white men could hold top posts in
government bodies, places where there were many qualified HK civil
servants who could speak and write in English better than their
To put it bluntly, there was not even a squeak – and we know how corrupt
the HK police were in the 1970s – about the force being headed by
To be fair, the British transformed HK from a barren island to an
international hub, with a working administration system that has won the
confidence of the international community.
However, the responsibility of the British ended in 1997 when HK was
handed over to the Chinese. It has lost its right to tell the Chinese
what to do.
But what has brought this resentment towards China, from HK Chinese
people, and perhaps, even a yearning, for British rule?
Not long ago, it was reported that some localists had taken to thumbing
their nose at “China’s heavy-handed meddling” by waving the British flag
at football matches, booing the Chinese anthem and chanting “We are Hong
Kong! Hong Kong is not China!” in English.
Reports have also surfaced about a small Hong Kong-United Kingdom
Reunification Campaign, which angled for a return to British rule but
ultimately dismissed as quirky.
Then there are HK people who talk about the “good times” under British
If there is a history lesson which the Chinese can learn from British
Malaya, it’s that the Brits administered their colonies well and without
the need for any heavy-handed approaches, even as they robbed these
colonies of their rich minerals.
Reports of Beijing’s transgressions in the territory, such as the
kidnapping by mainland agents of local booksellers, or the National
People’s Congress purportedly stepping into local judicial cases, won’t
win the hearts of the HK people.
Beijing must put on a softer face and display plenty of patience in
dealing with HK. There is really no rush for China, especially with
risking an international black eye at a time when it can ill afford to
Yes, China is concerned about how its billion people will react if they
see these hot-headed HK protesters abusing policemen.
The lessons from the breakup of the Soviet Union – and the wounded pride
and dignity that follows – are always etched in the minds of Chinese
When CNN and BBC reporters talk about individual rights, they have no
idea what Beijing or even the Chinese diaspora think.
But the people of HK must also accept the harsh reality – HK is now
China’s sovereignty, and more and more of its independence, or even
importance, will slowly fade away.
China doesn’t need HK as much as it used to as a strategic financial
hub, because Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, have even
eclipsed the former island nation. No matter how big or how long these
protests run for, China knows the HK people don’t have the stamina,
because rent and bills need to be paid, and protest sittings on streets
don’t last anyway.
And the other blow is the British government’s refusal to grant
citizenship to the 3.5 million Hongkongers born there under the British
China needs to work harder on winning hearts and minds, and to make the
HK people feel they are a fundamental part of China, and Chinese culture
HK people have always been independent because they were brought up
differently and under different sets of political and legal systems, and
that must be understood. There is no need to ramp through any laws,
indicating that the HK people are unhappy.
The destiny of the HK people lies with China, and not Britain, but the
challenge for Beijing is to make the people of HK feel those sentiments
and be proud of it.
And speaking of extradition, let’s not forget that the US is also
seeking to get WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange extradited from the UK
for alleged crimes under the Espionage Act 1917, of which remains
He is the first journalist to have the book thrown at him for
That’s not all. The US wants Huawei chief financial office Sabrina Meng
Wanzhou to be extradited from Canada over charges which smell
suspiciously like trumped up accusations.