Asia Research Institute

Dr Andreas Fulda - media commentary on the popular uprising in Hong Kong


Dr Andreas Fulda being interviewed on France 24.

This week, the School of Politics and International Relations' Dr Andreas Fulda made a number of media appearances in relation to the popular uprising in Hong Kong taking place against the proposed extradition bill.

In his interview on France 24, Andreas talked about the significance of the Causeway Bay Books abductions in 2015, Hong Kong's rule of law in comparison to the Chinese Communist Party's rule by law, as well as the pending US Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

Andreas is also extensively quoted in two newspapers, the El Mercurio from Chile as well as La Razon from Spain. As these are both Spanish language publications, you can find the text/transcript of his interviews below.


El Mercurio Q&A

EM: Even though in 1997 China promised to keep Hong Kong's legal and social institutions, many citizens of Hong Kong fear that over the years Beijing has not kept its promise. Do you think the same? If so, how has China over the years tried to change Hong Kong's systems in order to have more control over the territory and its citizens?

AF: Hong Kong’s overall political trajectory since the handover from British to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 raises doubts over the Chinese Communist Party's willingness to honour the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 and its own “One Country, Two Systems” formula. This is evident from the way the HKSAR government has tried to mould Hong Kong’s trade and commerce, local business elites, the rule of law, policing, language policy, education system, press censorship and political institutional design in the image of an increasingly totalitarian central government in Beijing. Post-1997 the party-state has started a process of firmly integrating Hong Kong into the mainland Chinese economic and political orbit. 

EM: What are Hong Kong's leaders arguments in order to pass this legislation? Do you consider them to be truthful?

AF: Chief Executive Carrie Lam has claimed that the extradition law is required to close a loophole in Hong Kong’s legal system. In my view this argument is non-sensical and should be seen for what it is: a red herring. Without proper human rights protections, Hong Kong citizens must not be handed over to be charged and face trial in mainland China. The HKSAR government is trying to remove the firewall that has long existed between Hong Kong’s rule of law and mainland China’s rule by law. Quite understandably, politically conscious Hong Kong citizens see a major danger that this law will legalise politically motivated kidnappings, not unlike the abduction of Hong Kong book sellers in 2015.

EM: Is it possible that, given the number of people that participated on the last protest, and the big controversy that this issue has caused, that Hong Kong could experience a new political and social crisis similar (or even bigger) than the one in 2014?

AF: What we are witnessing in June 2019 Hong Kong is already bigger than the Umbrella Movement of 2014. This is evident from the fact that 1,000,000 citizens have been protesting on Sunday, 9th June. This mass rally has even surpassed the historical anti national security law protests of July 1st, 2003. The mass protest show that Hong Kong citizens feel a strong sense of urgency and are willing to take a last stand to prevent Hong Kong from becoming like another mainland Chinese city. I think that if the tone-deaf HKSAR government tries to ram through the extradition law next week against widespread popular opposition this will trigger a major and enduring political protest movement which will dwarf the Umbrella Movement both in scope and duration. 

La Razon Q&A

RZ: Is Hong Kong living the biggest political crisis in the last decades? Can the crisis escalate even more?

AF: What we are witnessing in Hong Kong is a major popular uprising. On Sunday, 9 June more than a million Hong Kong citizens protested peacefully against the proposed extradition law. This means that 1 out of 7 Hong Kong residents took to the streets to make their voice heard.

Today on Wednesday, 12 June we witnessed how tens of thousands of protesters encircled the Legislative Council (LegCo), Hong Kong’s city parliament and thus prevented the second reading of the controversial bill. In response, the Hong Kong Police Force used disproportionate violence to disperse crowds in front of the LegCo by using excessive amounts of tear gas and firing rubber bullets at retreating protesters.

This political crisis is far from over since neither side is willing to give up. Chief Executive Carrie Lam appears tone deaf and unwilling to retract the proposed extradition law, which due to only weak legal safeguards would amount to legalized kidnapping. For many protesting Hong Kong citizens the new law is unacceptable: it is not only a threat to outspoken critics of the city and central government but also a danger for business people who have commercial ties to mainland China.

LR: Besides the protests, is it really going to make a real change in the relationship between Hong Kong with mainland China?

AF: The protests in Hong Kong center around a fundamental question: can ‘One Country, Two Systems’ really work if the previous firewall between Hong Kong and mainland China is being removed?

For many decades Hong Kong has benefited from its independent judiciary and the rule of law. In mainland China, the Chinese Communist Party is controlling the judiciary: it is playing the role of judge, jury and executioner at the same time. This means that anyone who is extradited to mainland China will not receive a fair trial and is likely to see his or her human rights violated.

People in Hong Kong are particularly aware of this problem due to the kidnapping of five Hong Kong-based book sellers by mainland Chinese security agents in 2015.

LR: Why is the extradition law so important for Chief Executive Carrie Lam? Can she go back?

AF: In my view Carrie Lam either received instructions from the central government or felt that she needed to curry favours with Xi Jinping by taking this initiative.

Either way she miscalculated the response by the Hong Kong public. She is now stuck between a rock and a hard place. If she shelves the proposed extradition law she will become a lame duck Chief Executive and incur the wrath of the central government. If she doesn’t budge she will trigger days if not weeks of social and political unrest in Hong Kong, with a high likelihood of continued street protest and violence.

Posted on Friday 14th June 2019

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