Liberal democracies that stand up to China’s communist regime aren’t merely helping Hong Kong, they are actually defending themselves against a growing encroachment by that regime, says Alan Leong, chairman of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Civic Party.
“You have to watch Hong Kong, and by looking at what is happening in Hong Kong on the ground during, in particular, the last six months, you will actually be seeing your future, if you do not act now,” Leong said, in an interview with The Epoch Times for the “Voices from Hong Kong” special series of the “American Thought Leaders” program.
For years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been engaging in “unrestricted warfare” on the United States and other Western democracies, infiltrating and subverting key institutions, according to China expert Robert Spalding, a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general. Through its “One Belt, One Road” initiative—a broad plan to develop infrastructure and economic ties across more than 100 countries—the Chinese regime is exporting its surveillance systems abroad and expanding its geopolitical influence globally.
What Chinese leader Xi Jinping has been “preaching to the world” is like a “spell of inevitability,” Leong said.
“The rhetoric is simple—that the China model is superior and one day, it is inevitable that it will prevail over liberal democracies.”
But, in reality, the China model is a “dictatorial regime delivering only on the economy,” Leong said. It deprives people of freedom, liberties, and basic human rights, and with the help of high-tech surveillance technologies, “it is very, very effective.”
“I have been telling our friends of the free world about how the CCP has been infiltrating into our different institutions, and how the CCP has been using our rules of the game to actually work against us: how they buy up the media organizations, how they try to change the syllabuses of our schools in order to brainwash our next generations, how they are replacing the top management of many of our corporations, financial institutions with mainlanders,” Leong said.
“But 10 years ago, what I said seemed to have fallen on deaf ears,” Leong said. He says Western leaders failed to conceive of the Chinese communist regime using the same strategies to subvert and weaken Western democracies.
“It may be a bit unkind for me to tell this to our friends in liberal democracies, but what I actually told them to their face was, ‘You are finding yourselves in today’s dire situation, not because of anybody else,’” Leong said.
“You have only yourselves to blame.” The West allowed China to join the World Trade Organization, erroneously thinking this “would lure it into adopting the rules-based order of the game.”
But the CCP never held up its side of the bargain to open its markets and dismantle its mercantilist policies, and the international community failed to police compliance, Leong said.
“This giant had been actually fed by you, nurtured by you, by your not insisting on doing business with the CCP on your terms.”
“I’m not saying that you should not be doing business with the CCP at all. Well, after all, the China market consists of 1.4 billion people. But there is nothing wrong with you insisting on the CCP’s compliance with all the rules and promises.
“It may be a bit late, but it’s better late than never. If you leave it even later, then you may have gone past a point of no return,” Leong said.
“What Hong Kong experienced and went through in the freedom movement during the last six months could easily be your fate in the future.”
Police ‘Acted Like Terrorists’
Since the handover of Hong Kong in 1997, “the CCP has been treacherously breaching its promises contained in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law,” Leong said.
The now-withdrawn extradition bill—which would have allowed Hong Kong citizens to be extradited to mainland China for trial—was just the last straw in a long string of abuses, and prompted large swaths of Hong Kong society to take to the street in protests.
In July, police brutality against protestors became a central focus of the protests. On at least a few occasions, Leong said the Hong Kong police “acted like terrorists.”
“Riot police stormed into Prince Edward mass transit railway station [on Aug. 31] and hit at people indiscriminately,” Leong said. “By definition, if you hit people indiscriminately, that is really a terrorist act.
“And it has been rumored that people were killed on that occasion. But, of course, the police denied it.”
He pointed to an incident in Yuen Long MTR station in July, when a mob of masked men in white T-shirts attacked commuters with metal bars and rods after an anti-government march.
“The police were conspicuously absent,” Leong said.
Videos of the scene show two police officers walking away from the gathering mob in the station, where at least 45 people were injured. In response to public criticism, the police said the two officers had left to call for backup.
“The world has seen images of police using their batons, beating very hard on people who had been subdued, with nothing in hand to hit the police or to bring danger to the police,” Leong said. “And we saw images of young ladies being dragged along on the street, down staircases by their hair.
“Such images ought never to have happened in a place as civilized as Hong Kong,” Leong said, about a city that once boasted a highly respected police force.
“How can you, on the one hand, not do anything to curb police brutality, while on the other hand, you prosecuted people for riots, when we were just out there to defend our human rights, freedom, and the rule of law?”
A police officer who pointed a shotgun at Hong Kong protesters at close range was invited to Beijing to participate in the Oct. 1 parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of communist rule, Leong noted.
He says the disparity of treatment toward protesters and police will seriously harm the rule of law in Hong Kong, the most important legacy of the British colonial period.
De Facto Referendum
While district councilors in Hong Kong have limited formal power, the district council elections on Nov. 24 were treated by many Hongkongers as a de facto referendum on the city government and Chief Executive Carrie Lam, since, for the first time, all 452 district council seats were contested, Leong said.
The elections saw a record turnout, with 71.5 percent of registered voters going to the polls.
Because postal voting isn’t allowed, many people “flew long haul from Toronto, New York, London, and from Paris, I think one told me. And what is even more impressive is that they had to go back to where they came from to work on Monday morning. So they just flew in after work on Friday, cast a vote on Sunday, and then rushed to the airport,” Leong said.
“In Hong Kong, we had not had smiling faces for the past six months. But on that day, when I went inside teahouses to canvas votes for my party’s candidates, I actually saw a lot of smiling faces.
“They told me, ‘Mr. Leong, I already cast my vote. And I feel so good that I actually, by voting, manifested my opposition to the Carrie Lam regime, to the CCP, and to the police brutality that we have been suffering for the past six months.’”
Leong recounted how one woman told him, “Mr. Leong, I actually stared at the polling paper for as long as I would like to. And you know why? The police had their batons. I have this vote, this paper on which I can indicate how I dislike, how I am opposed to police brutality.”
The pro-democracy camp won a landslide victory, taking 388 of the 452 district seats.
“So the referendum effect was felt loudly and clearly that people actually wanted one country, two systems. We want Carrie Lam to go, we want the police force to be reformed. We want an independent inquiry into police brutality,” Leong said.
While Beijing has called the protesters “rioters” and claimed that a “silent majority” supports the Hong Kong government, “we sent a clear message to Beijing that you are wrong,” Leong said. “We want to redefine this as a movement in defense of our way of life, freedom, liberties, human rights, and rule of law.”
US Legislation ‘Hits the Nail on Its Head’
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was signed by President Donald Trump on Nov. 27, “really hits the nail on its head,” Leong said, by applying direct pressure on the regime in Beijing and the Hong Kong government to end abuses in the city.
Under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, the U.S. secretary of state is required to certify annually whether Hong Kong is “sufficiently autonomous” to justify its special economic status granted under the United States–Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.
Hong Kong “is still indispensable for the CCP,” Leong said. “Two-thirds of direct foreign investment into the country [China] goes through Hong Kong annually, and we are the single largest forex market in which renminbi can be converted into other world currencies,” Leong said.
Leong hopes the threat of losing Hong Kong as a major financial center will restrain the Chinese regime.
And he hopes that Western democracies will be moved by Hong Kong’s “young men and women, who lost their careers and even their lives during the past six months” and work together to devise a coordinated strategy to resist Beijing.
In doing so, the West would be helping Hong Kong in its fight against authoritarianism, and “at the same time, you are also helping yourselves,” Leong said.