Hong Kong is in its last battle for survival, via Bloomberg:
Hong Kong braced for rare strikes and further protests amid an escalating standoff over a controversial bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China.
Local companies said they would suspend work or allow flexible office hours on Wednesday to accommodate workers planning to demonstrate near the city’s Legislative Council, which will meet to debate amendments. The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, a pro-democracy labor group, and several student associations urged members to join the strike and reprise a protest Sunday that drew hundreds of thousands.
The government said it opposed the student strike. It urged schools to make their pupils’ safety a priority and respect different opinions, Hong Kong’s Under Secretary for Education Choi Yuk Lin told reporters.
Peter Hartcher reckons it is futile:
On the face of it, the people turned out in such force to oppose a proposed law to allow Beijing to take people across the border to stand trial in Chinese mainland courts. The people marched under the banner “No extradition to China”. But in reality their concern is bigger. It is that this will be the “last fight” for Hong Kong’s remaining freedoms, in the words of the former legislator Martin Lee, nicknamed Hong Kong’s “father of democracy”.
Because mainland China does not have an independent judiciary and citizens have no rights. China’s courts are simply political. Anyone can be tried at the will of the authorities, and inevitably found guilty if that is the wish of the political leadership. If this law is passed in Hong Kong, Beijing could concoct trumped-up charges against anyone it chose. Dissenters could disappear across the border. Permanently.
But if the people of Hong Kong are indeed in their “last fight”, it seems to be lost. How so? Because, first, the Hong Kong government said so. About 11pm on the night of the peaceful mass rally, hours after nearly all the demonstrators had gone home, the government declared that it would be proceeding to put the extradition law to the local legislature as planned.
The leading edge of the trend towards great Communist Party of China control has also arrived in Australia. First, the CPC directly threatened the Australian Chinese diaspora yesterday thought its media foghorn:
According to foreign reports, similar demonstrations on a smaller scale have taken place in some cities in countries such as Australia. In Western societies, if some forces want to hold such political demonstrations and there are organizations ready to foot the bill, it is easy to stage such shows.
It is worth noting that some international forces have increasingly collaborated with the opposition in Hong Kong. Two opposition groups visited the US in March and May to notify the US about the government’s decision to amend the extradition law. US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met both groups. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met some in May and claimed the amendment threatened the rule of law in Hong Kong.
The governments of UK and Canada released a joint statement at the end of May about the proposed changes in Hong Kong’s proposed extradition law. Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last British governor, said on June 6 that the proposed extradition bill will undermine Hong Kong’s reputation as a global financial hub. While Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam insists the bill is necessary to plug legal loopholes, Patten trashed the argument, calling it “absolute nonsense.”
For some time, a decreasing number of people in Hong Kong have shown their will to participate in street politics. More people have been supportive of the government’s measures to implement the policy of “one country, two systems.” Nonetheless, Western countries more actively point an accusing finger at Hong Kong affairs, instigating the opposition to create more chaos.
Washington has been particularly active in meddling in Hong Kong affairs. Radical politicians such as Marco Rubio have said that the US should rethink providing Hong Kong trade and economic privileges. Obviously, the US is trying to use Hong Kong affairs to pressure China. Some radical opposition members in Hong Kong are hand- in-glove with the US.
But from a historical point of view, the waves they created are just bubbles in the air. The future of Hong Kong will not be held hostage by the opposition and their supporters. The amendments to the extradition law are still under legislation, which is just and Hong Kong SAR government and society should not abandon their efforts.
Yesterday I also described the chaotic debate that has erupted in Canberra between defence and security officials on one hand and parliamentarians on the other, surrounding the Australian response to deteriorating relations between the US and China. I noted the debate is as raucous as any national interest discourse that I can recall. Out of control we might describe it.
In one sense this is not unusual. Sticking our heads between our legs and hoping for the best has been the defining approach to the great power tension at the heart of our external relations since John Howard.
Yet in another way it is very odd. ScoMo’s predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, put the nation very strongly onto the front foot on the issue. Turnbull pushed back rhetorically and with policy, and was defining a clear path forward to reassure both our great and powerful friends of Australia’s position, and Australians themselves that the Government would protect their interests. In his 2017 speech he said:
The legislation I am introducing today is designed to reinforce the strengths of our open democratic system while shoring up its vulnerabilities.
I mentioned earlier that our Counter Foreign Interference Strategy has four pillars: sunlight, enforcement, deterrence and capability.
Of these, sunlight is at the very centre.
To ensure activities are exposed to sunlight, following an extensive review by the Attorney-General, we are introducing a new Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme.
The principle is quite straightforward.
If a person or entity engages with the Australian political landscape on behalf of a foreign state or principal then they must register accordingly.
This will give the Australian public and decision-makers proper visibility when foreign states or individuals may be seeking to influence Australia’s political processes and public debates.
The link could be a financial relationship or some other form of arrangement.
Registration requirements are carefully structured so that the closer you get to the heart of Australian politics, the more likely it is that you must register.
Being registered under the scheme should not be seen as any kind of taint. And certainly not as a crime.
To the contrary it is applying the basic principles of disclosure to allow the public and policymakers to assess any underlying agenda.
But if you fail to disclose your ties to a foreign principal then you could be liable for a criminal offence.
This is not about shutting down legitimate debate, but rather enabling it.
Interference, espionage and sabotage
Sunlight is the most reliable disinfectant but it will not be sufficient on its own.
We are also introducing, for the first time, offences for acts of foreign interference. Addressing a clear gap, we will criminalise covert, deceptive and threatening actions by persons acting on behalf of, or in collaboration with, a foreign principal aiming to influence Australia’s political processes or prejudice our national security.
Acts of foreign interference are often intertwined with espionage.
But our espionage laws are so unwieldy they have not supported a single conviction in decades, even as the threat reaches unprecedented levels.
So we will also introduce a range of carefully structured espionage offences as well as new provisions for secrecy, sabotage and treason.
Any one of these three pieces of legislation—the foreign donations legislation, which Senator Cormann will introduce into the Senate, transparency, and interference-related criminal offences, would mark an enormous improvement in our ability to counter foreign interference.
Together, they add up to the most important overhaul of our counterintelligence legislative framework since the 1970s.
They should be seen as interlocking components. All are important and none will fully succeed without the others.
Finally, we need a central hub to not only enforce the law but do so in a way that maximises deterrence.
This is where our new Home Affairs portfolio will come in.
There is no national security threat outside war time that demands an integrated all-of-government capability like this one.
By enacting this legislation, and building the capability to properly use it, we are sending an unmistakable signal:
We will not allow foreign states to use our freedoms to erode freedom; our open democracy to subvert democracy; our laws to undermine the rule of law.
The centrepiece of the all-of-government push to deal with CPC influence was the creation of the National Counter Foreign Interference Coordinator with Home Affairs under former ASIO honcho Chris Teal:
The National Counter Foreign Interference Coordinator delivers an effective, efficient and consistent national response to foreign interference by providing a focal point for coordinating policy and program development and leading engagement with private sector areas.
Alas, afterwards, the office has not been funded properly. What should be a half billion dollar operation to ensure the Australian Government is operating as single entity in its dealings with the Communist Party of China (CPC) is instead a dozen under-resourced people.
For juxtaposition, imagine if we were being so slipshod on counter-terrorism, which has a similar National Coordinator to bring together all government efforts into cogent policy making.
The man in charge of the putative plan is Home Affairs Peter Dutton. Why has he not gotten the National Counter Foreign Interference Coordinator properly funded and deployed as the US/China Cold War has intensified? Does he really have any higher priority task? Is he too busy worrying about media coverage?
It’s not like he does not have first hand experience on the need. It is matter of record that the Minister hobnobbed with an alleged Communist Party of China (CPC) agent of influence in 2016, via the ABC:
Monday’s Four Corners-Age-Sydney Morning Herald investigation reported that Mr Dutton, immigration minister at the time, in 2015, approved a private citizenship ceremony for Mr Huang’s family, who were due to travel overseas.
Mr Dutton justifies the special treatment as being in response to a request from then Labor senator Sam Dastyari.
That would be the same Mr Dastyari who in December in 2017 announced he would resign from the Senate after revelations that he had promoted Chinese interests, including at a notorious news conference where he stood beside Mr Huang.
Four Corners reported that in 2016 — when Mr Huang was anxious to get his own citizenship — lobbyist Santo Santoro, a former Howard government minister and close to Mr Dutton, arranged a lunch between the businessman and the minister at Master Ken’s (upmarket) restaurant in Sydney’s Chinatown.
Mr Dutton denies the lunch was about Mr Huang’s citizenship bid. “He didn’t make representations to me in relation to these matters,” he said on Tuesday, also stressing he’d received no donation (Mr Huang over several years donated, to both sides of politics, between $2 million and $3 million).
Mr Huang didn’t get his citizenship, and last year his permanent residency was cancelled. The officials charged with examining his background and activities judged him unsuitable to be one of us.
This is the very same Mr Huang who cost Sam Dastayari his career when Peter Dutton labelled him a “double agent” for his dealings with the man. During the campaign, former Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull condemned the meeting:
“Look, Peter Dutton has got a lot to explain about this.”
“He is supposed to be the minister responsible for the domestic security of Australia, He is supposed to be the minister responsible for ensuring our politics is not influenced by foreign actors.
“The laws that I introduced at the end of 2017 about foreign influence and foreign interference are very important laws and responded to a rising concern in the community.
“Now, the idea that the minister responsible for enforcing those laws has had a meeting of this kind does raise a lot of questions but Peter Dutton is the only one that can answer it and Mr Santo Santoro should equally be answering questions about his role.”
The press more or less dismissed this as sour grapes on the part of Turnbull. Before it could mushroom into a genuine scandal, ScoMo called the election.
Yet we have ask, where is the ScoMo Government’s CPC plan? Why is Peter Dutton not funding a viable initiative to prevent further CPC influence operations at home, to give the Government shape and time on the subject, to provide succor to Australians and the Chinese diaspora that the ScoMo Government has their back?
He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.
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