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RTHK One of Many Public Broadcasters Globally Under Pressure: Ex-BBC Head Mark Thompson


Mark ThompsonWith RTHK coming under increasing criticism from the government in recent months, former BBC Director-General and New York Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson spoke about the challenges facing public broadcasters in Hong Kong and around the world in a Zoom interview with The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong on Tuesday.

“In countries which don’t really have any big commitment to democracy, and who genuinely believe, or claim to believe, that solidarity and focus on what we all agree on is good – and everything else is not legitimate and valuable but actually is illegitimate and criminal – it’s not surprising that a public broadcaster gets acute pressure from the authorities,” said Thompson. “That seems to be playing out in Hong Kong as it is in so many other countries.”

Commenting on recent troubling developments including the suspension of a satirical programme as well as the arrest of an investigative reporter, Thompson expressed sympathy and solidarity with RTHK. “I’ve been interviewed by them, have colleagues there and regard RTHK as a sister broadcaster,” he said. When you threaten one public broadcaster, you kind of threaten them all in a way. It’s a bit like NATO: an attack on one is an attack on all.”

Reflecting on the history of RTHK, Thompson noted that it had not always exercised the same level of editorial independence that it has in recent years, particularly during the colonial era. “After the handover, clearly RTHK made real efforts to try and be dispassionate and objective in the way it covered, let’s say, last year’s disruptions and the government and the protesters,” said Thompson. “It feels like they’re under more pressure [now].”

Thompson also highlighted the important role that governments should play, or rather should not play, in allowing public broadcasters to operate freely. “It really depends on a group of very powerful people exercising self-restraint” and believing that “it’s in the greater public good that there should be an exchange of ideas, that journalists should be allowed to hold governments to account.” Ultimately, Thompson argued, “If the government doesn’t want it to exist, it won’t exist. In the end, they can switch you off.”

Thompson made clear that the problem isn’t limited to Hong Kong – “this is true of Western liberal democracies, it’s true of controlled societies” – and cited examples including Russia and nations in central and eastern Europe to illustrate his point, as well as his former employer. “The BBC has remained over decades a beacon of independence,” said Thompson, but not without its challenges.

“Winston Churchill hated the BBC and hated the idea of having a public broadcaster who was outside his control,” said Thompson, noting that, in more recent times, the British government has occasionally taken a more hands-on, aggressive approach to the public broadcaster in the form of official enquiries or funding cuts. He pointed to “wounded egos” inside Boris Johnson’s government who felt the broadcaster had been too tough on the Conservatives’ election campaign and threatened retribution. When the people controlling the purse strings threaten public broadcasters, Thompson said, “it’s bad for democracy.”

As for news organisations that aren’t supported by government funds, Thompson said they have their own challenges to face but dismissed the notion that consumers aren’t willing to spend on news subscriptions. “The whole notion that people won’t pay for news is based on a vision of the Internet circa 1999,” said Thompson, who argued that the public’s willingness to pay for different sources of entertainment such as Netflix proves that they are willing to do the same for high-quality news.

Still, he said, there are many financial challenges for newspapers to overcome, both due to the ongoing pandemic as well as long-term trends such as Facebook and Google providing cheap digital advertising solutions that have disrupted business models. Thompson was optimistic about the future, however, saying that “the idea that people don’t want high-quality news is not true” but rather something the owners of news organisations needlessly worry about.

Newspapers and other publications will have to get creative in order to survive, he said, adding that various sources of funding including private donors, philanthropic organisations, and commercial sponsorships could keep smaller newsrooms alive in the future. Even Google and Facebook might come to the rescue: “If they step up to the mark, it’s possible to imagine these huge platforms being a source of funding for these local publications.”

Watch the full interview here:

Investigative Reporter Mara Hvistendahl on Industrial Espionage and U.S.-China Relations

Mara Hvistendahl

Appearing in a Zoom interview to discuss her second book, The Scientist and the Spy, author Mara Hvistendahl described a reporting process that took her from China to the Midwestern United States and back as she followed an intriguing legal case that reflected the rise of tensions between the world’s two largest economies. The book recounts the story of a Chinese-born scientist who was caught trying to steal genetically modified corn seeds from a field in Iowa, which led to a two-year FBI investigation and the scientist’s imprisonment.

According to Hvistendahl, an investigative reporter at The Intercept, issues related to trade secrets theft were once handled between companies and never focused on individual employees. In recent years, however, she said both the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice have “posed industrial espionage as some sort of existential threat to the United States,” as the government has prosecuted dozens of cases on behalf of large corporations with the supposed aim of “protecting innovation in America.”

“When you dig into what sort of cases are being brought,” said Hvistendahl, “it is these cases that benefit huge corporations in anti-competitive industries.” As a result, she argued, there are valid concerns about the federal resources that are being spent on such cases. For example, the case that is the focus of her book unfolded in multiple states over two years and involved more than 70 FBI agents as well as lengthy court proceedings.

As industrial espionage has become a flashpoint in U.S.-China relations, Hvistendahl’s reporting also found a worrying trend of racial profiling, with several Chinese scientists being arrested only to later be found innocent. The author said this could be traced back to a secret U.S. government surveillance program that monitored Chinese citizens in the 1960s and 1970s, which she uncovered in the process of doing research for her book.

Reflecting on the process of combining investigative and narrative journalism to weave a thrilling story told from multiple perspectives, Hvistendahl highlighted the merits of painstaking research and rigorous reporting. “This is a complex story that I would not have been able to portray if I had relied only on the court documents and not looked more into the people behind the story,” she said.

Watch the full interview:

Experts: Competition and Cooperation Will Define Biden’s Approach to China

President Trump’s ratcheting-up of tensions with China will have lasting effects and won’t be easy to reverse by the incoming Biden administration, according to two Washington-based experts who discussed Sino-U.S. relations in a Zoom event hosted by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong.

“The assessment by the Trump administration of the multitude of challenges that China presents has become widely accepted,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Referring to the notion China’s rise is bad for the U.S., she added, “It’s still not a consensus, but it’s certainly a majority.”

Fellow panelist Tom Orlik, Bloomberg’s chief economist, shared the sentiment. “There’s been a change in tone and approach to international relations under President Trump,” he said. “The diplomatic guardrails have come off.” Orlik, author of China: The Bubble That Never Pops, said even as the Biden administration returns to a more stable style of diplomacy, tension between the two nations isn’t likely to subside because of widespread anti-China sentiment among the American public and China’s continued economic growth, which challenges U.S. dominance.

Nonetheless, the panelists said, the world can expect to see a somewhat different Sino-U.S. relationship unfold during the Biden administration. Noting that President-elect Biden had identified Russia as the greatest threat to the U.S. while naming China a competitor in a recent interview, Glaser predicted that the new president will seek to find areas of cooperation with the world’s second-largest economy.

“Democrats want to engage China on climate change, global health, and North Korea,” she said. Orlik agreed, adding that under Biden, “There’s going to be procedure, meetings, policies that are announced. They will want to cooperate on North Korea and climate change.”

Even as the U.S. seeks more cooperation with China, many challenges lie ahead. “The overlap between business, markets, and national security is bigger than it used to be,” said Orlik. He pointed as an example to Huawei, the Shenzhen-based telecommunications giant that the Trump administration has singled out for violating U.S. sanctions on Iran as well as posing a potential cybersecurity risk and technological challenge to American competitors.

Glaser raised the issue of corporate espionage and the thousands of ongoing cases related to theft of trade secrets in the U.S. “I can’t imagine the Biden administration will want to dismantle this,” she said. “There’s a lot of concern about theft.”

On the question of China’s crackdown on Hong Kong, Orlik cited reports that high-level officials in the Trump administration had considered “the nuclear option” — sanctions on Hong Kong banks and even a strike on the city’s currency peg to the U.S. dollar — but ultimately decided not to do so because it would harm America’s own interests.

“The Trump administration didn’t go with the nuclear option, and Biden won’t,” said Glaser, “but there is more that can be done. I don’t think we’re going to see any reversal.”

The Trump administration will hold power until January 20, though, and the panelists said new executive orders may be issued in the coming weeks that may cause trouble for the Biden administration.

“There have been rumors about more actions and sanctions regarding Hong Kong and Xinjiang,” noted Glaser, adding that Biden could easily reverse those policies with his own executive orders once he enters office. Orlik commented that such a strategy would be put in place to make Biden look weak on China, yet he said for now  “the Trump camp is focused on the election, not other stuff.”

Even if the Trump administration does manage to issue a flurry of executive orders that Biden reverses, Orlik expressed doubts about the potential negative impacts for the new administration. “I question the political cost of undoing executive orders,” he said. “Will the broader public remember them? I wonder if we’re overestimating the risks.”

Watch the full discussion:

Veteran Financial Columnist Jake van der Kamp Talks Markets and Investing

Jake van der Kamp

In his book The Rise and Fall of the Hang Seng Index, published earlier this year, veteran financial columnist Jake van der Kamp argues that the only investment advice you need should come from yourself, not financial publications. As he put it during a lunch event at The Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong, “If it’s in the press, it’s in the price.”

A former analyst himself, van der Kamp spoke about the main argument of his book, which is that investment advisers and brokers are useful for executing the how and where of trading, but the what and when is best left to individual investors. Rather than finding the right advice or trying to play the market, van der Kamp advocated a common-sense approach to investing that relies on personal instinct and intelligence, adding that share prices themselves are a clear reflection of collective wisdom.

He also advised buying stocks and holding on to them “unless you’ve got a very good reason to sell.” In that way, he argued, investors could avoid the machinations of people working with alleged insider information or trying to manipulate the market.

Speaking about regional economies, van der Kamp expressed confidence in Southeast Asian countries and concerns about the world’s second-largest economy. “My own view on China is there is trouble coming,” he said, pointing to trends including an aging population. Still, he noted, he did not predict a major crash but rather a period of “falling asleep for 20 years” and stagnating in the way Japan’s economy did.

Watch the full event:

Reading Recommendations From the FCC’s Distinguished Guest Speakers

With countries around the world in and out of lockdown due to COVID-19, 2020 has provided ample opportunities for many to catch up on reading.

If you’re on the hunt for your next great read, look no further than this list of book recommendations from the FCC’s distinguished guest speakers, including Noam Chomsky, Joseph Stiglitz, Lingling Wei and many more.


Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

The China editor of Axios appeared on October 5 as part of a panel discussing Beijing’s influence on Hollywood. She recommended The War on the Uyghurs by Sean. R Roberts; and Outsourcing Empire: How Company-States Made the Modern World by Professor Andrew Phillips. 



Ben Bland

Author and journalist, Ben Bland, appeared on September 22 to talk about Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo. Bland recommended the book, The Secret World: A History of Intelligence by Christopher Andrew. Bland is the author of Man of Contradictions: Joko Widodo and the Struggle to Remake Indonesia.



Dr. Sarah Borwein

Appearing on an October 22 Zoom panel to discuss the future of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Sarah Borwein recommended The Last Kings of Shanghai: The Rival Jewish Dynasties That Helped Shape Modern China by Jonathan Kaufman.



Noam Chomsky

The world’s most influential public intellectual and linguist joined a Zoom webinar on August 7. He recommended two of his own books that examine the media: Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, and Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies.



Antony Dapiran

Antony DapiranLawyer and author of City on Fire: The Fight for Hong Kong Antony Dapiran appeared at the FCC for a November 12 lunch event. He recommended Half the Perfect World: Writers, Dreamers and Drifters on Hydra, 1955-1964 by Paul Genoni and Tanya Dalziell, Summer by Ali Smith, and Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky.



Rebecca Davis

Variety‘s China bureau chief appeared on October 5 as part of a panel discussing Beijing’s influence on Hollywood. She recommended The Utopia of Rules by David Graeber.




Jiayang Fan

Appearing at an October 20 Zoom eventNew Yorker staff writer Jiayang Fan recommended A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother by Rachel Cusk as well as Yang Jisheng’s forthcoming The World Turned Upside Down: A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.



Mary E. Gallagher

Mary E. Gallagher, professor at The University of Michigan and director of the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies, joined a panel discussion on August 12 on the new China-U.S. Cold War. Her recommended reads exploring American history were Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild, and The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker (Chicago Studies in American Politics) by Katherine J. Cramer.


Bonnie Glaser

Bonnie GlaserBonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia and the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), appeared on a panel discussion on August 12 on the new China-U.S. Cold War. Her recommendations, which focused on China, were China’s Western Horizon: Beijing and the New Geopolitics of Eurasia by Daniel Markey; Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World by Michael Schuman; and The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu. Joining another panel discussion on November 20, she said she looked forward to reading The World: A Brief Introduction by Richard Haass.


Stan Grant
Award-winning journalist and filmmaker Stan Grant appeared via Zoom on August 18, and recommended the following books: The Light That Failed: Why the West Is Losing the Fight for Democracy by Stephen Holmes and Ivan Krastev, Without God: Michel Houellebecq and Materialist Horror by Louis Betty, and The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century by Vladimir Tismaneanu.


Mara Hvistendahl

Investigative reporter Mara Hvistendahl, author of The Scientist and the Spy, participated in a November 23 Zoom interview to discuss the process of reporting her second book as well as her experience working as a journalist in China. She recommended two books: Rodham: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld, and previous FCC guest speaker Thomas Kent’s Striking Back: Overt and Covert Options to Combat Russian Disinformation.


Garry Kasparov

Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion, democracy campaigner and author of Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins, was our special guest on August 27 when he discussed China and U.S. politics. He was reading three books: Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold and Heroes: Mortals and Monsters, Quests and Adventures by Stephen Fry and Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts.


Thomas Kent

Disinformation expert and author of Striking Back: Overt and Covert Options to Combat Russian Disinformation, Thomas Kent, appeared on an October 15 panel to discuss fake news around the U.S. election. His recommended read was Do Morals Matter?: Presidents and Foreign Policy from FDR to Trump by Joseph S. Jr. Nye.



Kishore Mahbubani

Kishore Mahbubani, Asia scholar and author of Has China Won?: The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy, recommended A Different Sky by Meira Chand, a book that tells the story of his home country, Singapore, when he joined us on August 10.



Rana Mitter

Professor Rana Mitter talks to FCC president, Jodi Schneider.

Appearing on October 7 to discuss his latest book, China’s Good War: How World War II is Shaping a New NationalismProfessor Rana Mitter recommended Chinese Thought: From Confucius to Cook Ding by Roel Sterckz, and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.



John Nicholls

Appearing on an October 22 Zoom panel to discuss the future of the COVID-19 pandemic, Professor John Nicholls recommended Lords of the Desert: The Battle Between the United States and Great Britain for Supremacy in the Modern Middle East by James Barr.



Suzanne Nossel

Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America and author of Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All, appeared by Zoom on August 5 and recommended a book by our guest from a month earlier, John Bolton: The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir. She also endorsed Intimations: Six Essays by Zadie Smith.



Tom Orlik

Tom OrlikBloomberg’s chief economist appeared on a November 20 Zoom panel to discuss how the Biden administration will manage its relationship with China. During the talk, he recommended two books on Russia: Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire by David Remnick, and All the Kremlin’s Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin by Mikhail Zygar.



Admiral Bill Owens

Admiral Bill Owens, formerly the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, revealed he was reading America in the World: A History of U.S. Diplomacy and Foreign Policy when he appeared at a September 2 webinar.



Elyse Samuels

Washington Post visual forensics video reporter, Elyse Samuels, appeared on an October 15 panel to discuss fake news around the U.S. election. She was reading a novel: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.



Craig Silverman

Buzzfeed’s media editor, and author of the ground-breaking Verification Handbook – For Disinformation and Media Manipulation, Craig Silverman shared his insights on disinformation when he appeared on an October 15 panel to discuss fake news around the U.S. election. His recommended reads were Subprime Attention Crisis: Advertising and the Time Bomb at the Heart of the Internet by Tim Hwang, The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston, and Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare by Thomas Rid.


Brian Stelter

Brian Stelter is interviewed by Eric Wishart on September 8, 2020.

Appearing via Zoom on September 8, CNN’s Reliable Sources anchor said he’d be reading Bob Woodward’s new book, Rage, and No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer.



Joseph Stiglitz

Joseph Stiglitz talks to Club President Jodi Schneider on September 15, 2020.

The winner of 2001’s Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics appeared via Zoom on September 15 and recommended his most recent book, People Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent; and Paul Begala’s You’re Fired: The Perfect Guide to Beating Donald Trump.



Sebastian Strangio

Southeast’s Asia Editor at The Diplomat, Sebastian Strangio participated in a Zoom event on October 12 to discuss his book In the Dragon’s Shadow: Southeast Asia in the Chinese Century. He recommended Fortunes of War: The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning.



James Tager

PEN America’s deputy director of free expression research and policy, James Tager, appeared on October 5 as part of a panel discussing Beijing’s influence on Hollywood. He recommended White Man’s Game by Stephanie Hanes; and Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny.



Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson, the former BBC Director-General and CEO of The New York Times Co., participated in a November 24 Zoom discussion about the troubles facing RTHK and other public service broadcasters around the world. He recommended Why Liberalism Failed by Patrick J. Deenen as well as the unabridged version of Tolstoy’s War and Peace produced by Naxos AudioBooks.


Ambassador Kurt Tong

Ambassador Kurt Tong, the former U.S. consul general in Hong Kong, appeared via Zoom on November 10 to discuss how President-elect Joe Biden will approach foreign policy in Asia. His recommendations were Great State: China and the World by Timothy Brook and The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism by Thomas Frank.



Lingling Wei

Lingling Wei, Wall Street Journal reporter and author of Superpower Showdown: How the Battle Between Trump and Xi Threatens a New Cold War, admitted during an August 12 panel discussion that lockdown had introduced her to the children’s classic, The Lorax (Classic Seuss) by Dr Seuss. She was also reading Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang.

‘City on Fire’ Author Antony Dapiran Discusses Legco and the Hong Kong Protests

The political events that have unfolded in Hong Kong this week have turned the Legislative Council into something resembling China’s National People’s Congress rather than a legitimate legislative body, according to lawyer and author Antony Dapiran.

“The events of this week are not surprising. That doesn’t make them any less dispiriting,” said Dapiran, who appeared at The Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong on Thursday to speak with FCC president Jodi Schneider about his second book, City on Fire: The Fight for Hong Kong. “There was no real legal basis for what the NPC did.”

As he spoke to a lunchtime crowd, Dapiran described the city’s judiciary as being the last line of defense against the government, calling the courts “genuinely the one thing that is a constraint on government power” in the aftermath of four opposition lawmakers disqualified and ousted, and the remainder resigning in protest.

Dapiran also spoke about the National Security Law, arguing that it “seriously undermines Hong Kong’s rule of law” and has been particularly effective “as a tool of fear and intimidation” that has caused people to censor themselves and their social media accounts.

Having written a book on Hong Kong’s 2019 protests, the author reflected on the true meaning of the often-turbulent events that rocked the city last year. “This whole movement was building up this idea of a unique Hong Kong identity that was struggling in some way for greater autonomy within the People’s Republic of China.”

Though he noted that the NSL and coronavirus pandemic had effectively quashed the protests, Dapiran pointed out their global impact and lasting legacy, noting that the Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion movements had both borrowed tactics from their counterparts in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, he highlighted the ongoing protests in Thailand and how they’ve led to the formation of the so-called Milk Tea Alliance: “The two movements have been providing mutual solidarity and support.”

As for Hong Kong’s future, Daprian said he’s less optimistic than when the book came out in March. “I don’t think we’re going to see a return to the kinds of protests we saw on the streets last year,” he said, “but I don’t think the story is over.”

Watch the full event below:

Ambassador Kurt Tong on What Hong Kong Can Expect from the Biden Presidency

Changing Hong Kong’s trade status is not likely to be a priority for President-elect Joe Biden, said Ambassador Kurt Tong, the former U.S. consul general in Hong Kong, in a Zoom interview with the FCC on Tuesday night. Though he was cautious not to speculate on any specific policies the new administration might implement in Asia, he said Biden and his advisors understand the importance of dealing with China, a task that might intentionally be made more challenging by the outgoing Trump administration over the next two months.

“The diplomatic dance between China and Biden is going to be an interesting one, and one worth watching,” said Tong, who has left public service and now works for strategic advisory firm The Asia Group in Washington. However, due to limitation in political bandwidth and a need to focus on challenging domestic issues including the coronavirus pandemic and economic stimulus, he projected that foreign policy would not be at the top of the new administration’s agenda.

Ambassador Kurt Tong Ambassador Kurt Tong

Asked what the Biden administration could to do reset U.S.-China relations, Tong said, “I question that ‘reset’ is the right word. I think the idea that the U.S. and China are in a relationship that is characterized by competition is widely accepted, so it’s not how do we get back to friendly, but rather how do we make this competition healthy?” He also predicted that the world could expect to see a see a more calm and consistent approach to international negotiations from the new administration.

“Trump’s negotiating style is to be unpredictable,” said Tong. “That is great when you’re signing leases in New York City. That is harder to make work when you’re dealing with other cultures and countries that don’t trust you. Being unpredictable tends to lead the other party to not continue the conversation.”

Commenting on the unpredictable transition period between presidents that lies ahead, Tong expressed concerns. “The focus over the past six months has been on rhetorical one-upmanship and high-profile but not terribly effective measures,” he noted, citing TikTok and WeChat as examples. “I worry that the Trump administration will try to do more of these things in the next couple of months in ways that may box in the Biden administration.”

“There are plenty of people already thinking about the 2024 election,” he remarked.

Reflecting on his time in Hong Kong, the former U.S. envoy wondered whether the 2019 protests may have gone too far and inadvertently led to the passage of the National Security Law. “The first time that tear gas started flying around made me very uncomfortable, because that can always lead to escalation, which it did,” said Tong.

“The two large peaceful marches in June – if it had stopped there and given the Hong Kong government a little bit of time to digest that and realize they needed to walk back from the extradition bill, there could have been a different outcome,” he added.

Tong also expressed doubts about some of the protesters’ tactics: “Invading the Legislative Council, it’s hard to see how that could appeal to the ‘better angels’ in the Hong Kong government and Beijing.” Still, he was cautious not to describe the protests and National Security Law as a simple case of cause and effect. “It’s hard to second-guess history,” he said.

Tong also criticized the framing of Hong Kong being caught between the West and China. Instead, he argued, the city is actually caught between two Chinese impulses: the desire to have a London-style economy inside China, and the desire to control.

“It’s those competing urges that determine the future of the city,” said Tong. “What foreign government policy does is not irrelevant, but it’s not the determining factor. The fate of Hong Kong is decided in Beijing and Hong Kong’s interaction with Beijing.”

Asked how the international community should interact with Hong Kong, Tong said the “U.S. and other countries should keep Hong Kong high on their list of priorities in dealing with China but not actively discourage business activity, because that’s the city’s lifeblood. If you make it harder for business to be done, that can have a lasting effect and you can’t always turn the dial back.”

Tong also argued that the international community should keep an open door to Hong Kong residents, but commented that “what foreign countries say about welcoming Hongkongers is less important than what Hongkongers actually decided to do. If a lot of people leave, that would be bad for China. If Hongkongers decided to move to the U.S., that would be great for the U.S.”

Will the former U.S. consul general have any role to play in policymaking? Asked whether he would accept an appointment in the Biden administration and what position he would be interested in, Tong demurred: “Yeah, I’m not going to negotiate that over the Internet.”

Watch the full interview:

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