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Pro-democracy election success ‘a result of Beijing’s interpretation of Hong Kong Basic Law’

Dennis Kwok and Ronny Tong talked about the reverberations of Beijing's interpretation of the Basic Law at the FCC Dennis Kwok and Ronny Tong talked about the reverberations of Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law at the FCC

The record number of seats won by pro-democracy candidates in elections to select the committee that will choose Hong Kong’s next Chief Executive is one of the implications of Beijing’s recent controversial interpretation of the Basic Law, according to barrister and Legco member Dennis Kwok.

On the day after Hong Kong voters went to the polls, Kwok told a packed FCC club lunch that Beijing’s interference after two pro-independence candidates refused to swear allegiance to China following their election to the Legislative Council was an overt political move and warned the next battleground in this ‘far from over’ saga would be about whether others have breached their oaths.

Kwok joined former chairman of the HK Bar Association and Legco member Ronny Tong to discuss the reverberations of Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – at the club lunch on December 12. Tong kicked off the talk by outlining how Beijing’s interpretation merely reinforced what was already written in local law about what an oath meant and how anyone who makes a false oath or acts in breach of it should be dealt with.

tongmainHowever, he added that what the rare interpretation did “was reinforce the perception that Beijing is not trustworthy of our judicial system or the integrity of our judges”.

Kwok, who organised a protest of more than a thousand lawyers after Beijing stepped in following the oath controversy in October, criticised pro-independence ‘Youngspiration’ candidates Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching for their ‘irresponsible and childish’ actions when, during their oath-taking ceremony, they refused to swear allegiance to China, used bad language and sported banners that read “Hong Kong is Not China”.  They were later disqualified from taking office.

Kwok added that Beijing’s actions had divided a society “that’s already polarised”.

Both Kwok and Tong agreed that the pair’s behaviour had presented an opportunity for Beijing to step in and flex its political muscles, with Tong adding that he thought the Chinese government had been genuinely afraid that its Hong Kong counterpart would lose a court case requested by Chief Executive CY Leung in which he directed judges to disqualify them.

Dennis Kwok talks about Beijing's recent interpretation of Hong Kong's Basic Law at the FCC Dennis Kwok talks about Beijing’s recent interpretation of Hong Kong’s Basic Law at the FCC

The club lunch talk, entitled The Implications of Beijing’s Recent Interpretation of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, came just days after Leung announced he would not stand for a second term as Chief Executive. In a Q&A after the talk, Tong and Kwok were asked their thoughts on this latest development.

“I was flabbergasted,” said Tong: “I thought it’s just too good to be true.”

Kwok added: “I was happy for about five minutes, then I thought about all the other candidates who would come out.”

Revealed: Methods of torture used against China’s officials in corruption crackdown

Sophie Richardson, China Director, Human Rights Watch, revealed how China's corruption suspects are kidnapped and tortured Sophie Richardson, China Director, Human Rights Watch, revealed how China’s corruption suspects are kidnapped and tortured

The methods of torture used to extract confessions from suspected corrupt Chinese Communist Party officials was revealed as Human Rights Watch released its report at the FCC into the shuanggui detention system.

Beatings, solitary confinement, being made to stay in one position for hours, sleep and food deprivation were just some of the ways in which detention officers from the party’s CCDI (Central Commission for Discipline Inspection) coerced confessions.

Sophie Richardson, China Director of Human Rights Watch, called on the Chinese government to immediately abolish shuanggui, its secretive detention system that operates outside of China’s legal system, during the report release on December 6.

When President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, he announced a far-reaching anti-corruption campaign with a pledge to eradicate graft once and for all from the Communist Party. The campaign has seen both “tigers and flies” – high-ranking and low-ranking officials – detained and prosecuted for alleged corruption. What is lesser known is how shuanggui officers operate.

The Human Rights Watch report, titled Special Measures: Detention and Torture in the Chinese Communist Party’s Shuanggui System, is based on 21 interviews with four former detainees as well as family members of detainees, 35 detailed accounts from more than 200 Chinese media reports, and analysis of court verdicts from across the country. It outlines how suspects are led under false pretences to a meeting place where they are then spirited away for prolonged periods of time, their families not knowing where they are or why they have disappeared. They are then taken to shuanggui facilities, which the report stated have padded walls in order to prevent detainees from committing suicide, where they have no access to lawyers.

A drawing of a room used for shuanggui detention by a former detainee. A drawing of a room used for shuanggui detention by a former detainee.

One detainee, a former police chief from Jiangxi Province, recalled: “For nine days and nine nights I sat in tiger chairs; and urinated and defecated into adult diapers…for over a hundred hours, whether it’s day or night, they took turns interrogating me.”

Accounts from former detainees detail the various abuses inflicted by officers to extract confessions from the suspects, who are then typically brought into the criminal justice system where they are convicted and sentenced to often lengthy prison terms.

Ms Richardson called on China to abolish shuanggui, saying: “President Xi Jinping has built his anti-corruption campaign on an abusive and illegal detention system. Torturing suspects to confess won’t bring an end to corruption, but will end any confidence in China’s judicial system.”

She added: “Nobody, not even guilty Chinese Communist Party officials, should be denied basic fair trial rights or tortured.”

Figures in the report show that in 2015, 336,000 individuals were punished internally in the war against corruption. A further 14,000 were handed over to the courts for prosecution.

Climate change is our greatest threat – but could China save the planet?

Professor Richard Fielding, public health expert from HKU, talked about climate destabilisation at the FCC Professor Richard Fielding, public health expert from HKU, talked about climate destabilisation at the FCC

Climate destabilisation is the most important threat our species has faced – and China, the world’s biggest polluter, could be the country to turn it around, according to public health expert Richard Fielding.

As the Earth continues to get warmer,  the effects of climate change are not only apparent in the Earth’s more extreme weather events – they can also be linked to social and economic breakdown, and in extreme circumstances, civil war, he said during his club lunch talk entitled The Health Effects of Climate Destabilisation on December 5.

Professor Fielding, of Hong Kong University’s public health department, gave an example of how population displacements caused by climate disruption – in this case, drought – had preceded the 2011 uprising which led to the Syrian war after wheat and rice prices doubled as crops were destroyed following a prolonged period of no rain. Such pressure on societies leads to common psychosocial consequences including post-traumatic stress, mental illness, discrimination and vilification, unemployment and suicide. He cited recent India’s devastating heatwave as a factor in the rise in suicides in the country.

He pointed to another deadly heatwave – of 2013, which claimed 35,000 lives across Europe – as an example of how extreme weather incidents are becoming more commonplace. Where a heatwave such as that would ordinarily be predicted to happen every 100 years, he said this type of severe weather event could now happen every 20-30 years as the Earth continues to heat up.

And he warned that the global threat would not subside until governments took climate change seriously and imposed taxes on polluting projects including proposed new airport runways like those in for Hong Kong International Airport and London’s Heathrow.

“I do not see a great many grounds for optimism,” he said, adding that US president-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of climate-skeptic Myron Ebell to lead the Environmental Protection Agency transition team was akin to “putting a paedophile in charge of a kindergarten”.

On a more positive note Professor Fielding said that he believed China would be “surprising people” in the fight to reduce climate change, largely because “in 2015 it installed more renewable capacity than the rest of the world put together,” adding that single party states would have more success than democratically elected governments where there are more political obstacles.

And what can we do in Hong Kong to try to slow down climate change? Don’t fly or take a car journey unless you have to, and try to buy fewer clothes and shoes.

“Very difficult to do, especially in a place like Hong Kong where we’re encouraged to buy,” he said.

Guangdong on track to become leading science and tech hub

Professor Huang Ningsheng talked about Guangdong's bid to become an innovation hub Professor Huang Ningsheng talked about Guangdong’s bid to become an innovation hub

Investment in Guangdong’s scientific research and development is expected to take up 2.58% of the province’s total GDP for 2016, according to the Director-General of its department of science and technology.

It is a figure that looks set to increase over the coming years as the province, which neighbours Hong Kong, seeks to enhance its competitiveness and further cement its reputation as an up-and-coming scientific and technical innovation hub.

During the November 30 club lunch, guest speaker Professor Huang Ningsheng told the audience of the push to not only attract talent to the province, but also to produce talent by way of creating new R&D institutions and universities.

The former Dean of the Guangdong Provincial Academy of Sciences said that support from the Chinese Government had been essential in making Guangdong province home to some of China’s fastest growing tech companies. He added that even President Xi Jinping had ‘provided us with a lot of guidance’.

He said that the NPC Standing Committee of Guangdong Province was this week reviewing legislation that could speed up the transfer of science and technology findings into business results. Guangdong Province will also benefit from the Chinese government providing subsidies for venture capitalists who invest in R&D institutions and tech companies.

“We’re seeing the new round of technical revolution and industrial revolution,” he said.

Professor Huang said the key factors in ensuring the province’s continued growth as a tech hub were the creation of more incubators – which help turn research findings into products that businesses can sell – and laboratories to engage in basic applied research. He added that legislation to protect intellectual property rights was also essential in attracting talent and investment to the province.

The focus for Guangdong is the production of smart robots, telecommunications and life science and health.

Chris Patten on Trump, Brexit, Article 23 and India

Chris Patten arrives at the FCC Chris Patten arrives at the FCC

Here’s a round-up of the Q&A with Chris Patten following his talk at the FCC on November 25.


Look, I don’t mean any disrespect to my own country or to France, speaking as a member of the Legion d’honneur, or to China or to Hong Kong, but I happen to think India is the most interesting country in the world. And I don’t just say that because you asked the question. I don’t mean by that that I think that India is poised to become a superpower. Actually I’m not sure it is. I think that’s partly because I think thats partly to India’s benefit and I think it’s partly because Indians don’t want it to be. But India is an extraordinary democracy and democracy and the system of government in India have held together an astonishingly diverse society, ethnicities, religions, languages, in a way that simply wouldn’t have worked without that safety valve. I think other communities could have blown apart or could have seen the development of a bamboo gulag. India hasn’t done that.

India’s constitution had at its heart seculism (sic), socialism, and I’m afraid the socialism wasn’t a great success. It’s joined the world economy, it has very, very effective multinationals which on the whole follow pretty clean internationally recognised corporal governance guidelines. There is now a lot more Indian investment in the UK than there is UK investment in India and I hope that the present government will avoid the temptation we’ve seen in other countries to become more nationalist if the economic climate becomes a bit more difficult. India I think is concerned about its relationship with China but because of that it would be a mistake I think for others in the United States or Europe to try to use India as a sort of democratic pawn in a geo-strategic argument with China, I think that would be a huge huge error.

I think that India’s development is something which matters to the whole world and I think part of India’s success is Indian soft power: Indian literature. The best novels these days are written by – there are some good ones written by Americans – but the best novels are on the whole written by Indians. The Indian cinema which, I know the Chinese cinema has been very good but perhaps more restricted, Bollywood has been a fantastic success, though it may not matter so much to members of the audience who are Chinese, Indian cricket has alas been all too successful as an export of Indian soft power. So I think India is an extraordinary story, it’s not going to simply move up a straight line up the graph paper but by 2040 the largest population in the world will be Indian with the largest economically active population outstripping China which will have, I’m sure, problems it can overcome in moving from having a huge labour surplus to a labour deficit and to having the second largest group of people in the world who will be Chinese pensioners. So India faces some big responsibilities and big challenges, and I think it’s going to be a very exciting story.


I totally agree with you that we have to engage in the argument just as we have to engage in the argument with tabloids and social media about whether or not it is important to tell the truth in election campaigns. I think those are issues which really demand international and strong leadership and I think one of the lessons from Brexit in Britain was that political leaders hadn’t been sufficiently bold and vigorous in taking on some of the criticisms of the European Union.

On free trade I just make two very swift points. First of all, we all know, I mean there’s a wealth of statistical evidence that those who do worst from protectionism are the poor. If you’re well off you cope. If you’re poor you find the cost of the everyday items you buy goes up and you don’t find yourself working in a job where productivity is being raised because of greater competitiveness. In Britain we made the terrible mistake… we’re so centralised as an economy that we didn’t do what the Danes have done for example which is to ensure that public spending programmes are adjusted to take much greater account of the areas where there are real difficulties with declining industries and workforces which are undertrained and underprepared for industrial generational change. And I think we’ve also failed with basic education in some parts of Britain.

In America I mentioned earlier that the Americans spend 0.1% of GDP on labour market issues like retraining. The average for the OECD countries as a whole is six times that. So when I said to some of my Republican friends ‘of course the answer to problems in Michigan or Indiana or the Rust Belt is to spend more on retraining, to do more for education, to look at tax and spend policies and the role they can play in reducing social inequity’, they look at me as though I’m a sort of Keynesian communist. But it’s true. There is an important role for those government policies in addressing the problems which free trade can bring to people who work in declining industries.

Look, I go occasionally to Indiana to Notre Dame University, as the French would call it, a very very good Catholic university in the middle of Indiana, and you go through a lot of Rust Belt to get there. Could you have saved those industries? Maybe. Could we have saved the horse and cart as the principle means of getting from A to B. I suppose so. But we’d have all been much poorer had we done so. I think that unfortunately the people who are most likely to suffer from Trumpian protectionism if it happens are the people who voted for Mr Trump, just as in Britain the people who are most likely to suffer from the consequences of Brexit are the people in some of the disadvantaged parts of the country which voted for it. I think that’s a real tragedy and will actually put our democracies under some pressure in the future.


Well, maybe it was a good thing that I wasn’t around when they (articles 23 and 158) were accepted, though they weren’t a matter for negotiation between the then colonial power and China. But we did have strong views about Article 23 and we managed to avoid any suggestion that Article 23 should lead to legislation while I was governor and one reason why I didn’t think we needed to do anything about Article 23 was that I thought that subversion was something which I was unlikely to encounter as governor of Hong kong. It has a sort of rather quaint Leninist tone to it and pretty well since the 17th century – Guy Fawkes and all that – subversion hasn’t been a big issue in British politics.

More seriously, I think there is a different sort of relationship which if I was in government in Hong Kong would concern me, and that is the relationship between social and economic issues and political issues. I think that there are some serious issues which young people and other people raise about their futures, about the competitiveness of Hong Kong in the future, about the extent to which their employment opportunities are more narrowed than would have been the case with their parents. So I think there are some social issues – housing another one, and competition from the north for jobs. I think there are some serious issues there and perhaps play into the debate about political issues and those need to be addressed.

And it won’t be to Hong Kong’s benefit if over the next few years there is a sort of traffic jam in the relationship between the Legislative Council and the Executive, if things can’t get done because of an argument or a log jam there. Hong Kong has a reputation for getting things done rather more rapidly than other places and I would hate to see that ended.


The first election campaign that I took part in was in New York in 19 – I’m very old now – 1965 and one of the candidates, when he was asked what the first thing he would do if he won the election was, replied ‘demand a recount’. The first thing I would do is go to mass and say a prayer, and after that I would try I think, whoever I was, to establish a dialogue with people on whichever side of the argument didn’t agree with me. I think it’s corrosive of government when disagreements turn into quarrels.


I think that it’s not just America that this is an issue, that a greater emphasis on nationalism and national identity, on nativism, can easily turn into an effort to define oneself against the other. It can easily seem to be ungenerous, it can easily seem to want to lock out minorities, it can easily seem racist. I think the most wonderful words in America are the ones on the seal: E pluribus unum, which has been a fantastic message to the rest of humanity, bringing together people from every conceivable language and background and shaping a great country. City on a hill.

You sit as I did recently in a deli on Maddison Avenue and you watch every sort of identity and humanity walking past the window. And how do those people define themselves? Are they Afro-American New Yorkers? Are they Catholic Polish Americans? Are they Vietnamese Americans? Are they Chinese Americans? The one thing they all are is Americans. And I think that it would be a terrible error if Mr Trump was seen to be celebrating the whiteness of American society without recognising all the other colours which go to make up that extraordinary American flag.

So that’s what I think I would want to say to Mr Trump and since that was what I would say to him, I think I’d probably cancel the appointment of the chairman of Breitbart as his main strategic adviser. Anybody whose appointment is so enthusiastically welcomed by the great Wizard of whatever he is of the Ku Klux Klan is not somebody I’d like to spend an evening with.

Chris Patten’s FCC speech – in full

“The former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney was kicked out of government when his approval ratings were as I recall slightly lower than the prevailing level of interest so he wasn’t terribly popular when he left office and he tells himself a story about somebody going up to the front gate of his former official residence in Sussex Drive in Ottawa the day or two after he’d been kicked out. And someone goes up to the policeman on duty and says ‘Can i speak to Mr Mulroney please? And the policeman says ‘Sorry, Mr Mulroney doesn’t live here anymore. The next day the same guy turns up and asks to see Mr Mulroney. The policeman again says sorry Mr Mulroney doesn’t live here anymore. The guy goes a third time and the policeman says, ‘Look, I’m getting fed up with this – I’ve told you already are Mr Mulroney doesn’t live here any more.’

And the man says I know, he says, but I just love to hear it.

Coming here this afternoon we passed government house and I hoped that there weren’t people still queuing up at the gate to hear, to their great relief, I wasn’t living there. Anyway, it’s always nice to be back and to see the evidence in the ubiquity of the media that Hong Kong is still a free city. So thank you all for inviting me today and thank you for coming in such prodigious numbers.


I guess at least until June this year the two most important developments in my life were, first of all, the fall of the Berlin wall which ended the Soviet Union’s European empire and seemed to end as well the threat from global communism; and secondly the second event which I think has been of spectacular importance is China joining the global economy, the most important example of globalisation that there has been, setting China on course to be what it has been for 18 out of the last 20 centuries: the largest economy in the world. Those events were part of the script written by the United States after the war establishing a world order based on rules, based on the opening up of markets and free trade, based on security guarantees from the world’s biggest military power. All things which brought us security in Europe through Nato, which brought certainly after the Korean war security in East Asia despite the fact that there was never the same sort of historic reconciliation between China and Japan that there was in Europe between France and Germany, which brought us in the 50 years between the middle of the last century and its end a spectacular increase in world trade so that the trade in manufactured goods went up in 50 years from 8% of global GDP to 20% of GDP. And some of the results of that we saw in the hundreds of millions of people in China and elsewhere in Asia who were lifted out of poverty; the development of the middle class across Asia.

People used to talk about the American imperium. I’ve always thought it was more accurate to talk about the American emporium, the extent to which the opening up of America’s market and the markets in Europe provided exporting opportunities for what we used to call Third World countries. When I was Britain’s development minister in the 1980s that was a term that was tossed about and we used to look at countries that were best known for the manufacture of plastic toys, for manufacture of cheap polyester sheets and shirts, for the manufacture of Soviet era tractors; and which tried to gang up in cartels of commodity producers against the richer countries of the world to establish what they called a new international economic order. Well we got a new international economic order. We got it because those countries, which we now call emerging markets, because those countries learned how to sell high quality products to developed economies at prices which undercut what the countries could make them for themselves. It’s an extraordinary success story. and the figures queue up for gee whizz exclamations. China which for example from the mid nineties in a 15 year period increased its exports to the United States by 1,600%. Who suffered from that? Well most of us of course gained. We gained because inflation was licked with lower prices for goods. we gained because in developed countries people got those goods at lower prices. consumers gained everywhere. we gained in emerging markets because people were being employed seeing investments seeing the reward of those investments and we gained in both developed countries and emerging markets because we became more competitive.

in my view it would be dishonest, dishonourable and reckless of somebody like me to pretend that the case for democracy could be mixed up with an argument about the independence of Hong Kong

Some people undoubtedly lost. In America about one sixth of those employed in making things lost their jobs. So was the right answer to that to say that we should go back to protect our markets and stop trading with one another? Forget about it. Forty percent, for example, of the manufacturers from Mexico to the United States involve a large number of things that which made in America. Half of America’s exports go to countries with which it has free trade agreements, and what’s true of America in the world is also true of Europe in the world. But unfortunately those who didn’t do well in developed countries out of globalisation have been encouraged to point the blame for that onto free trade and onto the opening up of markets. The fact that is untrue doesn’t seem to matter very much. If you want to know really why in the united states some people have done so badly in the last few years its because America spends one sixth of the OED average on retraining workers who have lost their jobs. In the United Kingdom, where outside London and the south east since the financial crash in 2008/2009, people’s income has gone down. If you want to find ways of dealing with that there again in the field of redistributive tax and spend policies which look after people who have been casualties because of economic change.

But we’ve just had two elections as you know which seem to suggest that the answer to our problems is greater nationalisation, protectionism, and thinking primarily of ourselves, and pulling up the draw bridge to the rest of the world. I hope that Mr Trump as president proves different from Mr Trump the candidate, otherwise we’re all in real trouble. I hope that in Britain what Brexit means – and we’re told with a spectacular tautology that Brexit means Brexit, lunch means lunch, breakfast means breakfast… it can be croissant and coffee or the full English – I very much hope in Britain that the British government will reach the early conclusion that instead of negotiating our departure from the European Union with a cliff in two years time, we negotiate some sort of transitional arrangement which enables our industries, our exporters to adjust over time to the loss of a market which takes at the moment 45% of our exports.

So I suppose there are ways we can get through Trump and Brexit but it’s not going to be very easy and it’s a particular worry when one looks at the economic situation with emerging markets, not least here in Asia. It does look now as though Mr Trump is preparing to abandon the transpacific partnership that mostly puts the onus on other Asian countries to make a real success, including China of course, of the regional comprehensive economic partnership – not as deep or important as TPP but still a useful way forward.

The one thing I hope we can avoid is a tit-for-tat trade war between the United States and China. The one thing I hope we can avoid is a drift into what some people have called the thucydides trap in which there’s a stand-off between the United States and China. I can understand people taking exception to some of the mercantilist policies in China. Parenthetically I just note in passing that they might also take exception to the mercantilist policies of Germany.

Taking an oath is a serious business… taking oaths isn’t something of a lark

I hope that despite, that despite the real question marks which are raised about political repression in China, we can shape a world in which we can accommodate China’s legitimate interests with those of the rest of us. Because one thing that’s for sure is that China doing well is one hell of a lot more important to us than China not doing well. Whether or not that is the view that Mr Trump will come to hold, I’m not sure.

In Europe we’re going to have to do more for ourselves in terms of security and I hope we’ll be able to persuade Mr Trump that there is a difference between Vladimir Putin and Florence Nightingale.

Just to say a couple of other things. The first is about the importance of universities – not least universities in Hong Kong – helping to shape a return to the liberal order that has been so extraordinarily successful over the last 50 or 60 years. I am Chancellor of Oxford University and we’re very pleased that in the latest rankings we came first in the world. I think one reason why we became first in the world is we regard ourselves as a university for the world. We have nearly 1,000 students from mainland China. We have 140-150 from Hong Kong in addition. One hundred and eighty of our professors and senior researchers are from the mainland of China, 15 or so of them from Hong Kong, and I think that’s nothing but a good thing and I hope that we’ll be able to attract even more students from around the world in the next few years. But first we have to persuade our government that there’s a difference between a student and an immigrant.

The second thing I’d like to say is that obviously I follow, albeit from a distance, what’s been happening in Hong Kong. And since I suspect I might get a question on this, let me say a word about it here and now, although it may have much less impact on your lives every one of those in Hong Kong than what Mr Trump gets up to. You know very well that I believe passionately in the Rule of Law and the freedoms which it brings with it. And I have always believed that Hong Kong had thrived and prospered partly because of the Rule of Law, partly because of the pluralism of Hong Kong’s society, and that sooner or later those freedoms should include the freedom to choose who governs Hong Kong.

I think 20 years after the departure of the colonial aggressor it’s surprising that democratic development  hasn’t happened rather more rapidly. It was supposed to take place at a steady rate. The steady rate seems to be pretty slow. And I will always support sensible efforts to strengthen the democratic movement in Hong Kong. Like many others I watched with huge admiration the on the whole peaceful and mature campaign for democracy in Hong Kong a couple of years ago. So I am totally committed to that and I’ve always seen that commitment in the context of my passionate belief in the importance of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The Sino-British Joint Declaration. Under the Joint Declaration the British had obligations to the people of Hong Kong before ’97. And we had to tell China how we were meeting those obligations. Under the treaty, the Joint Declaration, China has obligations to the people of Hong Kong for 50 years after 1997, and Britain has an interest in how those undertakings are addressed, as does the rest of the international community.

The situation in Britain, which seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable one, is if you won’t take an oath you can’t join the club

I used to know that Joint Declaration off by heart. Paragraph 3, sub section 1 talks about the territorial integrity of China and national unity including the SAR and the rest of the country, so in my view it would be dishonest, dishonourable and reckless of somebody like me to pretend that the case for democracy could be mixed up with an argument about the independence of Hong Kong – something which is not going to happen, something which dilutes support for democracy and something which has led to all sorts of antics which should not take place in a mature society aiming to be a full democracy. I think two years ago many brave young people in Hong Kong established moral high ground about democracy in governance and I think it would be a tragedy if that high ground was lost because of the antics about so-called independence for Hong Kong.

Maybe it would be better if people in the north left it for Hong Kong courts to sort out the consequences of that which they will, I am sure. But inevitably it perhaps motivated one or two of the people who wrong-headedly pursued this argument. Inevitably there has been a backlash and I would guess that backlash probably reflects sentiments in the mainland which will go well beyond the ranks of the Chinese Communist Party.

I say all that so there can be no doubt where, as strong a proponent of democracy as you could find, places himself in this debate.

But let me add something, just so as to spare journalists asking the question – and I hope setting things out in this detail will mean that it doesn’t become the subject of every interview I do over the next four or five days… Taking an oath is a serious business. I have taken oaths on several occasions. I took an oath when I came to Hong Kong. I take an oath as a member of parliament. I took an oath the other day as a member of the House of Lords. I supported two people who used to work in Hong Kong – Peter Ricketts and Edward Llewellyn – when they were taking oaths in the House of Lords. I have taken an oath as a privy councillor – and it’s a serious business. In London, I take an oath with my hand on the Bible. Taking oaths isn’t something of a lark. Moreover, the situation in Britain, which seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable one, is if you won’t take an oath you can’t join the club. We have a political party in Northern Ireland – Sinn Fein – made up of republicans who won’t swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen. So they can’t take their place in parliament. Simple as that. And I would guess that there are legislatures all over the world which have similar requirements.

I think it is mistaken to confuse the argument about the nature of Hong Kong’s really special citizenship – the way in which people know in this community, the relationship between freedom of speech, freedom of the media, due process, independence of the judiciary, the way people know the relationship between those things and their own prosperity and well being… I think it’s a mistake to confuse that with some headline-grabbing remarks about independence.

I had great admiration and still have great admiration for those who campaign for democracy, but not those whose campaign dilutes support for democracy and makes a mockery of a serious political argument. Sorry to sound so headmasterly, but I just thought you might ask the question so why not get my retaliation in first? Thank you very much indeed.”

Chris Patten: Pro-independence antics are making a mockery of Hong Kong’s democracy campaign

Chris Patten talking at the FCC about Trump, Brexit and Hong Kong democracy Chris Patten talking at the FCC about Trump, Brexit and Hong Kong democracy

Former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten today blasted those who ‘make a mockery’ of Hong Kong’s democracy movement and said it would be a tragedy if democracy campaigners lost the moral high ground because of the antics of some of those seeking independence for the city.

Speaking at a sold-out lunch at the city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Lord Patten castigated the young pro-independence lawmakers who refused to swear allegiance to China after being elected to the the Legislative Council, stating “taking an oath is a serious business”.

“I think two years ago many brave young people in Hong Kong established moral high ground about democracy in governance and I think it would be a tragedy if that high ground was lost because of the antics about so-called independence for Hong Kong,” he said.

“Taking an oath is a serious business… Taking oaths isn’t something of a lark.

“Paragraph 3 sub section 1 (of the Joint Declaration) talks about the territorial integrity of China and national unity including the SAR and the rest of the country, so in my view it would be dishonest, dishonourable and reckless of somebody like me to pretend that the case for democracy could be mixed up with an argument about the independence of Hong Kong – something which is not going to happen, something which dilutes support for democracy and something which has led to all sorts of antics which should not take place in a mature society aiming to be a full democracy.”

Lord Patten was at the FCC to talk about the world after Trump and Brexit, but well aware that the huge number of press attending the event would be keen to bring up Hong Kong, he headed off their questions by issuing his very direct statement.

The latest chapter in Hong Kong’s volatile politics began with the September election to the city’s Legislative Council of pro-independence ‘Youngspiration’ candidates Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching.

The pair made headlines around the world when, during their oath-taking ceremony, they refused to swear allegiance to China, used bad language and sported banners that read “Hong Kong is Not China”. Their behaviour led Beijing to make an “interpretation” of Hong Kong’s Basic Lawthe city’s mini-constitution that was adopted after the handover from Britain to China in 1997 – which saw the newly-elected legislators barred from holding office.

Beijing’s actions, seen by many as interference in the city’s affairs, led thousands to take to the streets in protest, sparking clashes with police.

Start at the top and work down to fight corruption, says top Indian graft buster

Dr. Subramanian Swamy, member of India's parliament, discusses his country's fight against corruption Dr. Subramanian Swamy, member of India’s parliament, discusses his country’s fight against corruption

Going after the corrupt elite is the only way to prevent corruption on all levels of society, according to politician and graft buster Dr. Subramanian Swamy in a club lunch discussing the issue and how it affects India.

And if you want to prevent so-called ‘black money’ – corrupt money kept seemingly at arm’s length in overseas accounts – from lining the pockets of greedy officials, take the lead of the German government, which in the Liechtenstein tax scandal of 2008 ended up paying off a bank employee to hand over a list of clients who were ferreting money away, he said.

Mr Swamy, a member of India’s parliament, has been highlighting corruption in government for several years and is currently awaiting the trial of Sonia Gandhi – President of the main opposition Indian National Congress party, and her son, Rahul, on graft charges. The Gandhis — part of the famous political dynasty that includes India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi – are alleged to have illegally acquired the now-defunct National Herald newspaper’s assets after buying its publisher through a new private company, Young Indian, using a loan from party funds.

The Ghandis are currently on bail awaiting the start of the trial on December 9.

Dr Swamy has used the courts in order to go after the most influential people in the country and played a major role in exposing the 2G spectrum scam. He spends most of his time poring over documents and legal framework to determine whether laws have been broken by those alleged to be engaged in corrupt practices.

Mr Swamy uses a mathematical analysis based on the probability of detection to explain how people come to accept bribes. He concludes that the cost to the corrupt person of being caught, and probability-weighted average with the value of the gain from the corrupt act proves that even if the probability of detection is low, if the cost to the corrupt of detection is some big multiple of the gain from the corrupt act, every rational person would voluntarily choose not to bribe or accept a bribe.

But he says corruption isn’t only a temptation of the elite – in India it filters down to all sections of society. He said that despite having the checks and balances of the judiciary and the media, corruption was still widespread as people felt over-taxed throughout the country.

But he added: “Unless you catch the people at the top you cannot create the necessary fear factor for those at the bottom.”

When asked about the recent demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 bank notes in India in a bid to uncover billions of dollars in undeclared wealth, Dr Swamy criticised the government for a lack of contingency plan to ensure ordinary citizens were not left without cash.

Rémi Carrier: War on terror could lead to a battlefield without doctors

Rémi Carrier tells an FCC audience how the rules of war have changed - and they're no longer protecting medics Rémi Carrier tells an FCC audience how the rules of war have changed – and they’re no longer protecting medics

A change in military strategies due to the war on terror risks a battlefield without doctors. That was the stark warning from guest speaker Rémi Carrier, executive director of Medecins San Frontieres (MSF) during a talk about the increasing level of attacks on hospitals and aid convoys in war-torn areas.

Carrier appealed to all governments to revoke their ‘license to kill all’ and once again guarantee protection to those brave medics working at the front line. He was also critical of the UN Security Council and U.S. government in failing to help establish responsibility for recent attacks on hospitals in Syria and Afghanistan.

“We seek accountability, not justice,” he said.

Speaking on November 3 at a talk titled Targeting Hospitals and Aid Convoys: Old War Crime or New Tactic?, Carrier explained how previously governments in war-torn countries had honoured the Geneva Conventions that cover the rules of war, as well as other international laws designed to protect hospitals and medical staff. However, in recent years the war on terror has led to a change in the rules and many countries now do not safeguard hospitals on the frontline. This has led to devastating attacks on medical facilities including Aleppo and last year’s atrocity in Kunduz, Afghanistan.

Of the Kunduz incident, in which 42 people – including medical staff – were killed after a sustained bombing of the hospital, Carrier said that the only official response to questions of why it had happened had come from the U.S., who had produced a report citing ‘mistakes’ and technical errors. Carrier told how the raid had begun in the early hours and lasted 45 minutes, during which time patients burned and those fleeing the hospital were shot from the air. There had been a strict no weapons policy at the hospital, meaning there was supposed to be an understanding that it was not a legitimate target.

FCC Correspondent Governor Florence de Changy with Rémi Carrier ahead of his talk today on the dangers faced by medics on the frontline FCC Correspondent Governor Florence de Changy with Rémi Carrier ahead of his talk today on the dangers faced by medics on the frontline

He said MSF did not accept the findings of the report and was pushing for an independent inquiry to provide accountability. When pressed, Carrier said: “(There were) Special Forces on the ground. There was technology. A very expensive plane. A report about technical issues and radios with no batteries. It’s a bit too much… We’re doubting and we do not believe what we have read.”

Carrier said new anti-terror framework now meant that international laws were being ignored, and that governments believed they could go after their enemies in ‘unrestrained fashion’ – meaning ‘today everybody is an enemy’.

He added that the recent escalation in attacks on medical facilities had led to extremely low morale among some of the 35,000 medics working for MSF. “It’s terrible. It has been a big shock for the organisation.”

MSF plans to reopen the hospital at Kunduz, although it is seeking a new facility because ‘our staff on the ground are saying they don’t want to work again in places their colleagues have been killed’.

Donate to MSF here

The European Union must unite to solve the refugee crisis – Heinz Fassmann

Heinz Fassmann talks at the FCC about the refugee crisis in Europe Heinz Fassmann talks at the FCC about the refugee crisis in Europe

The European refugee crisis is dividing the continent and is more serious politically than the financial crisis, according to Austrian migration expert Heinz Fassmann, guest speaker at the November 2 club lunch.

Effective border control and measures to ensure asylum is provided to those that need it most are two of the ways in which to ease the crisis, he said. In effect, the European Union must unite to enforce its humanitarian obligation to help the refugees, said Fassmann, an expert from the University of Vienna.

The audience at the talk titled Europe vs The Refugees: What Next? was told that currently Germany, Sweden and Austria take in the most refugees, with an intake in 2015 of 900,000, 160,000 and 90,000 respectively. All of these countries are on the Balkan route, the most popular for refugees until March this year when it was closed. Perhaps not coincidentally, these are also the countries that offer the highest benefits to asylum seekers, with Austria offering €850 per month and Germany €450 plus payment of rent.

It costs Germany €20 billion a year, and Austria €2 billion.

These factors, Fassmann explained, have put huge financial and social pressure on ‘hotspot’ countries which in turn has been a factor the rise of Right wing politics in Europe. A further contributing factor to the negativity surrounding the migration of millions of refugees fleeing war-torn places such as Syria could be put down media coverage, he said. The point at which media coverage turned away from an understanding of a humanitarian crisis was New Year 2015 when reports began appearing on social media of sexual harassment of Germans in Cologne linked to the influx of African refugees. Once the press picked up the story, attitudes within the media became negative.

Other issues unsettling Europe include the social and cultural differences between indigenous populations and asylum seekers. Studies have found that an overwhelming majority refugees are religious and favour a combination of state and religious leadership. Furthermore, there are fears that asylum seekers won’t gain employment in countries of refuge, further adding to the economic burden. Studies show that a majority of refugees from Afghanistan, for example, are illiterate and have only basic education. Those from Syria, however, are better qualified, Fassmann said.

He added that he believed that long term the influx would be beneficial to EU member states as young people would help bolster the workforce.

He said: “These are young people. They want to work. They want to learn. There could be potential for ageing countries where the baby boomers will enter into retirement.”

Among some of the solutions suggested by Fassmann were:

  • reduce attractiveness for asylum seekers by offering non-cash benefits, temporary asylum and a limitation of family reunification
  • governments combat the cause of the problem i.e. find peaceful solutions to the conflicts currently engulfing some countries
  • Improve the living conditions in refugee camps to stem the flow of those seeking refuge in Europe
  • control external EU borders and establish ‘hotspots’ where refugees are registered
  • Speed up repatriation to transit countries such as Turkey
  • introduce integration measures for accepted asylum seekers such as teaching European languages and helping them to understand a democratic, secular and liberal society
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