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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.

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.

‘King of votes’ Eddie Chu hopes for democratic self-determination majority in Legco within eight years

Newly-elected lawmaker Eddie Chu gave his first speech in English to the FCC. Newly-elected lawmaker Eddie Chu gave his first ever speech in English to the FCC.

Eddie Chu, the newly-elected lawmaker who gained the largest number of votes of all of Hong Kong’s constituencies in the recent elections, spoke of his hope to achieve a majority of seats for ‘self-determination’ candidates at Legco in the next four to eight years.

Fielding some tough questions from members of the international press who had attended an October 11 luncheon at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong where he was guest speaker, ‘king of votes’ Chu said the only way for the city’s residents to have real bargaining power with Beijing over potential changes to the Basic Law would be to have the majority on the Legislative Council.

Eddie Chu speaks to a packed FCC audience. Eddie Chu speaks to a packed FCC audience.

Chu, who is fighting for democratic self-determination for the people of Hong Kong, told the audience that he felt obliged to step in and fill the ‘big hole’ that the Pan Democrats, whom he described as ‘falling apart’, had left in Legco. He said he wanted to build a bigger political network to fight China’s Communist Party that will forge more connections with pro-democracy groups in Taiwan, mainland China and Thailand, where activist Joshua Wong was recently denied entry.

The incoming politician, who spoke the day before he was due to take his oath, was asked by BBC reporter Andrew Wood what he would actually do with that self determination if he did manage to achieve a majority in Legco.

“Our situation is pretty much like Taiwan, so we have pro-unification and pro-independence. Within the camp of the Pan Democrats and also self-determination we have in our platform political ideas about autonomy, preservation of the environment and social welfare.”

However, he added that foreign press are generally more interested in the struggle for democracy rather than policies.

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