In a recent New York Times opinion piece, Regina Ip, a member of Hong Kong’s Executive Council (essentially the cabinet of Hong Kong’s government), defended the Chinese Communist Party’s attack on freedom in Hong Kong.
In an apparent attempt to bolster her argument, she noted Hong Kong’s top rating in the Economic Freedom of the World report, which I manage for Canada’s Fraser Institute think-tank.
The report measures economic freedom – essentially, the ability of individuals to make their own economic decisions – not other freedoms.
And the report uses the most recent comprehensive data, which is from 2018, something Ip fails to note.
While the Chinese Communist Party has been pressing its thumb on Hong Kong for some time, its most outrageous actions have taken place over the last couple of years. Consequently, Hong Kong’s score in the report will decline in coming years due to Chinese Communist Party interventions.
But that’s not the fundamental distortion in Ip’s article, which claims that “Hong Kong is part of China and that its destiny is intertwined with the mainland’s.” Here, Ip conflates the Chinese Communist Party with China, an ancient and great civilization.
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In fact, Ip so thoroughly confuses China with the Chinese Communist Party that she doesn’t even mention the ruling party in her article – only “China” is responsible for all actions against the people of Hong Kong. Many in Hong Kong and Taiwan once fervently hoped for a union with China, but reject any subjugation to the Chinese Communist Party.
Yet it’s that subjugation that Ip demands when she defends the Chinese Communist Party attacks on freedom in Hong Kong. These actions are against the will of the Hong Kong people, as shown by massive demonstrations and the landslide pro-democracy win in the November 2019 election (pro-democracy candidates took 90 per cent of the seats).
The Chinese Communist Party, if anything, is oddly anti-Chinese. The party philosophy is based on discredited Western thinker Karl Marx, whose adherents have committed some of humanity’s worst tragedies.
Mao Zedong, the infamous communist revolutionary, was the greatest mass murderer of Chinese people in history yet continues to be the Chinese Communist Party’s inspiration with his portrait dominating Tiananmen Square. Many in Hong Kong fled (or are the children of those who fled) Mao’s terror.
The Chinese Communist Party’s actual governing structure is basically fascist, another Western import best described by George Orwell who said that under fascism, “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten. … History has stopped. Nothing exists except the endless present in which the party is always right. … From the totalitarian point of view, history is something to be created rather than learned.”
Yet Chinese Communist Party propagandists – including Ip, who was labelled “Beijing’s enforcer” in a 2003 Times report – demand loyalty to the party, not the great country of China. The party fears the people of China and subjects them to unprecedented censorship and constant surveillance that goes beyond anything even Orwell imagined.
The party attacks Chinese history and culture, substituting propaganda for truth, censoring all communication, media and publications, including school books, which are already being replaced in Hong Kong. According to party censors, the Tiananmen massacre never happened. In a few years, it will be unknown to students in Hong Kong.
Last fall, I spoke at a large banquet in Hong Kong celebrating its freedom. Almost 300 people attended. Today any public event celebrating freedom in Hong Kong would be shut down.
I still have many friends in Hong Kong and in a recent conversation with government officials I was asked if I would revisit the city. I said the risks were too great for someone with a critical public profile. They agreed.
While those like Ip would use all the powers of a totalitarian state to confuse obedience to the Chinese Communist Party with loyalty to China, I would never call a Russian critic of Vladimir Putin anti-Russian or Venezuelan critic of Nicolás Maduro anti-Venezuelan. But again, across the globe, the Chinese Communist Party asserts that disloyalty to the party is disloyalty to China.
When Ip warns the world that “Like it or not, Hong Kong is part of China,” what she really means is that Hong Kong must bow to the Chinese Communist Party.
Again, Orwell gets it right: “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
I want to sincerely thank the New York Times for publishing Ip’s article. This is an important service to the public: giving the light of day even to distorted arguments so they don’t lurk in the dark but can wither in the light.
Fred McMahon is Dr. Michael A. Walker Chair of Economic Freedom Research at the Fraser Institute, a think-tank based in Canada.