Shall we be Disreali or Gladstone?

web posted July 1997

On June 28 the British flag was lowered for the last time from the Government House in Hong Kong, ending 156 years of colonial rule. In attendance were Prince Charles, in town to formally hand over Hong Kong, and governor Chris Patten. On that same day the Hong Kong legislature held its final session, debating and speaking for 23 hours.

"We will leave for the time being. But like MacArthur said, I shall return," stated Martin Lee, leader of the Democrats, the largest party in the legislature.

"After leaving colonial rule, we are going to enjoy even less democracy and freedom," legislator Huang Chen-ya said. "We should rise. We should strive for freedom and democracy."

On July 1 the people of Hong Kong move from what is generally acknowledged to be the freest economy on the planet and relatively free democracy to being under the control of a Communist state with a long past of silencing its critics with force.

Unfortunately for Lee and Chen-ya, freedom does not seem to be a pressing concern for the Western world. The nations of the Earth which excoriated Communist U.S.S.R. have gladly accepted Communist China as a trade partner. In the United States, politicians who talk of freedom one day race to vote in favour of extending Most Favoured Nation status to China. Republicans who ran on a Contract with America in 1994 today rationalize their support of MFN.

One of those is Dick Armey. "In my heart, I would like to oppose most favoured nation status for China as a way of expressing the deep repugnance I feel toward the tyranny of Beijing. But intellectually, I believe that continued normal trade relations are best for the people of China today and offer the best prospect for liberating them in years to come."

Sure you do Dick.

Canadians seem to be not much different. In November Prime Minister Jean Chretien hugged and shared jokes with Chinese Premier Li Peng while a few weeks later Canada's military played host to the leaders of the Chinese military. Both had prominent roles in Tiananmen Square.

And Europe? Afraid to promote freedom on their own continent, the nations of Europe fear rocking the boat for fear of losing weapons sales. Even England, losing the last jewel in its imperial crown, refuses to consider Taiwan a legitimate state because of the fear of loss of trade.

It is the politics of pragmatism. The politics of sanctioning evil.

Guessing the tiger's future intentions is an industry itself. Some believe that China is expansionist in nature, citing the takeover of a few islands near the Philippines recently and constant provocation towards Taiwan, while others believe China is merely pursuing a policy of insuring its security in an unstable spot in the world.

What will happen once China takes-over is anyone's guess, but a foreshadowing occurred on the weekend of June 28. China, who had previously promised peace in Hong Kong, moved 4 000 soldiers into the colony. The same People's army that moved in a city square a few years ago to stop a student protest.

China has already kicked dirt on a 1989 agreement with Britain on an agreement in which Beijing promised to respect Hong Kong's human rights and political freedom. The legislature will be abolished and earlier this year Chinese puppet Tung Chee-Hwa announced that protests and demonstrations will have to be pre-approved.

The question for the West is whether we shall be a Gladstone or a Disreali.

There are many opinions on tying trade to human rights and no one knows if it actually works. South Africa's apartheid system likely fell apart from sanctions as much as the world's moral outrage. But China is a different duck all together.

While most believe China is not expansionist, in the last few years they have went on a huge military shopping trip. From Russian Kilo submarines which U.S. defense experts believe are nearly as quiet as American Los Angeles class submarines, Russian fighters which outperform American ones, to air combat information systems, China is a rapidly growing military power in Asia. There is even talk of France selling her soon to be decommissioned aircraft carrier, something that would give China the immediate ability to project power across the Yellow Sea.

In the trade world, businesses have climbing over each other to set up shop in China. The Chinese have tolerated these companies only because they cannot compete with the state-run factories and by simply treating the Westerners like partners, China has been the recipient of high technology. Where the Soviet Union had to steal anything they wanted, China is simply given it.

If China begins cracking down on Hong Kong, we have no other choice but to begin escalating action against China. The West must stop strengthening a regime which has already shown what it thinks of democracy. We already have the preponderance of the evidence that China is a murderous state, and that the ruling Chinese party is less intent on freeing its citizens then holding on to power at any cost. If you have any doubt what-so-ever about the real face of China I urge you to look at the picture included with this piece of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

By trading with China we are sanctioning the brutal use force against its citizens, a Communist government, and a system designed to rob people of their individualism.

While I'm not going to predict the future of Hong Kong, it is safe to say that the people of Hong Kong will enjoy fewer freedoms, and may one day be the recipients of Chinese reaction like that seen at Tiananmen Square.

Gladstone believed, in the words of a recent Economist piece, "If it is wrong for an individual to do something, then it is also wrong for a state to do it." To that end, Gladstone urged that human rights be an integral component of a nation's foreign affairs.

Or we can choose the path of Disreali, believing that principle indeed was inferior to power in foreign affairs.

I for one will choose Gladstone.




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