tv Mark Clifford Today Hong Kong Tomorrow the World CSPAN March 12, 2022 8:00pm-9:02pm EST
welcome everyone to the opc's book night with mark clifford to discuss his new book today hong kong tomorrow the world. what china's crackdown reveals about its plans to end freedom everywhere. i'm patricia kranz the executive director of the overseas press club. i'm delighted to welcome mark tonight and our moderator jody schneider. jody was based in bloomberg's hong kong bureau from 2016 to 2020 and served as president of the foreign correspondence club in hong kong in 2019 and 2020.
as soon as jody returned from hong kong to new york last year. she joined the opc and was elected to the board in the summertime. she is now political news director at bloomberg news here in new york. i now handed over to jody. thanks patty and i happy to welcome everybody to this book night. i only wish it were in person, but i'm very pleased to introduce mark clifford who i overlapped with in hong kong and i'm pleased to call a friend and very excited to discuss this new book with them. we welcome questions, so, please send them along. please send them in the chat if you want to if you don't want me to use your name say that or if you want to keep it just dm me in the chat. so it's so your name's not attached you can do that as well. thank you. first a brief bio of mark little introduction before we get started discussing his
thought-provoking book. mark is now living in the us and as president of the committee for freedom in hong kong he in hong kong. he most recently was executive director of the asia business council and a former member of next digital the company that published apple daily a subject he discuss extensively in this book in which we will talk about tonight. mark is editorial chair of the asia asian review books and had the distinction. i don't know if he was the only one perhaps of serving as editor-in-chief of both english language daily paper or papers in hong kong the standard and the south china morning post. he also has a phd in hong kong history from the university of hong kong. as petty noted, i was president of the forum correspondence club in hong kong in 2019 and 2020. so i had a front row seat when the widespread anti-government protests occurred in hong kong and also as the crackdown started in 2020 very swiftly
with the imposition by the chinese communist party of the national security law upon hong kong. i'd like to start there mark by talking to you about that crackdown a central to the theme in your book in the book. you say that never in modern history. have we seen a free open modern society essentially destroyed in a matter of months a chapter in your book is even called the first post modern city to die. please tell us about that and how that happened. and how is she saying that chapter much of what happened occurred because the idea the city exemplifying capitalism on steroids being reunited by a country run by the communist. he was always somewhat preposterous. so can you talk to us about first of you know, how rapidly this occurred and i'm what it was based. yeah. well, thanks jody really nice to be doing this discussion with you. hope to see you in person sooner rather than later. um last time i saw it was in
hong kong, i guess probably around the time the nsl national security law came into into being. um, look, i think you know most of you watching this know that hong kong was promised 50 years with a high degree of autonomy after the chinese resumed sovereignty in 1997. it was you know, i think we all wanted to not just hope for the best but work for the best and take china at its word that the promise is of universal suffrage among other things would be implemented that this high degree of autonomy would be would would be you too by the chinese and of course it was these were promises that were made in first in an international treaty the sino-british joint declaration of 1984 a treaty filed at the united nations and then in the form of the basic law the many constitution that china promulgated a few years before
the handover, but i think china's, you know, china really just did not does not understand. what makes hong kong tick what makes it special and i think they were quite fine to promise free elections and bear in mind. these are elections for the mayor in the city council. we're not talking about an independent in hong kong. it was really china that put that idea in people's heads because it was so um, so overbearing but i don't i want to keep the floor back to you a little bit jodi, but i think that after 20 something years after the struggles first of the 2003 protests of a half a million people are so against the national. i kind of earlier version of the national security law. then the umbrella movement the occupy central movement of 2014 when the central district was occupied for 79 days by protesters and then of course the the summer of 2019 that summer of democracy the frustration among hong kong
people as beijing tighten the screws more and more and became clear that beijing had no intention whatsoever a lot of allowing free elections, unless china knew who was going to win and it was their guy. so, let me let me kick it over you because i don't want it to be a monologue jody. sure. well, and so let's talk a little bit about that and the protest which we will be at what you do a lot in your book and i think most people are familiar with how in 2019 it started out as protests in a protest city by the way hong kong, you know likes to protest and they're good at it, but it started against the extradition law that carrie lam was going to impose so that basically people could be extradited back to china with its okay legal system and it but then it grew into something else and there were you know at one point perhaps as many as two million people protesting that and then it became fewer people
but more more some what radical sometimes violent on both sides the police increasingly using tear gas and rubber bullets and sometimes even shooting some live bullets and and very anti-china on the of the protesters and increasingly in the community where it's spilled over people would boycott chinese zone mainland owned businesses that kind of thing. how much do you think of this crackdown? which came, you know, just a year after during the pandemic by the way under the cover of the pandemic. how much is do you think the pro to be happened? because the protest became very embarrassing to china and especially to xi jinping as the rhetoric became increasingly anti-china. yeah, well, i think it's a really good question, and i guess it'll be really interesting if someday in a different china we can have access to the archives and the decision-making, but it was very clear by the end of 2019 that
china was the beijing was going to move and move hard and i think that's unfortunate because even after the the extraordinary protests as you say as many as two million people at some at some rallies in a city of seven and a half million people and and these were not people coming in from mainland china. i mean, these were really pretty much all hong kongers it would be yeah, it would be the equivalent if you took it proportionally in the us something around 80 million people coming to washington. i mean, it's just extraordinary how the city was caught up in this and i think that china was counting on this kind of silent majority. it's what they call the blue wave, um to to back them and back the probe aging in district council elections held end of november 2019. so after these months of tumult and as you say increasing violence on both sides the election day came and it turned out that as in every election in
hong kong about six out of 10 people voted for the pro-democracy candidates, and it was a unbelievable sweep for the pro-democracy camp and these were for the district council essentially ward counselors the lowest level but it really showed community support for democracy even after the violence, which i like many other people. i thought would turn a lot of people against the the protesters so i think you know rather than using that as a kind of pause or a reset and it had the political situation in calm down and a chance for negotiations, i think in any open society government would fall or we negotiate and you know, even in places like south korea and 1987, very authoritarian place faced with massive street protests. the government gave into protesters negotiated with them but beijing couldn't do this and so xi jinping's response was to send down two really hard line tough people one to basically
take charge on the ground in hong kong and one of them was best known for breaking up christian churches literally physically smashing churches and judging you send people like that in and you get you get one kind of answer. it's a hard line answer and i i jumping forward a little bit. i'll just finish by saying i don't think we've seen the bottom yet. the new people's liberation army commander for hong kong previously ran an elite and seemingly very violent commando unit in xinjiang hunting down and apparently killing. um, you know people they regardless as muslim terrorists are separatists. so yeah, you sent people like that to hong kong again. it was a free peaceful prosperous city, but you send people are hardline 30 people from the ccp the chinese communist party and you're going to get a particular outcome. in the book you talk a great deal about the notion of hong kong. is this very free open
capitalist city a place where basically people flock to make money, and anybody who spent time in hong kong, you know sees that there's other side but there's the gleaming, you know, the huge office towers and and it's you know until recently very easy to get a visa to get a work visa very easy to travel in an auto hong kong it, you know low tax, you know, very business friendly and the thinking in the years before the protests and certainly the crackdown was that even she didn't paying the sheeping and the ccp of today didn't want to give up the so called goose that laid the golden egg and that by cracking down on freedoms. they could be risking seriously harming or even destroying a key asian financial center than needed those very freedoms and especially the sense of the you know, the british contract law to survive change there and you
know what allowed that risk in killing the goose that laid the golden egg to occur and and i've wondered myself lately whether it was inevitable. yeah, well, i can't answer whether or not it's inevitable. i think there's a lot of contingency in history, but i think a couple of factors is great question one is from a macroeconomic standpoint. i think hong kong matters a lot less than it did in 1997. i mean china is what i think it's an 18 trillion dollar economy. obviously second only to the us much larger than japan and yeah the flows that come through hong kong are important. i think much of the you know, technology human know how that's come through hong kong is important, but you know in a relative sense, it's much much less important than it was in 1997, but i think the more important answer is it shows that for the party, you know staying in power is and what they regard as security is more important than anything else and
we saw that in 1989 when they killed hundreds maybe even thousands of their own people of you know, young students that you know, really many of them that the cream of a new generation and china and they you know murdered them in the street and i think in hong kong, i mean they've been they've done it much more skillfully there have been very very few deaths and none directly that can be linked to to security forces killing anybody. um, but the result has been pretty much the same and i think the party, you know when it comes to, you know economics or hong kong as a business center, you know that secondary to the party staying in power and by the way, they've been very clear about this when dong chow ping met margaret thatcher in 1982 first time the british prime a british prime minister had ever gone to to beijing a serving prime minister and dung told her that chinese were definitely taking hong kong back in 1997 that was idea of continued british administration was was a
no-go and she said you don't understand hong kong and you can't run it. he said yeah, we think we can run it and if we can't and we wreck it so be it we're taking it and so i think they've very very clear that politics will trump economics if push comes to shove in hong kong. they hope they could have it both ways. they did for a while maybe as you save as inevitable that it wasn't going to last but politics was always going to win. right, and i'd like how in the book you would you say that you address this line that so many of us heard, you know living there all the time that hong kong was becoming just another mainland city and you say that's the wrong frame for that question. why is that the case? why is this crackdown at hong kong more concerning than just to the 7.5 million people those fewer every day live there. why? why is it not just becoming another? yeah, that's it. i think they're too if i can answer that in two parts. the first thing is you would rather be in beijing or shanghai right now because you know what
the rules are, you know, the red lines, you know, things are pretty clear in hong kong though the lines as to what's gonna literally get you thrown in jail with no prospect of bail or unclear from day to day. i mean, we had a we had a protester thrown in jail a week or so ago because he was thinking or planning a one-hand protest against the olympics. um, you know, we've had a speech therapist who's been didn't in jail for the better part of a year because she was involved with the children's book that had wolf and wolves and sheep and i guess that was somehow against national security or sedition or something, but she's in jail and national security law charges, so nobody really knows what the rules are in hong kong. so i think it's it's worse than it then almost any mainland city with the exception of cities in xinjiang in tibet, and i think we have to think of hong kong. i think beijing views hong kong through a frame of peripheral region full of troublemakers and think about it.
what's on the peripheration john tibet hong kong they're far away and they caused a lot of trouble for for china and so rather than trying to modify them or work with people. i mean the the things seems to be kind of strike hard and and you know, just keep walking until there's nothing left. um now the broader question, i think what is this matter to the rest of the world? i think china is willingness. destroy a place like hong kong that you know, honestly, what was that? what threat did hong kong pose to china? i mean, what did hong kong do say what military threat yeah, or what threat was was hong kong really seriously going to become independent were were i mean chunks and men are famously said he, you know, they were worried after 1989 that the hong kong spirit of liberty and freedom would spill over to the mainland. i mean that clearly wasn't happening. but yeah every time there's any kind of demonstration the guys in beijing seem to see color revolution and yeah, they were obviously seared by the collapse of the soviet union arab spring
some of the things that have happened in central asia, and so they just have to whack down any kind of any kind of uprising but i think the bigger point is what what china did in in hong kong is the kind of thing it's trying to do in lithuania today. it's through trying to do with australia that it's done with south korea with the philippines. i mean country after country that step. of line as far as china is concerned and of course, you know we can talk about taiwan is going to be whacked and hit hard in the chinese are you know seemingly picking quarrels to use their language with with a variety of places and just i think using a degree of coercion in trying to trying to limit the ability of those of us in the in the free world or open societies to to be able to just have discussions like this if china had their way we wouldn't be having this discussion as a matter of fact, you know, technically they could probably you know, they they say the national security law applies everywhere and if they wanted to jodie they could come after you
and me according to their way of thinking. good. well, we're getting some questions in and and they're dealing with the second part. i'll show the books people haven't seen it. the second part is today hong kong tomorrow the world and we have bill hosting who's asking. what did the people's republic of china learn in question hong kong that they intend to apply to the world. so he's getting to the second part of the year the title of your book. well, i think i think henry, you know unremitting pressure, but thanks bill. so a really good question. but again, i think we're seeing this playbook. let's say lithuania. um, they use they try to co-opt certain parts of also africa, i'm sorry. i didn't mention that before they will co-opt certain parts of the elite with with business favors. they will try to control the media as much as possible and they will essentially try to raise the pain threshold for
anybody who who goes and college wire as a kind of a similar related question about the tomorrow the world part is saying taiwan may well be nuts but where else might china strike. well, i don't i think it's less than thanks paul. it's a really good question. you look clearly the ability to have the people's liberation army in hong kong and i think they would eventually hope in taiwan is different. i don't think we're gonna see pla troops around the world. i don't think that, you know even places like the philippines or say cambodia, which is almost a colony of china now is likely to have troops. so again, i think that they'll work through elite work through media and above all you know work through the kind of united front organizations that we see even here in in the us and in london. and one more question before
from from the audience for return to minus. how near is hong kong today to an international commercial collapse is there precedent for that sort of decline beirut is that's very yeah, that's funny. i don't know why i've never thought of the beirut example, it's very hard to destroy destroy international financial centers, and i've you know, i've looked at some of the research and some of the the work that's been done on this and and had discussions with people who a couple of years ago were much more optimistic than i then i was look business can live with pretty draconian laws if you have a financial center, you know, you've got to kind of almost a first mover advantage and it's hard to dislodge but the combination of the national security law and the pandemic shows that you know, china's, you know, really giving that thesis a run for its money and it is it is interesting to think about beirut because of course they're you know with civ conflict there and that's i guess sort of the case in hong
kong. i mean, we're not having we don't have a civil war but um, you've got this deep civil conflict, but above all you have a pandemic which makes it impossible to travel. so i mean cathay pacific is effectively been destroyed you had 60 million plus visitors in 2018. i don't think there is 60,000 this year. it might be closer to 6,000. so you have entire squads of the economy that are there being wiped out. um, you have i just saw parano ricard is asking it some employee senior employees to move out of hong kong because they can't service the region internationally from there. you know people were in hong kong because you could you could be anywhere in the region and you could be in china. all those borders are closed right now, so nobody can really work. i guess capital can still flow of course, but i don't you know, i don't i don't know if it's locked down for another year. so which seems to be the thinking um, and it might be even a more severe lockdown
they're talking in recent days that we might see a wuhan style lockdown in hong kong where people actually can't leave their their flats. so it just seems hard to imagine with that kind of grinding shutdown that you know hong kong is gonna just bounce back and become vibrant all of a sudden next year again. yeah, i'd like to kind of shift gears a little bit and talk about it. keep part of your book and and it kind of gives it an insider feel is the chapters where you talk about jimmy lai who we all many of us, you know know of if not, no and he has he's the founder of next digital on apple daily was you say in the book was among hong kong's first political prisoners in the chinese communist era lie who was serving his sentence in jail for taking part in two peaceful demonstrations in 2019, and has been charged with some other things as well as someone you knew well and and for years so first tell us about him and and
you know, jimmy lies been a controversial figure in hong kong and had long been assigned side thorn in the side of the ccp and how did he a devout catholic and a businessman who made three separate fortunes become such a threat to china. yeah, i mean that's is a good question and i've thought about that a lot. i mean, here's a guy who i mean, he's he epitomizes the hong kong success story. he he came to hong kong at the age of 12 as an illegal immigrant and the bottom of us hidden in the bottom of a fishing boat and a sampan lived and worked in a textile factory. i mean, he was a child labor. let's be frank about it taught himself english by reading a dictionary first bought into and you know was a textile mill owner then he founded the giordano retail chain kind of fast fashion before it's time and and after tiananmen, it was not a political guy. he was like in the rag trade
right? it's just a hong kong entrepreneur enjoyed life and was radicalized by the june 4th 1989 killings and well, he took part already supported the democracy movement when the students were were there in the spring of 89 and after that founded first next magazine and then apple daily. i guess the fact that the chinese can't silence him and he has resources and he has contacts and he knows a lot of people around the world and he's you know been very open to media. people are seems to drive the chinese insane. i mean it's hard for them because if they allow one person to be free well, then the next person wants to be free. and so i think they need to make an example and they need to when they are trying to to break him. so he's been in jail pretty much non-stop since the beginning of december a year ago. he was let out for a couple of days and basically under house arrest over christmas the christmas week in 2020. he's in a maximum security
prison. he's a 74 year old diabetic as you say a practicing very devout roman catholic who's always preached on violence and yet every time he's in court they put him in manacles and he's in 30 35 pounds, whatever it is of heavy chains just to humiliate him and to show the world what they can do to someone that they can basically treat him like a caged animal and and for what for asking really just for freedom for doing what he's been doing for 26 years running the newspaper and i mean, it's extraordinary. i mean he for many years. they're going to come after me. i'm going to be you know, target number one. they're gonna put me in jail and you know, you always think really, you know, is it really that bad? i mean hong kong seems like it's okay, but you know, i was wrong. i'd like to talk to you about press freedom something there and dear to the hearts of many of us on this call you given that i'd like to sort of talk about what did apple daily go
too far here. there's some you know, there's some that say the protesters in 2019 do in their calls for democracy and their anti-chinese rhetoric kind of bought a ticket to this that china was never gonna let this happen and that some say that that jimmy lie bought a ticket to it as well with his calls for democracy in his newspaper something that they could actually come and shut down and and we saw them shut it down very sadly and i mean i was there in 2020 right after national security law took a fact when they, you know, perk walked him through his own newsroom rifle through. i mean it was an incredible thing 200 police through that newsroom and when we at the fcc put out and decrying this the foreign ministry told us to mind our own business. so that sort of i think marks or the beginning of what many of us saw as a new chapter in press freedom in hong kong, but i'd
like to engage a little bit with that question of apple daily, which was you know, they they were not a polite newspaper. let's put it that way. so let me rhetorically and have seriously ask you through the question back to you did the fcc go too far and putting out that statement because the foreign ministry just slapped you guys down and there come they keep coming after you maybe you'll lose you lose your leash. should you guys and i don't know if you debated this internally when i was on the board there we used to have these debates, you know, should the fcc be engaged in these sorts of of issues. um, i i for one i'll answer the question because it's rhetorical. i think the fcc was perfectly proper to do and i think i i think question is one that a lot of people ask but i think it's it's easy to answer that. i don't think you should blame the victim hong kong people wanted what was promised to them by the chinese the chinese in the treaty with the with the
brits in the basic law and in hundreds of statements for the most senior leaders down to you know, local level people all promised hong kong democracy hong kong people ruling hong kong in a high degree of autonomy. i'm not really sure. how exercising that particularly when those promises weren't being fulfilled is the fault of the victim. who and by the way, these victims are in jail. we have seven people counting jimmy lai from apple daily next digital in jail right now. they've been there. well, most of jimmy's been there over a year as i said most of them have been there since last june last july they haven't been tried let alone convicted. they won't they're not granted bail. i mean, it's their fault that they ran a newspaper that just as they've been running it for 26 years and then overnight the chinese decide to throw them in the slammer for that. and again, nobody but i know i'm sure you do but that becomes the issue and and that and this and
it gets reported this way certainly in the chinese press that you know that this was a person who had it coming and when actually when we put out our statement at the fcc it was you don't understand you are meddling in you know with somebody. this is not about press freedom. this is about other things and you know, how dare you get in the middle of this. that was what essentially the foreign minister said to us. yeah, and you know, i got attacked for something recently by one of the former chief executives who who seems to have a thing for the fcc too and now it's sort of like you guys don't like him because he's a troublemaker because he won't shut sit down and shut up and count how to you. i mean, that's really what they don't like and sure. i mean it was a very aggressive newspaper and i certainly would not defend everything that they did over those 26 years. i don't think anybody did it would including jimmy lai by the way, you know, they definitely made some mistakes and they did some, you know things that you
know, i think bloomberg for example would not do um, but that doesn't mean that they should just be sitting in jail and that we should have had a company that was by the way a publicly listed company with a market value of about 100 million dollars it destroyed overnight by the government assets have been seized. they're now bits places being dismembered, you know close to 1000 people lost their jobs, including 600 journalists and you know we go on, you know, is that their fault, you know, is that default of the victim? i don't think so. i think it's because china can't take countervailing center, you know centers of cannot take dissent it can't take discussion. it has to have you know, it's like a god right? it's like a religion. it has to have the one and the only way the only truth and jimmy lie just militantly refused to accept that. and bill applestein asks a good related question. how long can the western media presence in hong kong last? well someone in your book.
yeah, i mean you have western media and beijing and in shanghai, you know, obviously limited about the only place you don't have it is is pyongyang. i guess i don't think hong kong is going the way of the dprk, but you know, i suppose it's possible. i mean you don't have western media, really and xinjiang and and tibet. so i guess that could be a precedent but i think hong kong is gonna remain as a major city and as long as they keep giving visas, there's at least gonna be some limited presence. i have to say, i mean bill it's you know, when you know, if you don't build a long time and we first knew each other it was you know in and i lifting korea i went there in the 80s when it was still, you know, under military under military rule the idea that the new york times would have editorial people in seoul because they couldn't be in hong kong for one reason or another initially for visa reasons. it's just mind boggling to me that in the space of 30 years a place like south korea that's
under military control becomes, you know a very open society and a place like hong kong that seems so open is a place where they throw children's storybook illustrators into jail without bail. that's pretty pretty mind-boggling. um patty princess the question saying she's not a chinese expert but wasn't hong kong independence in the treaty limited to a certain period where hong kong citizens naive to think that it would be longer than that. well, it wasn't independence. it was a high degree of autonomy. it had some of the trappings of of a sovereign state. i guess its own tax system its own currency its own government administration and it was for 50 years. we're coming up to the halfway mark on july 1st, so we didn't even make it halfway. maybe we were naive to think we could have 50 years, but deng xiaoping said that if it went well, we could it could just keep going on past that so i think people really were looking to a full 50 years.
yeah, i'd like to get back to next digital in your own story. you have some great details in the book about your personal role in this especially as a board member next digital and some of the personal pressure. you felt just things became more heated in hong kong. actually. it was interesting. i thought interesting to tell that you had some pressure even before the protests in the crackdown not being invited on some other boards for which you were very qualified and had been put up because you were on the next digital board. so talk to us about that and what that was like and and what that told you about where hong kong i'd have been going. yeah. well, look, i knew when i joined the next digital board that it was not going to go over well among everybody that i associated with and i was the executive director of the asia business council, which was a pan-asian group of ceos and chairman its members for from i think 16 17 different economies from saudi arabia to asia to
mongolian japan so pretty big patch, but it had been founded and was headquartered in hong kong and had a strong hong kong contingent and i wouldn't say, you know, most of the business community was super sympathetic or friendly with jimmy lai, but i did talk with my board about it and they they were aware that i'd take in this and you know, it's just 2018. i was an independent non-executive director. so, um, you know, i i knew there might be trouble down the road. i didn't think that two years later it was you know, sort of really gonna come to a head. um, but shortly after i joined that incident you you allude to someone asked me if i would you know, if it was okay if you put my name up for a board and i said, yeah fine but full disclosure. you should know i've just joined the next digital board instantly. i can't do it. it's a mainland company forget it, you know, so i mean anything to do with jimmy lee was basically radioactive and had been for quite some time there have been an advertising boycott that hsbc and other multi.
took part in for years against apple daily. i mean there were just so many different things, you know, denial of service attacks hacking investigations into alleged corruption because you know, they were determined to i think heart they you know, the communists really see a very conspiracy-minded world and they believed that jimmy lai was an american agent. he was funneling cash from the cia or from the us and that was what was prompting all these demonstrations and he was he i i believe that he probably helped fund a lot of the democracy movement. i believe that was him. i don't think there's any evidence it's ever shown otherwise, but part of this is a failure of imagination on the part of the hong kong elites to imagine that their own citizens. we're smart enough not having gone to harvard or oxford or anything. we're still smart enough to demonstrate and you know kind of out with the police and the government and be you know, much more innovative in their tactics, but the next digital thing obviously sure, the
national security law came in got a lot heavier. and you mentioned the the perp walk through through the newsroom a few months before that. i'd been on the on my way to have breakfast with jimmy when i got it. first a call from his secretary saying he couldn't didn't say why i just can't meet you for breakfast. that's a little strange. look at my email. jimmy sent me an email. i'm being arrested. oh, okay. i see why you can't meet me right and then that that per walk and they took they it turns out we we had a directors meeting and i was the only director not in jail who was in hong kong at that point. so that was a little disconcerting. um, i i continued to do well they started after the national security law jimmy and i did a series of of like things like, you know live streams basically wasn't zoom it was a live stream facebook, i guess and you know, we had everybody from chris patton and nate and sharansky to cardinals and just a great you know. interesting group of people
talking about what was going on in hong kong, but that ended when his bail was revoked and in december a year ago as i said and among many reasons the prosecutor produced that he should be in jail was that i had made some anodyne remark about how he was a symbol of hong kong resistance, which i think is true factually, um, but things, you know have gone from bad to worse and i don't want to go on and on except to say that there's still as far as i know ongoing investigations into us by somewhere between two and four hong kong government agencies because they are determined to have the world believe that free press is alive and well in hong kong and the only reason the next digital collapse is because of these lousy directors who just ran the company into the ground so, you know, that's i'm waiting to see the report on that which should have been given to the financial secretary a couple of weeks ago. i don't know, you know, i'm sure they'll slam us and i'll just be interested to see what they say.
yeah, um, i'd like to move on a little bit and talk about a covid and the role the outbreak played and continues to play actually in china's actions in hong kong and what the local government is doing you know, this all took place the national security law took place that the protest ended up, you know when provides started and then this became this kind of funeral train that just kept moving that you know through its own force and now we see even you know further tightening of the grip on hong kong because of covid he talked a little bit about that. you mentioned that in the book it's sort of this cover under which a lot of this was able to occur, right? yeah. it's i mean, it's you know again, i think we have to wait a little longer to see how this plays out, but it's it's almost like if coffee didn't exist. they would have had to invent it for hong kong. it's it's been very very convenient pretext to arrest people. you know the june of you know,
the june 4th commemorations when which went on for 30 years ended in 2020. and that's one of the reasons jimmy lies in jail right now. it's one of the offenses he's been convicted for is that he he lit a candle all by himself and didn't call for anybody to do anything, but that was regarded as taking part in a demonstration which have been outlawed and one reason that people couldn't demonstrate was because you couldn't have more than four people because of covid so there's just, you know reason after reason that people can't take part politically because of covid you know, i think there's the kind of you know, that's the kind of short-term thing. i think the bigger picture and something that's gonna be with us much longer is the kind of techno surveillance that has been rolled out and it's obviously, you know much more advanced in china and of course in places like xinjiang where they've got facial recognition and other ways of you know, you know looking at people's walk their gate to you know, pick people out of a crowd so oh, it's you know, it's been very
interesting because this is a kind of real life real time test of the surveillance methods that china is trying to impose on its people and on on hong kong and i think there's been interesting resistance from hong kong. i mean, there's it's funny and there's resistance to vaccinations. one reason hong kong can open up is that people don't want to be vaccinated because they don't trust the government. it's funny i talk to some of my friends there and they they say why should i get vaccinated? there's no covid and i don't trust the government. anyway, um, i should also say the fact that they're using the chinese vaccine synovax is um, you know, which isn't as effective doesn't help but i talk to people in hong kong who don't want it. they won't take their phone when they go out. they only want to use cash. they don't want to use your octopus card because you don't want to be tracked because if you and i for example had lunch and a restaurant jodi and somebody, you know, five over tested positive until about week ago they would just they'd throw
us in i was gonna say a concentration camp according to campus at penny's bay. they've had to back off on that because the numbers are so big but what they're doing is they're having locked downs. they're just they're basically scooping people up in hong kong as they do in the mainland. and yes, there is a you know there are you can definitely argue the science on this but it does seem clear that they they all so they like the control part and this is you know, i think a dry run for insuring that they can control everybody, you know in hong kong all the time and you know covid or no covid there's certainly a strong surveillance aspect to it. correct at this leave home safe app. you have to use whenever you go anywhere. yeah, we've got a couple good questions one from pete and guardio who says for straw great to see you again mark. i keep and he says aside from civil liberties and security what is happening to the world law regarding business good question and follows it up by saying well there still be any
legal advantage to being based in hong kong as opposed to say shanghai or shenzhen. i mean, yeah, i keep great question. i can't see you on the screen, but thanks for taking part. i think that's it's a question is not fully answered. it's clear that there are hand-picked judges who are overseeing the national security law cases and you know, they're engaged in law fair. i mean they're engaged in using the the kind of veneer of rule of law to reach predetermined political ends. now, is that going to affect commercial law don't know. i mean, i think it's it's just too early to say, i mean, there are a lot of there are people who are worried right, but i don't think that we can point to i don't know of any hard evidence that says judges are ruling in favor of a mainland cadre versus, you know us multinational. for example, i think it raises a
question about hong kong's role as an international arbitration center, which interestingly teresa chang the current secretary for justice had done a lot of work on so it's it's a, you know, sad irony that she's presiding over. you know, i just think a real assault on rule of law. i mean beyond the national security law cases, we have 10,000 plus people who are arrested on political. charges in 2019 and 2020 only about a quarter of those have been charged the arrests hangover people's heads. it's a kind of peculiar feature of the hong kong. i guess, you know coming out of the british legal system. so, you know, so in other words the overwhelming majority of the political cases are not are not nsl charges, you know, my understanding from talking to people who are working with prisoners is you know, it's still really depends on the judge judges. it's not as kind of black and white, you know, we're just gonna lock them all up forever as you might think but you know,
there's obviously people are getting longer sentences and it's harsher than it was, you know, five years ago or something on on, you know, political kind of protest related charges. so, you know, i guess the thing is let's wait and see it'd be great if somehow you know, you're able to keep these two tracks separate it, you know, the history of these things is pretty hard, you know to you know have one string for political offenses and then be completely, you know, kind of above board and even handed on commercial disputes. and we have a somewhat related question from bill holstein have the chinese extended the great firewall of the internet to control and monitor hong kong's communications. i guess i'll add, you know, do you think that will happen and if it does will that affect the ability of international companies to operate from hong kong? yes, yes, and yes, i mean just this week we saw hong kong watch has been blocked by the major internet providers in hong kong
hong kong watches, uk-based ngo, um, which chris patton and other you know from the chinese standpoint undesirables are involved with and yeah, so they i think it was two or three days ago just earlier this week. their service was was blocked. and yeah, i think we're gonna we're gonna see that increasingly and you know, they'll start with ngos and you know, then they'll go to more sensitive political, you know other political sites and then they'll go to news sites. and yeah, it'll be like being in beijing and i guess companies somehow figure out ways to work around it, but your work you're just you're in a fundamentally different business cultural political social environment and you were 10 years ago. you're you're like beijing or i would argue, you know in some respects. you're worse in beijing right now still better because the firewall is is, you know, not really, you know fully enforced but i i think it's inevitable that it will be. and you think that will play just follow up on that that will lead to more media companies
having more challenges. so to speak there and perhaps doing what the new york times has done by moving. well, they move their asia headquarters to just yeah, it's just so look you'll have correspondence there. i mean it would be interesting, you know, it'd be interesting to know if i you know somebody with a permanent residence card in hong kong who was who they didn't want to let in if they would still let them in as a media worker. i mean, yeah, i'm sure many of us on this call would or you know, either fall into this category or know people who would um, but you know, i mean, obviously the prognosis isn't good. yeah, but it could be that basically people just cover beijing in shanghai. i mean hong kong will just be sort of a minor place. okay, you know, it's like maybe it's like a monaco or something. where a lot of rich chinese common. they've you know, it's a nicer lifestyle in the you know, the mountains are nice and you can go out on your junk on the weekends and the apartments are nice and you know, the tax rate is low and that's it. but what's happening in monaco? i don't know how big the
bloomberg bureau and monaco is it's probably all right. yeah, i guess so. i'd like to come back to some of the other issues in the second part, you know tomorrow the world. how is hong kong kind of a test case for this week talk about the history and the unusual you know, how all this came to be and and the events of 2019 and 2020. how how do you take that and that very particular kind of example of hong kong and get a template for what china could do elsewhere right? well, okay first of all taiwan and you know if they have their way and xi jinping, you know kind of realizes what he thinks is his historical mission to bring taiwan back into the fold then i think you'll you know, that's a very clear template right? i mean you go after education as is being done in hong kong very aggressively now you go after media you go after civil society
and destroy ngos eventually go after free churches, which we think is, you know, one of the last areas to be rolled up in hong kong. so i mean, that's pretty clear i think where you know, the analogy is not it's quite as precise is again, i don't think you're gonna have chinese troops in. well, we do have some in djibouti and some other places now, i guess but let's let's take cambodia or or lithuania for an example. cambodia is probably a better example because i think that you'll you you're seeing you know, hansen says, who do i call for help if not the chinese, you know, you can use the rem and b. so i think you're gonna see you know, and we've seen that no coincidence, um strong men like consent will work with the strong men from beijing. it's no coincidence that the free media and cambodia is is finished right? i don't think it's any coincidence that the chinese are selling internet and other you
know, mobile telecoms technology to to africa often working through corrupt elites to have and by the way your colleague, you know, our friend shared and process written about this for for week working with local. to sell high price equipment, which can also be used for surveillance and enriches the elites who then will i think do beijing's bidding. i'm not saying they're going to have chinese national security law curriculum in you know, an african, you know textbook, but i can tell you that taiwan the maps that they have in they are going to reflect what china wants just as you know delta united other american airlines had to redraw their maps to make it clear that taiwan was not a sovereign country. so i think it'll be on all these little issues, you know, first be on on maps and kind of hot and issues about taiwan and about hong kong but you know eventually i mean look at how norway was punished when a chinese dissident lucia ball was given the nobel peace prize. i mean, they they basically
locked norway out for eight years. despite all this cow italian by norway. it wasn't until after lucia boat died in chinese custody that the the eased up on the norwegians and i think it's very unlikely. you're going to see another nobel peace prize laureate from china for a long long time. so, i don't know i mean is that it's norway less free. well, yeah, they are because their peace prize committee can't necessarily pick. i mean there are a lot of good candidates. i'm not saying that a chinese person should win but they can't actually pick freely from among the candidates even for something as as kind of i don't know. i would say non-controversial is a nobel peace prize. heavy princess asking what what about lithuania in particularly? what are they doing into lithuania? yeah. i'm sure giving your time in in russia. you probably walked watching that very closely. um, so yeah, i think lithuania
is a really interesting example, they okay. they're they're baltic country and the hong kongers drew inspiration from the baltics and they actually had about 200,000 people out in something called the baltic way in hong kong and end of august 2019, and it was commemorating the 30th anniversary of the baltic way that took place as those three countries lithuania latvia and estonia. we're getting there independence and you know shortly before the soviet union fell apart and so the baltics in hong kong, you know, they're these small countries and they have i think a lot of a lot of ties and so lithuania has been very supportive of hong kong and by the way, they've had when they protect where they protesters in support of hong getting back to the earlier question about what we're going to see you had the chinese ambassador to lithuania watching as a group of thugs beat up pro hong kong protesters in lithuania. so those are also the kinds of tactics. i think we're going to increasingly see abroad we see this in chinatown in london
where um, mainland thugs beat up hong kong protesters at an anti-asian hate rally of all of all things. so, um, but lithuania is being punished because it's standing with taiwan it stood with hong kong and it had the temerity to open a taiwan trade office essentially a quasi embassy and so because of that actually china's threatening the whole eu pro project. they're telling german automakers that they well they're telling the lithuanians. they just actually took her out the country code for lithuania. so lithuania can't import or export anything to china because there's no country code. china says it hasn't anything against wto. just sorry you don't exist as a country. so that's interesting way of zeroing a nation, but then they've gone farther and they've told german automakers that they can't use components made or assembled in lithuania for cars or for you know for export to china. i mean, so it's actually thrown the eu into i don't want to say turmoil, but it's it's really
testing ties within within the eu. so i think china has a capacity for for mischief making that is you know quite at odds with it's early that it was a you know, i'm kind of have a peaceful rise. and the role of the us and all this so we saw the us during the protests, you know, take steps and congress the us congress nancy pelosi and mitch mcconnell got together on something. he was majority leader in the senate at the time to basically say if you're not going to support these, you know, and they called it in the legislation part democracy efforts. we are going to resend parts of our trade agreements, you know, essentially allowing very free trade in hong kong some would say that actually punished us businesses doing business in hong kong more than it did the chinese government, but the us is very clear on this you came very clearness the uk is now,
you know saying to hong kong residents come we will make you citizens you a practices and chip, um, you know, make it easy for you to the uk. has that made it worse has that made the crackdown worse on hong. yeah, i i think we have to be realistic about the limits of us power of any nation's power and particularly with the country as large as as china and economy as i said earlier. this is you know is significant as china's there's a limit to you know, what the what impact it really has. um, i i think that going forward we need to think really hard about our reliance on on china. let me get back to that point in a minute. i i don't know that the actual impact economically has been very great. i mean we've sanctioned some hong kong officials they've sanctions from us officials. you know, but look pension fund money is probably going from
your pension your 401k into china today. i mean, we certainly haven't been shutting off the flow of money. i mean wall street is, you know, continuing to cozy up with with china. so i can't say that it you know, really had any material impact. i think it had a moral impact in hong kong. and by the way the the uk announcement that you alluded to where people who had what was called a bno british national overseas passport who in the past would not have a path to citizenship in in britain now do and they're thinking of extending that so that the children of those people would also have a path to citizenship and already i think in the first year of that or you're so year and a half of that plan, i think something like 90,000 or 100,000 people have have already applied or come. i mean the numbers are pretty significant as the city decides of hong kong. you know, i think it's it's interesting, um after the us
election in 2020, i just returned. i was talking to a friend in hong kong and he said oh everybody's so sad. i said, why goes well, you know trump lost the election and i mean hong kong is one place that trump would have won in a landslide, you know, we can we can you know, talk about whether or not his policies were effective or whether he really knew how to deal with xi jin bing or not. but the hong kong people loved his rhetoric on hong kong and you know, mike pompeo was very popular. um, taiwan same thing. so, you know, whether or not the the policies have really proven effective. i think the jury's out, but they certainly have buoyed sentiment among the pro-democracy people in hong kong and i think there's you know, quite frankly a lot of concern among the biden people that are among among hong kong or is in taiwanese now is to whether or not the biden administration will be as tough on china given, you know. the record of the obama and the clinton administrations, i think so far those fears have proven
unjustified. but again, you know time will tell. right. well, they kept the kept a lot of the tariffs in place. and yes, yeah. no, so that's been very interesting. yeah. um, so one last question before i i it back to patty. before i say that there's a link and here's the book look for it and and you can get it to the link and i guess you're you must be on amazon, right? it must be available on the amazon on amazon all good book sellers, and i would also encourage you to you know, patronize your local independent book seller as well. um, but yeah, no i the saint martin's press people have been great to to work with they've been very supportive. i love the cover and you know everything about the book. so thanks for the pitch, right? okay one last lightning round question. so we so we all don't leave this terribly depressed. is there any hope is there any hopeful note on that? you know.
this this could be less under changed or even something about the people of hong kong and their resilience. yeah. well look a short term as i said, i don't think we've hit bottom yet. i remember i was on an opc roundtable a year or so ago and i mean you were involved with that as well and and i remember thinking wow, you know, you guys think it's gonna become just another chinese city, but we haven't nearly hit bottom but even i couldn't imagine how far we could keep falling so short term. i don't think the outlooks very i think hong kong people are well number one. we've never seen an authoritarian regime, you know last indefinitely and i don't think the ccp is gonna be any any exception. jamie. dimon was probably going on a limb a little bit when he said that jp morgan would outlast the chinese communist party. i don't want to comment on that except to say that nothing lasts forever and i do think that the hong kong people have proven remarkably resilient and there are you know many many small
acts of defiance. there's you know still you know, there's still more than seven million people living in hong kong even with the outflow most of those people in their hearts, you know support an open society and i think they're some of them are working some of them are waiting, but i hope that they live long enough to see a different a different time and a better time. hong kong will never go back to what it was, but there's no reason it couldn't it couldn't be a remarkable and open city again. i think more broadly china's actions are waking the rest of the world up to it's it's true nature and look i spent somebody i spent more than three decades in asia 28 years in hong kong, you know working for and believing and engagement. i don't think that i was naive. i was perhaps a little more optimistic than have events of proven.
but um, you know, we we need to stay engaged but um, we all need to make sure that we're not unduly reliant on china and i think if this if the pandemic the combination of the pandemic and china's ability seemingly to to create enemies where it had none, it's i think waking the world up and so i think we're gonna hopefully see more of a kind of multilateral effort for open societies to take care of themselves and defend themselves and their interests and economic social political and i guess that's the best i can hope for for a lining it, you know, it's it's slow to change. it's like turning an aircraft carrier and you know, at least we're now starting to turn but i think there's there's obviously a long way to go. so, thanks very much for your interest and great to have a lot of old friends on this call as well and look forward to seeing everybody in person. great. well, thanks mark and thanks for riding this book and i will toss it back to patty.
thank you. thank you both for a really fascinating discussion a little depressing frankly. but please buy mark's book, and we're very thankful to both of you for such a wonderful program. take care. thanks. welcome everyone. my name is ulta lynn price and it's a great honor to be here this evening, and i'd like to thank you all for joining us. this is pilsson community book stores virtual channel. and so many of you are joining us from chicago, but i would like to welcome everyone from around the world who is joining us. and this month marks two decades something since the opening of guantanamo.
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