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Hong Kong Phooey: A Case for the Anglosphere

Perhaps to pay for a deeply sinful past life, I am currently earning a living teaching English. Recently, spying a Chinese student with two smartphones in front of him, I jokingly asked whether one was ‘the wife phone’ and the other ‘the girlfriend phone’ (Lame, I know, but a spoonful of humour often makes the learning go down). Unamused, he explained why two were necessary: one was his ‘Chinese’ phone that he used to contact his family in China, the other his ‘free’ phone. The first he knew could be subject to examination on his return to China, the other he planned to only use here. Not wishing to get a midnight knock at the door sometime in the future, he only ‘talked about the Chinese Government’ on his ‘free’ phone.

No wonder he wasn’t amused. The surveillance state is no laughing matter.

If evidence was needed that China is a malevolent force in world affairs, repressive internally and aggressive externally, it has been supplied in past weeks. First, there was the announcement by Scott Morrison that Australia had been the victim of cyber-attacks on both government and private sector targets. Chinese denials that they were behind the ‘state-based actor’ blamed for the attacks are about as convincing as their claims back in January that “the risk of human-to-human transmission (of COVID-19) is low”. When the Aussies joined America in calling for an inquiry into the Chinese origins of the virus, the Chinese reacted with the emotional maturity of a toddler on a jelly-bean bender – imposing an 80% tariff on barley, halting all beef imports and warning Chinese students of Australian “racism”.

Kung fued over the kung flu.

And now while the world’s back is turned dealing with Covid, China has moved to snuff out the one light of liberty on its shores. The Hong Kong Security Law reads like a lost chapter from Orwell’s 1984; it criminalises secession (independence), subversion (criticizing the government), terrorism (which includes ‘damaging public transport’) and collusion with foreign governments.

If convicted in a secret trial (no press), Hong-Kongers could be looking at life in prison. Terrifyingly it applies not only to locals but people ‘from outside (Hong Kong)… who are not permanent residents of Hong Kong’. Wear a Union Jack t-shirt on holiday there and you could find yourself in the big house with a lot of time to learn how to use chopsticks.

The law was enacted by Beijing, circumventing the Hong Kong legislature and directly violating the ‘one country, two systems’ principle of the ‘Basic Law’ – the agreement under which the Brits handed Hong Kong back to China.

The law also contravenes at least one UN treaty China is a signatory to – ‘The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ (1966).

The UN high commissioner for Human Rights has already leapt into action and expressed “concern”. I’m sure that had Xi Jinping changing his underwear.

So what can be done?

It’s time for the Empire to strike back. Well, at least its ghost.

The Anglosphere is a term first used by science fiction author Neal Stephenson but taken up by historians and others as a useful signpost for those nations formerly part of the British Empire. It includes Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand and in some formulations, South Africa, and Ireland. Countries bound by culture, political traditions and a mutually intelligible language (hence the debate over South Africa and Ireland). In his book ‘How We Invented Freedom and Why It Matters’, ace Brexiteer and former Euro MP, Dan Hannan makes the argument that political freedom – the state deriving its power from the consent of free individuals, rather than individuals being granted freedom by an almighty state – is a uniquely British rather than ‘Western’ phenomenon. This freedom was wrought by history and circumstances peculiar to the British Isles: the Anglo-Saxon Witan system, the common law, the Protestant break with Rome, the absence of a large, potentially tyrannical standing army and the individualist property rights that provided the basis for capitalism. Hannan argued that in the face of encroachments on political liberty (he was thinking foremost of the EU) the ideal of ‘the Anglosphere’ should be reignited.

Hong Kong is another opportunity. It prospered as a loyal British colony for over 150 years with its people never demanding self-government. Then for the sake of diplomatic expediency, its people were handed to the CCP without the democratic consultation usually required elsewhere (see the Falklands).

Britain has a moral duty to its former subjects. Hong Kong, spat out by the Lion, shouldn’t be left to be swallowed up by the Dragon.

Already Boris Johnson has made moves in this direction, granting the three million residents eligible for the British National Overseas passport (those born before the 1997 handover) a pathway to full British citizenship. Australia is considering a similar offer.

But what of those born after the takeover? The demonstrations against Chinese repression have been largely led by the young. More western in their thinking, these English speaking, liberty loving youth should not be abandoned.

In recent weeks, the iconography of the British Empire has been spat upon, vandalized and even torn down in an orgy of ignorance by our young. What a response it would be to use the same ties of empire they condemn as racist and evil to liberate their young counterparts in Hong Kong.

The Anglosphere, acting in concert, should offer them citizenship. New Zealand should welcome as many as we can.

They would be excellent immigrants. Educated, wealthy and motivated. A 2016 survey found 1 in 5 Hong Kong adults planned to set up a business in the coming year. It could be the gust of entrepreneurial flair and investment our flaccid economy needs. A change in our immigrant profile from the retired Chinese sweat shop owner only here for the schools and the Gold Card privileges.

Of course, most Hong-Kongers would not take up the offer. But it might be enough to force China, fearing an exodus of the human capital that made Hong Kong such a success, to rethink their hard line approach.

And ensure ‘Free Hong Kong’ is a promise not an epitaph.

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