Britain’s last colonial governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, has asked the British government to watch out for Chinese attempts to interfere with the city’s affairs while the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, the SCMP reports:
He made the plea to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab as the ruling Conservative Party toughens up China policies, amid what many party members see as Beijing’s deliberate failures to be transparent of the initial outbreaks. The call also comes amid growing worry among Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists, as police have rounded up dissidents and Beijing authorities have stepped up the rhetoric of national security concerns.
“I hope we can … count on the British government to call out China for its breaches of the [Sino-British] Joint Declaration and to watch carefully for future attempts by Beijing to undermine the rule of law and to corrupt the electoral process in the months ahead,” he wrote.
Patten sought to raise his concern about “two issues that will affect us and the rest of the world for some time to come”: the Chinese government’s initial cover-up of the outbreak, and how it has apparently taken advantage of the pandemic to “turn the screws on Hong Kong”, the Guardian adds:
Patten told Raab he was concerned to see China’s ambassador to the UK engaging in “wolf diplomacy” by denying there had been a cover-up about the origins and early spread of the virus and implying that “respected politicians” in the UK and abroad were “peddling lies and disinformation”. He said there was an overwhelming case in support of “establishing as soon as possible a multilateral expert mission to Wuhan to find out exactly what happened there”.
“Since Chinese communists are adamant that they have nothing to hide, they would presumably welcome such an inquiry,” Patten added.
“Beijing may come to regret its rapid pivot from domestic crisis to international triumphalism, for there is already a rising tide of nationalist anger coming its way as citizens from countries around the world face prolonged economic hardship and are in search of culpable parties,” CSIS China analyst Jude Blanchette, told the Times.
“I want to make clear straight away that Britain and other countries should have no argument with China and the Chinese people,” he said. “The issue is not our relationship with China. It is our relationship with the dangerous and immoral Communist party. In Wuhan the Communist party used the police to try and shut the doctors up. Totalitarian regimes always rely on secrecy and mendacity.”