Smith’s farewell remarks foreshadow US interference

Sino-US relations are now at a crossroads where a choice must be made between normalization and confrontation. The past month saw five rounds of high-level official meetings, marking an unprecedented intensity in bilateral exchanges since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two powers. Meetings, both in person and/or through video link, have been held by defense ministers, foreign ministers, senior foreign policy advisers, military generals, as well as key economic and trade officials.

On July 9, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the US will pursue “six must-nots” during the meeting with his Chinese counterpart, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, on the sideline of the G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Indonesia. The six highly concerned diplomatic issues are, namely, no launching a “new Cold War” against China, no attempting to change China’s socialist political system, no challenging the ruling-party status of the Communist Party of China, no instigating neighboring countries to contain China, no supporting “Taiwan independence”, and keeping the status quo of the Taiwan Straits. He added that the United States is committed to the risk management in the bilateral relationship and is open to creating collaborative fronts with China. As the meeting drew to a close, positive comments from Washington have led the international community to believe the Biden administration will take initiatives to normalize Sino-US relations in the face of an unprecedented domestic crisis in the US’ political and socioeconomic landscape.

The positive vibes, however, were short-lived. Four days later, when the outgoing US consul general in Hong Kong and Macao, Michael Hanscom Smith, gave his farewell speech at the American Chamber of Commerce before returning to America, he resorted to the usual rhetoric of systemically attacking Beijing and the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for “undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, protected rights and freedoms, or democratic institutions”. His assertions indicate Washington will not give up interference in the city’s internal affairs.

Smith started his speech with the cliche of America’s vision for Hong Kong, proclaiming that the US supports “a stable, prosperous Hong Kong that enjoys the high degree of autonomy Beijing promised in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a legally binding international agreement”. Smith said, “Unlike the policies of both the Beijing and Hong Kong governments, which have changed to the detriment of the people in Hong Kong and the city’s status as a global hub, US policy toward Hong Kong has been consistent and will not waver.”

Smith’s shifting the unwarranted blame to Beijing and the SAR government exposes Washington’s disregard for the “one country, two systems” principle in exercising “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and the high degree of autonomy that the city has already had for decades since its returning to the motherland. Grounding his entire speech on the Sino-British Joint Declaration, Smith was also challenging Beijing’s standing that the Joint Declaration has finished its historic role of facilitating the reunification of Hong Kong with China. However fancy his arguments were, he overlooked the fact, and also the common sense, that the Joint Declaration specifies the authority of the central people’s government over the practice of a high degree of autonomy in the SAR. If Smith’s remarks are anything to go by, there is no doubt that he and like-minded Western political crusaders aim to sabotage the practice of “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong.

If Smith discredits “one country, two systems”, it only makes him more hypocritical and exposes his political spin by assuring that “the United States recognizes that Hong Kong is part of China. We do not support Hong Kong independence”. His doublespeak bears a striking resemblance to Blinken’s promising “six must-nots”.

Smith played his sophistry by claiming that the “US government believes a strong, prosperous Hong Kong is in the best interest” of China and the United States. Nonetheless, the fact speaks otherwise as it was the US and the UK that instigated and sponsored anti-China political factions to wreak havoc on stable and prosperous Hong Kong. The illegal “Occupy Central” in 2014 and the black-clad riots in 2019 were the masterpieces of the two allies in attempting to cripple the city’s rule of law, to foment disorder, as well as to destroy its economy. The smokescreen adopted by the brash diplomat, however, can fool no one, especially the residents in Hong Kong, who will never fall for the imperialist hypocrisy of Washington and London.

Smith went to great lengths to preach double standards to his audience, saying the imposition of the National Security Law for Hong Kong “is the most obvious sign of the PRC’s fundamental self-doubt”. Besmirching the NSL and the central government can hardly turn an accusation into a tenable argument. Given that all sovereign countries in the world have their own national security laws in one form or another, Smith sounded as if his country, or its closest ally Great Britain for that matter, were above national security safeguards of this kind, but were they really? This begs the question why the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region gets on the US’ nerves so much. There is no better answer other than the fact the US can no longer use its proxies in Hong Kong to harm China’s development interest through political unrest in the name of freedom and democracy. Indeed, since its promulgation, the NSL has effectively disabled “the fifth column” organized by Washington and London to do their bidding against China’s sovereignty, national security and development interest in Hong Kong.

Smith devoted much of his speech to discussing the ties between the US and Hong Kong as if they were proper justifications for the attempts made by Washington and its consulate general in Hong Kong to meddle in the city’s affairs. In fact, the US consulate in Hong Kong boasts more staff than most American embassies, and its importance is on a par with, if not above, most of them. Smith and his subordinates have done numerous covert activities in Hong Kong over the years, and that is hardly a secret to the public.

Smith’s farewell remarks remind us Washington and its allies will continue asserting themselves upon Hong Kong’s internal affairs. If the US uses Taiwan to contain China’s rise and tacitly supports “Taiwan independence”, it follows the logic that the White House will play the “Hong Kong card” with even more reckless abandon. Therefore, the SAR government must unite all sectors of the Hong Kong community to faithfully implement the “four musts” and “four proposals” put forward by President Xi Jinping in his speech at the July 1 gathering celebrating the 25th anniversary of the HKSAR as well the swearing-in of the sixth-term HKSAR government. His wisdom and direction are crucial to maintaining the long-term and faithful exercise of the “one country, two systems” principle.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings.