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Trade V. Freedom...the Ransom of Human Rights

If it is true that Great Britain is not pressuring China enough on democratic reforms in Hong Kong out of fear of damaging trade, then it is a bad practice and precedent that threatens British integrity to the ideals of freedom, equality and the rule of law. Furthermore, any such actions serve to underscore the hippocratic claims made by "want-to-be" Jihadists against the West to justify their fallible aims to join the ranks of the ISIL and other radical and extremist groups.

Human rights must always trump trade. The founding tenets of democracy and freedom are anchored in liberty, life and pursuit of happiness. To forego freedom to any in order to maintain or to promote trade with another is a dangerous scenario that will have inevitable secondary effects. 

So the alarm should be sounded across the West when a former British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, as reported by Reuters this morning, claimed that Britain is not putting enough pressure on China to honor the promised democratic reforms it made in agreements on Hong Kong back in 1984. In the agreement, China has promised universal suffrage to Hong Kong, but recently, Beijing reneged on allowing the democratic reform in the 2017 elections for Hong Kong chief executive. China's preference has been to allow all the people to vote from a Beijing loyalist list vetted by the communism.

Speaking before a British inquiry by lawmakers into the state of democracy in Hong Kong, Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong before the 1997 takeover, told British lawmakers that: "There has always been quite a strong group in government and the business community which believes that you can only do business with China if you carefully avoid in all circumstances treading on China's toes or saying anything the Chinese disagree with," Reuters reported.

He added: "When China asserts that what is happening in Hong Kong is nothing to do with us, we should make it absolutely clear publicly and privately that that is not the case." He described China's claims as a "spit in the face" of the 1984 Joint Declaration on the conditions under which Hong Kong would be handed over. The former governor added that appeasing China's feelings "...encourages China to behave badly that we go on doing that." Governor Patten confirmed his belief that China's actions to deny universal suffrage to Hong Kong were in breach of the city's Basic Law. Furthermore, Governor Patten  pointed out,  according to the Reuters report, that "...the Joint Declaration provides obligations on China to us for 50 years...this is the Joint Declaration not the Chinese declaration."

In other words, Great Britain has a say on democratic reforms in Hong Kong, but Great Britain must bring the rights questions to bear upon China in respect to universal suffrage in the city.

Anything short of a clear declaration by Great Britain that the agreement it holds jointly on Hong Kong with China, calls for universal suffrage, would amount to a ransom of human rights and as fuel toward radicalization by some youth sensing another act of hippocracy by one of the stalwarts of democracy, freedom, equality and the rule of law.

[This Blog is republished on Asia Today]