REMARKS BY BENEDICT ROGERS AT SINO EURO VOICES CONFERENCE 30 SEPTEMBER 2022
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great privilege to join you today at this important conference. I want to congratulate the organisers, and pay tribute to all the other speakers with whom it is an honour to share this platform.
I want to start by making four simple points: I love China. I love Hong Kong. I love Taiwan. And I love freedom. And these four points need not be mutually incompatible.
I first went to China when I was 18 years old, to spend six months teaching English in Qingdao – famous for the best beer in China, though that was not the reason I went (it was a nice discovery once I was there). I made many friends there. I returned over the years many times, and travelled extensively throughout China, from Beijing to Kunming, from Shanghai to Shenyang, from Nanjing and Suzhou to Dali and Yangshuo, from Guangzhou to Dandong. So I am not anti-China. On the contrary, the reason I devote so much of my time and energy to speaking out for human rights in China is that that I am pro-China – pro-the peoples of China – and I want them to be free. It is the Chinese Communist Party regime I oppose, not China – and that is a vital distinction that we should never tire of emphasizing.
I lived in Hong Kong for the first five years after the handover, from 1997-2002. It was where I began my working life, as a fresh graduate from university. It was where I started my career as a journalist and human rights activist. And when I left Hong Kong in 2002, I truly believed that, although I witnessed some early warning signs of problems to come, nevertheless “one country, two systems” was working well, Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy were protected and I never imagined that, two decades later, I would have founded an advocacy organisation – Hong Kong Watch – to campaign for Hong Kong’s human rights. I would never have imagined that so many of my friends in Hong Kong would either be in jail or in exile, and that I would have to be cautious about contacting those that are not in prison and are still in Hong Kong, for fear of endangering them. Under Xi Jinping, the CCP has broken its promises, violated an international treaty – the Sino-British Joint Declaration – and dismantled “one country, two systems.”
I love Taiwan. I have only visited three times – I would like to visit again at the earliest opportunity. I will never forget arriving in Taiwan in 2019 to attend a conference on religious freedom, at which the President of Taiwan was giving the keynote speech. It was so wonderful to be in a Chinese-speaking culture where I was not at risk of being arrested, jailed or deported, but instead was welcomed. I met senior government officials, civil society, media and on 4 June, I joined the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre – in Taipei’s Liberty Square. It is Taiwan’s vibrant, impressive democracy, as well as its commitment to human rights, that makes me passionate about the need to stand with Taiwan. Taiwan shows that it is a total lie to suggest that democracy and human rights are “Western” values, that Chinese or Asian people are culturally not ready for freedom: to those who perpetuate that myth, I say look at Taiwan.
I have recently finished writing a book – The China Nexus – which will be published at the end of next month, as a surprise gift for the CCP’s Party Congress. The book looks at China’s human rights crisis – the crackdown on civil society, media, lawyers, dissidents in mainland China, as well as the genocide of the Uyghurs, the atrocities in Tibet, the persecution of Christians, the crackdown in Hong Kong, the threats to Taiwan and many other issues. Among the many people I interviewed for the book was the Tiananmen Square activist Wu’erkaixi, who now lives in Taiwan. And he said this: “A regime that opens fire on peaceful demonstrators, that has no democracy, represses freedom of assembly, expression, information, is the regime that is recognised as legitimate, while a free, vivid and exemplary democracy, with free elections, free flow of information, freedom of assembly, and where the military is under a civilian elected government and neutral from the political process, is the one the world calls illegitimate. It is ridiculous.” We don’t necessarily have to go as far as to recognise Taiwan fully diplomatically – that may well be a provocation too far, which might precipitate the war we want to prevent. But we should do everything possible short of full recognition, to indicate that we support Taiwan, that we know Taiwan shares our values, that Taiwan is our friend.
Let me conclude with some thoughts on why “One Country, Two Systems” as a model is dead. Totally dead. Dead in Hong Kong, and therefore inconceivably irrelevant for Taiwan.
Although the erosion of Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy was building up, the turning point was the Umbrella Movement in 2014. Peaceful protests demanding what was promised to them in Hong Kong’s own mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law. Universal suffrage. Beijing initially agreed to this – on the condition that they pick the candidates. What a joke. So you can have universal suffrage, as long as you choose between – for example – the acolytes of Xi Jinping, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin. Or as Martin Lee put it, “what’s the difference between a rotten apple, a rotten orange and a rotten banana?”
So the people rose up, and protested – peacefully, beautifully. Students sat doing their homework in the street by day and chanting slogans by night. And they were met with teargas and police batons. Peaceful protest leaders – like Benny Tai and Joshua Wong, still in jail, like my friend Nathan Law, who spent time in jail and is now in exile – were arrested and prosecuted.
From that point on, the deterioration in Hong Kong accelerated. Pro-democracy legislators were elected to the legislature, then disqualified. Mainland Chinese law was applied at the high-speed rail terminus. Booksellers were abducted into the mainland and jailed. And in October 2017, I was very publicly denied entry to Hong Kong, on the orders of Beijing, probably the first Westerner to experience that fate, though a growing number of others have followed.
Then there was Carrie Lam’s ridiculous extradition bill; the extraordinary protests for months in 2019; the horrific police brutality; the draconian National Security Law; the expulsion of the pro-democracy camp from the legislature, the transformation of the legislature into a puppet subsidiary of the National Peoples Congress, the shut-down of press freedom, the jailing of Jimmy Lai, the arrest of 47 pro-democracy legislators and activists for simply holding a primary election to choose their candidates for the legislature, and more recently the arrest of 90 year-old Cardinal Zen, whose trial began this week. A regime that arrests a 90 year-old Cardinal on spurious political grounds is not a regime that can inspire any trust whatsoever.
In March this year, I woke up in London one morning and turned on my laptop, to find in my email two letters: one from the Hong Kong Police Force, the other from the Hong Kong National Security Bureau. These two letters told me that my activities and the work of Hong Kong Watch pose a serious threat to China’s national security, that I and Hong Kong Watch are in violation of Hong Kong’s National Security Law, and that unless we cease our activities and shutdown our website within 72 hours of receipt of the letter, I personally could face a fine of HK$100,000 and a prison sentence of between one year, three years or life imprisonment. Hong Kong Watch is entirely based in London, as is our website – we have absolutely no entity, no personnel, no presence in Hong Kong. So this was the Hong Kong authorities exercising the “extraterritoriality” clause of the National Security Law, in an attempt to silence a critic well beyond China’s borders. Well, they failed.
Throughout the past four years, I have received numerous anonymous threatening letters by post at my home in London. Some letters went to my neighbours. Even my mother, who lives in a totally different part of the country, a long way from London, has received letters asking her to tell me to stop my work. MPs have been lobbied by the Chinese embassy in London to ask them to tell me to shut up. Thankfully my mother is very supportive – her response is simply to laugh and to say that she gave up trying to tell me to shut up many years ago. And the MPs told the embassy where to go. But the fact that this regime goes to these lengths to try to silence critics around the world tells you what you need to know.
The regime in Beijing should not be allowed to get away with what it has done to Hong Kong. It has broken a treaty. It must face consequences. That is why I believe sanctions are urgently needed. Co-ordinated, targeted, effective sanctions from the EU, from the UK, as well as from the US, Canada, Australia and other democracies. Beijing must not be allowed to get away with destroying Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy with impunity.
And we need a lifeboat scheme from Germany and the EU. Britain has provided a very generous scheme to allow thousands – up to 3 million – Hong Kongers to come to the United Kingdom. The EU and others should do their part to help those Hong Kongers who are not eligible for the UK scheme to find sanctuary if they wish to.
One country, two systems could have worked. With a decent, humane government in Beijing, one which respected human rights and human dignity, freedom and the international rules-based order, and kept its treaty promises, it might have worked. But under Xi Jinping and this CCP regime it is a lie, a broken promise and a broken model. We must keep the spotlight on Hong Kong, keep up the pressure in response to the human rights crisis in China, and increase our support for Taiwan.
Let me end by saying this: last night I went to the Brandenburg Gate. As I did so, President Ronald Reagan’s words echoed in my mind, from his 1987 speech. “This wall will fall,” he said. “For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.” Two years later, the Berlin Wall fell. I do not seek the fall of the Great Wall of China – but I do desire the collapse of the Great Firewall of China – and the rise of an open, free, democratic China, a free Tibet, freedom for the Uyghurs and Southern Mongolia, the restoration of freedom for Hong Kong and the defence of freedom for Taiwan. Let’s work together for this cause.
Benedict Rogers is a British human rights activist and journalist based in London. He is the co-founder and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party‘s human rights commission. He is also the founder of Hong Kong Watch.
我愛台灣。我只訪問過那兒 3 次——我很想在新冠限制放寬後儘早再次訪問。我永遠不會忘記2019年來到台灣參加宗教自由會議，台灣總統在會上發表主旨演講。在一個中文的文化氛圍裡，我沒有被逮捕、監禁或驅逐出境的風險，而是受到歡迎，這真是太棒了。我會見了政府高級官員、民間社會、媒體，並於 6 月 4 日在台北自由廣場參加了天安門大屠殺 30 週年紀念活動。台灣充滿活力、令人印象深刻的民主體制，以及對人權的承諾，深深感動了我，使我迫切地想與台灣站在一起。說民主和人權是「西方」價值觀，中國人或亞洲人在文化上還不夠成熟來接受自由，這完全是一個謊言。誰製造這樣的神話，我對他說，請來看看台灣。
我的新書《中國鏈》The China Nexus
讓我總結一下為什麼「一國兩制」作為一個模式已經死了，徹底死了，死在香港，因此不適用於台灣。儘管香港的自由和自治日益受到侵蝕，但轉折點是 2014 年的雨傘運動。人們和平抗議，要求北京對香港的小憲法，即《基本法》以及普選保持承諾。北京最初同意這一點——條件是由他們挑選候選人，這真是笑話。所以你可以擁有普選權，只要你在習近平、胡錦濤和江澤民的聽命者之間做出選擇。正如李柱銘 Martin Lee 所說：「爛蘋果、爛橙子和爛香蕉有什麼區別？」
於是人們站起來抗議——和平、優美。學生們白天坐在街上做作業，晚上高呼口號。他們遭到催淚瓦斯和警棍的襲擊。和平抗議的領袖如戴耀廷 Benny Tai 和黃之鋒 Joshua Wong，仍然在監獄裡，就像我的朋友 羅冠聰Nathan Law曾經經歷的，他在監獄裡待了一段時間，現在流亡到英國，他曾被逮捕和起訴。
從那時起，香港惡化速度加快了。親民主的立法者被選入立法機構，然後被取消資格。高鐵的站台上得採用中國大陸法律。書商被綁架到大陸投入監獄。 2017 年 10 月，在北京的命令下，我被公開拒絕入境香港，我可能是第一個經歷這種命運的西方人，儘管越來越多的其他人也遭此命運。
然後是林鄭月娥荒謬的引渡法案； 2019 年持續數月非同尋常的抗議活動；可怕的警察暴行；嚴厲的國家安全法；將民主派驅逐出立法機構，將立法機構轉變為全國人大的傀儡附屬機構；封鎖新聞自由；黎智英入獄；47名民主派立法委員遭逮捕；活動人士只能舉行初選來選擇他們的立法機構候選人；最近還逮捕了 90 歲的紅衣主教陳日君，他的審判將於本週開庭。一個以虛假的政治理由逮捕一位 90 歲紅衣主教的政權，不是一個能夠獲得人們信任的政權。
今年三月的一天清晨，我在倫敦醒來，打開筆記本電腦，在郵件中發現兩封信：一封來自香港警務處，另一封來自香港國安局。這兩封信告訴我，我的活動和「香港觀察」的工作，對中國的國家安全構成嚴重威脅，我和「香港觀察」違反了香港的國家安全法，在收到信函後 72 小時內，我們必須停止活動，並關閉我們的網站，否則我本人可能面臨罰款港幣 100,000 元及監禁一年至三年或無期徒刑。「香港觀察」位於倫敦，我們的網站也在倫敦，我們沒有機構，沒有人員，在香港也無運作。因此，這是香港當局行使《國家安全法》的「治外法權」條款，試圖讓中國境外的批評者噤聲。他們註定會失敗的。
我們需要德國和歐盟的救生艇計劃。英國提供了一個非常慷慨的計劃，允許成千上萬（最多可達 300 萬）香港人來到英國。歐盟和其他國家應該儘自己的一份力量，幫助那些不符合英國計劃的香港人，讓他們找到避難之地。
作者羅傑斯是英國著名人權運動家，任保守黨人權委員會副主席。於2017年12月11日創辦香港監察 （Hong KongWatch）