Corporate America holds fast to Communist China in Hong Kong

CCommunist China continues to crush the life out of Hong Kong’s democracy. Beijing is breaking its commitment under a binding Sino-British treaty to respect Hong Kong’s democratic rule of law until 2047.

Where the former British colony was once a thriving marketplace for freedom, culture and economic activity, where voters elected their own leaders, today it is just another Chinese communist puppet state.

Politicians, journalists and students are being sentenced to long prison terms for daring to speak their mind. Newspapers that dare to report facts or offer original opinions are raided and ruined. Historical exhibits, such as memorials to the Tiananmen Square massacre, are being torn down. The “one country, two systems” model that allowed Hong Kong’s democratic character to live under Chinese sovereignty is dead.

What do major US business interests in Hong Kong think of this shameless purge of basic human rights and sacred American values? Given their oft-cited “environmental, social and governance” commitments in the United States, surely these companies are passionately protesting Hong Kong’s plight?

Certainly the main advocacy group for these companies has committed to something. The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, AmCham-HK, says one of its five key values ​​is the “rule of law”. In return, she claims that one of her five main missions is to “promote the core values ​​of the Chamber.”

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Unfortunately, that commitment is website-thin.

There is no evidence that AmCham-HK promotes the rule of law. On the contrary, like the American Chamber of Commerce-China, its sole core mission seems to be the drooling pursuit of communist gold. The new leader of AmCham-HK proves this in an interview with the South China tomorrow post on Thursday.

A retired US Air Force Colonel, Eden Woon, said: “There is a new law and a new situation. Hong Kong belongs to ‘one country’, no question. But we think the focus now should be on communicating across the two systems. In terms of Hong Kong’s image and corporate success, we need to tell people that the two systems are alive and well… and turn our attention to the international connections. This is how Hong Kong thrives.”

Woon’s only real concern is the COVID-19 lockdowns, which see China locked in a perpetual pandemic. But the Colonel knows exactly what he’s doing here. His suggestion that there is “no question” whether Hong Kong is part of China is a reference to Beijing’s demand that foreign nations not “interfere” in Hong Kong’s affairs. Woon’s focus on “communication” plays into Beijing’s demand that Western governments encourage pro-Chinese propaganda among their people. More striking is Woon’s assertion that “the two systems are alive and well.” Considering China’s destruction of Hong Kong’s media, purging politicians deemed insufficiently loyal to Xi, and imprisoning those who dare speak freely, it’s amazing that Woon can say this even with a straight face.

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Coming back to that ESG point, AmCham-HK’s website proclaims that it is an “active advocate for diversity in the workplace and promoting inclusion action beyond mere compliance, particularly towards the LGBT+ community.” However, things are quiet on the China front, where basic human rights are under attack. This absurdity has an almost amusing quality. For example, this month AmCham-HK launched their Onward Hong Kong series. Intended to present an optimistic vision for the city, the series features monthly programs on a variety of themes. Not a single issue focuses on the “value” AmCham-HK places on the “rule of law”. However, the theme of the coming March is “Art, Culture & Sport”. Presumably this will include a deep dive into China’s destruction of Tiananmen Square art?

Don’t bet on it.

It would be unfair to single out Woon. Like U.S. Chamber of Commerce officials who happily met with China’s foreign minister in New York City this week, Woon’s colleague, AmCham-China Chairman Colm Rafferty, has eyes only for Xi’s patronage. At a Chinese government meeting on Monday, Rafferty said the US and China should “separate national security issues and identify guard rails to guide them [the] bilateral relations in other areas.” As with intellectual property, Rafferty needs to know that China sees economic and national security concerns as inseparable.

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That is a big problem. Over the next few years, young American sailors may have to fight China to defend Taiwan or to maintain the post-1945 freedom of the seas. If so, many of these brave patriots are likely to die.

But like some in Congress, American corporations continue to regard China as a sacred cow. Members of AmCham-China’s “Chairman’s Circle” club (with an annual fee of US$26,700) deserve particular criticism. These are Herbalife Nutrition, Dell, Abbott, Bayer, Royal Caribbean, Hewlett Packard, UPMC, Pfizer, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Novartis, Merck, Amway, Mars, ConocoPhillips, Intel, 3M, Honeywell, Meta, Qualcomm, Johnson and Johnson and General Electric. The last time I asked the “circle” for comment on a similar matter, their normally energetic PR teams didn’t even respond. Indeed, some, like Intel and Mars, are utterly unashamed in their deference to Beijing.

That doesn’t mean people should just take that kowtow in front of our most determined and capable opponent. Whether led by Democrats or Republicans, the next Congress and President must decisively rein in this corporate treason.

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