Opinion
Corporate America holds fast to Communist China in Hong Kong
Opinion
Corporate America holds fast to Communist China in Hong Kong
Democracy advocate Jimmy Lai, center, arrives at Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. Prominent Hong Kong democracy advocate and newspaper founder Lai returned to court to contest an attempt by the government to keep him in jail while facing charges under a sweeping new national security law.

Communist China keeps crushing 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 flourishing marketplace for freedom, culture, and economic activity, where voters chose their own leaders, it is now just another Chinese communist puppet state.

Politicians, journalists, and students suffer long prison terms for daring to speak their minds. Newspapers that dare to report facts or offer original opinions are raided and ruined . Historical exhibits, such as commemorations of the Tiananmen Square massacre, are ripped down . The "one country, two systems" model, which permitted Hong Kong's democratic character to live under Chinese sovereignty, is dead.

What do major U.S. business interests in Hong Kong think about this shameless purge of basic human rights and sacred American values? Considering their oft-stated "environmental, social, and governance" commitments in the United States, surely these companies are protesting Hong Kong's plight with passion?

Certainly, the main advocacy organization for these businesses is committed to something. The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, AmCham-HK, says that one of its five key values is the "rule of law." In turn, it claims that one of its five key missions is "to promote the Chamber's core values."

Unfortunately, this commitment is website-thin.

There is no sign that AmCham-HK is promoting the rule of law. On the contrary, like the American Chamber of Commerce-China, its only core value-mission appears to be the salivating pursuit of communist gold. The new leader of AmCham-HK proves as much in an interview with the South China Morning Post on Thursday.

A retired U.S. Air Force colonel, Eden Woon said: "There’s a new law and new situation. Hong Kong belongs to 'one country,' no question about that. But we feel that the emphasis now should be on the communication about the two systems. In terms of the image of Hong Kong and the success of the businesses, we have to tell people that the two systems are alive and well … and focus our attention on the international connections. That’s the way Hong Kong thrives."

Woon's only real concern is the COVID-19 lockdowns that see China mired in a perpetual pandemic . Yet the colonel knows exactly what he's doing here. His reference to there being "no question" over whether Hong Kong is a part of China is a nod to Beijing's requirement that foreign nations not "interfere" in Hong Kong's affairs. Woon's focus on "communication" plays into Beijing's demand that Western governments promote pro-China propaganda to their populations. More striking is Woon's claim that "the two systems are alive and well." Considering China's destruction of Hong Kong media, its purge of politicians deemed insufficiently loyal to Xi, and its imprisonment of those who dare to speak freely, it's astonishing that Woon can even say this with a straight face.

Back to that ESG point: AmCham-HK's website proclaims it's an "active advocate on workplace diversity and to promote inclusion measures that exceed mere compliance, specifically toward the LGBT+ community." It's all quiet on the China front, though, where basic human rights are under attack. There's an almost amusing quality to this absurdity. This month, for example, AmCham-HK launched its "Onward Hong Kong" series . Designed to present an optimistic vision for the city, the series will deliver monthly programs on different themes. Not one theme is focused on the "value" AmCham-HK places on the "rule of law." That said, next March's theme is "Art, Culture & Sports." Presumably this will involve 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 the U.S. Chamber of Commerce officials who happily met with China's foreign minister in New York City this week, Woon's AmCham-China chairman colleague, Colm Rafferty, has eyes only for Xi's patronage. Addressing a Chinese government gathering on Monday, Rafferty said that the U.S. and China "should separate issues of national security and identify guardrails to guide [the] bilateral relationship in other spheres." As with intellectual property, Rafferty must know that China views economic and national security concerns as inseparable . But he wants whatever will mean that "regular trade and business activities can flourish."

This is a big problem. In the next few years, young American sailors may have to fight China to defend Taiwan or uphold the post-1945 freedom of the seas. If so, more than a few of these courageous patriots are likely to die .

Yet, like some in Congress , corporate America continues to view China as a sacred cow. Those members of AmCham-China's "Chairman's Circle" club (with a $26,700 annual fee) deserve special criticism. They 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 public relations teams didn't even respond . Indeed, some, such as Intel and Mars , are utterly shameless in their obeisance to Beijing.

That doesn't mean people should simply accept this kowtowing to our most determined and capable adversary. Whether Democratic or Republican-led, the next Congress and president must decisively rein in this corporate betrayal.

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