Ironically, sometimes it is when one is off guard that he reveals his true colors. Gregory May, Washington’s top envoy in the city, was seen in Hong Kong Stadium watching the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament. He even posted on Facebook and Twitter about how much he enjoyed the atmosphere there, promising to return next year.
He seemed to have forgotten that he had recently badmouthed Hong Kong as a “police state” under the National Security Law for Hong Kong (NSL) and claimed that the people of Hong Kong were suffering under “authoritarian” rule and had lost their freedom! His behavior also seemed to contradict the US State Department, which had just submitted an annual report to the US Congress claiming that the city’s high degree of autonomy had been severely eroded. In these circumstances, he should have warned his fellow Americans not to visit Hong Kong nor attend the Hong Kong Sevens, and to boycott the event in protest!
He is, of course, correct to say that the Hong Kong Sevens is a highly successful and entertaining event. Over 75,000 local and overseas fans enjoyed the three-day tournament with fanfare without any incident, clearly signaling Hong Kong’s return to normality. As Chris Brooke, the Hong Kong Rugby Union chairman, said: “It’s been a very successful weekend. We’ve done better than our target ticket sales. All the corporate boxes were full, and you could feel a really great vibe in the stadium.”
With the lifting of most COVID-19 restrictions, followed by the staging of more international events … more tourists will be flocking to Hong Kong in the thousands. They will see that Hong Kong remains a vibrant and free society, befitting our title as “Asia’s world city”, and the NSL has posed no such dread, as some Western governments and media have tried to portray
Expressing their renewed confidence in Hong Kong with their feet, thousands came from faraway places, including Japan, Paris, London and Fiji. “The vibe here is amazing!” said one Japanese tourist. There was also a great display of patriotism as many Chinese in the audience raised the Hong Kong regional flag to cheer the local team, who won the Silver Plate. The atmosphere was also felt in the city’s nightspots. Allan Zeman, chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Group, estimated that thanks to the Sevens, their business had increased by about 25 percent, “with all these people coming from overseas”.
This successful event was held despite the warning issued by an editorial of The Wall Street Journal, dated March 3, telling people not to take advantage of the offer of half a million free plane tickets to foreign visitors in the Hello Hong Kong promotion because foreigners should beware of “Communist Party repression” and that they could be targeted under “the national-security law that outlaws dissent, with the maximum sentence of life in prison”. Such an editorial from a prestigious global newspaper is baffling, inexplicably unprofessional, and gratuitously egregious!
Fortunately, all the 26 overseas participating rugby teams from 15 nations and their accompanying fans from the West, including the US, Canada, Great Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, etc, paid no heed to The Wall Street Journal’s malicious warnings and happily participated in the event, with lots of noisy merriment, funny costumes and wild dances in the stadium, making it a truly international carnival! In the stand were two famous veteran soccer stars of the Liverpool Football Club team, Dirk Kuyt and Vladimir Smicer, who had nothing but praise for the city.
With the lifting of most COVID-19 restrictions, followed by the staging of more international events such as Art Basel Hong Kong, the Clockenflap music and arts festival, the 51st Hong Kong Arts Festival, the Hong Kong International Literary Festival, the M+ Yayoi Kusama: 1945 to Now exhibition, the 16th Asian Film Awards, the Hong Kong International Film Festival, and Art Central, more tourists will be flocking to Hong Kong in the thousands. They will see that Hong Kong remains a vibrant and free society, befitting our title as “Asia’s world city”, and the NSL has posed no such dread, as some Western governments and media have tried to portray.
Indeed, they will enjoy the crime-free environment that Hong Kong is famous for, where even women can walk safely alone on the streets in the small hours without any of the fear they might experience in New York or London. They will also note that our media landscape is as vibrant as ever, with the media’s criticism of the government’s work being a routine affair. What’s more, there are currently 209 media organizations comprising local, mainland and foreign entities, which increased after the NSL’s enactment. The West should stop wasting its time using the National Security Law to badmouth Hong Kong.
As a spokesman for the Commissioner’s Office of China’s Foreign Ministry in the HKSAR pointed out: “The US itself has a rigorous national security system, but attacks China’s legitimate measures to safeguard national security and exaggerates the chilling effect of our National Security Law. The naked double standard and bullying acts of the US only exposed its dark mentality of seeking to disrupt Hong Kong, and its ulterior motive of using Hong Kong to contain China under the guise of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”
No doubt to everybody’s surprise, in the three years after the introduction of the NSL, only 250 people were arrested and 30 were convicted of NSL offenses. This confirmed that only a tiny minority of the population of 7.5 million is affected by the law, and mainly because that minority colluded with foreign forces to conduct subversive and seditious activities in Hong Kong. Most of the population has nothing to fear and indeed treasures the harmony and peace the law has brought to society after the turbulent days of the insurrection.
Seeing is believing! Hong Kong welcomes anyone with any skepticism to come and see how free and vibrant Hong Kong is today!
The author is an honorary fellow of HKU Space and council member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies. He is a retired deputy commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.