The Trump administration’s recent course correction in the strategic relationship with China—a considerable hardening unveiled last Thursday by Vice President Mike Pence—is a necessary response to Beijing’s bad behavior across several political and security issues.
An example of this behavior occurred just last week, when China gave one more sign that it scoffs at international norms by expelling a British journalist from Hong Kong.
Victor Mallet is the award-winning Asia news editor of the Financial Times. He also is the first vice president of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club and, in that capacity, he held a talk by a Hong Kong independence activist, Andy Chan, that upset China’s rulers.
Last Friday it emerged that Hong Kong has declined to renew Mallet’s visa, which would result in his eventual expulsion from the city. The London-based global paper said the Hong Kong government gave no reason for this highly unusual decision, nor did city officials.
China, a communist dictatorship, routinely denies foreign correspondents visas or refuses to renew them, but the Foreign Correspondents’ Club says this is unprecedented in Hong Kong. China took over the prosperous city in 1997 from former colonial ruler Britain after promising the world that it would respect Hong Kong’s freedoms and grant it a wide degree of autonomy. This act, which must have been directed by Beijing, would appear to flout that promise.
As a former first vice president of the club myself, and longtime member of the board both under British rule—and post-1997, under China—I can attest nothing I have seen since I first arrived in Hong Kong for my first assignment in 1988 comes close to the Mallet scandal.
Hong Kong’s prominence is intricately tied to its position as a financial center, and expelling one of the top Asian editors of the world’s No. 2 financial paper will harm the exchange of valuable information about Hong Kong’s financial situation.
This action also comes at a critical time in U.S.-China relations. In his Thursday speech, Pence lashed out at Beijing’s attempts to interfere in U.S. relations in a multitude of ways, its expansionism in the South China Seas, and its own internal repression. He also made a case that China is interfering extensively in American elections.
China’s attempts to censor what Americans learn in universities, hear on the radio, or see in films is well documented. I wrote about it three years ago in this report.
“We have a lot of discussion of Russian interference in our elections, but the Chinese efforts to influence our public policy and our basic freedoms are much more widespread than most people realize,” The Washington Post quoted Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., co-chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, as saying last December. “This is an all-out effort to not simply promote themselves in a better light, but to target Americans within the United States.”
And last week, Bloomberg reported that the U.S. intelligence community suspects China has gone much further and is using a tiny computer chip to infiltrate American companies. “Multiple people familiar with the matter say investigators found that the chips had been inserted at factories run by manufacturing subcontractors in China,” report said.
Internally, China also has increased repression, especially against its minority Uighurs in the western province of Xinjiang, drawing a rebuke from the State Department, which said it is considering sanctions.
With the apparent eviction of Mallet from Hong Kong, China has taken yet another step in thumbing its nose at the world.