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Tuesday, June 30, 2020, 10:45
An open letter to the president of the United States
By Grenville Cross
Tuesday, June 30, 2020, 10:45 By Grenville Cross

Dear Mr President,

In these very difficult times, people of goodwill around the world, including in Hong Kong, will wish you well as you try to guide the United States back to normality.

I imagine, however, that you will be the first to agree that, whatever your strengths may be domestically, foreign policy is not your forte.

Indeed, your former national security adviser, John Bolton, in his memoir The Room Where It Happened, describes you as being “stunningly uninformed”. He reveals how you were unaware that the United Kingdom, your country’s closest ally, is a nuclear power, and that you thought that Finland was a part of Russia. He says you even confused former Afghan president Hamid Karzai with his successor, Ashraf Ghani. Le Monde, moreover, has disclosed how, at your meeting with the three Baltic presidents in Washington, D.C., in 2018, you mixed up the Baltics with the Balkans, which left them dumbfounded.

In particular, by constantly misrepresenting the situation in Hong Kong, Pompeo is trying to harm China, and this is in nobody’s interests, least of all the US. His actions, moreover, betray a crass ignorance of both the legal niceties and the factual situation in Hong Kong, and you are being badly served.

Although your primary focus has always been on the US economy, it appears, gaffes apart, that you are being woefully served by the US Department of State. Instead of providing you with thorough briefings on foreign affairs, it is feeding you fake news, and this is damaging US interests worldwide. By any yardstick, this is a sad situation, for which the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, must bear responsibility.

Indeed, far from watching your back, Bolton has revealed how, during your historic meeting with Kim Jong-un in Singapore in 2018, Pompeo told him you were “so full of s—t”. Such candor not only belittled your efforts to improve things on the Korean peninsula, but it also exposed the antediluvian mindset of this Cold War throwback.

In particular, by constantly misrepresenting the situation in Hong Kong, Pompeo is trying to harm China, and this is in nobody’s interests, least of all the US. His actions, moreover, betray a crass ignorance of both the legal niceties and the factual situation in Hong Kong, and you are being badly served. On April 18, for example, after 15 suspects were charged with organizing, publicizing or taking part in unauthorized assemblies in 2019, Pompeo fatuously announced that the prosecutions were attributable to “Beijing and its representatives in Hong Kong”, and were “inconsistent with commitments made under the Sino-British Joint Declaration”, for which he produced no evidence.

Despite rushing to judgment, he had obviously read neither the Joint Declaration, which said nothing about the control of public order events, nor the judgment of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal, which, in 2005, ruled that reasonable restrictions on the right of peaceful protest are, as recognized everywhere, constitutional under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Beijing, moreover, has nothing to do with public prosecutions in Hong Kong, where prosecutorial decisions are taken by professional prosecutors who enjoy constitutionally guaranteed independence. The fear, therefore, must be that this exemplifies the sort of tripe which Pompeo is regularly serving up to you behind closed doors.

Again, on June 26, Pompeo announced sanctions against Chinese officials, and their families, in retaliation for the enactment of the national security law. The officials were, he claimed, “responsible for, or complicit in, undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, as guaranteed in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration”. Once again, he was wholly unaware that the Joint Declaration said nothing about national security, and specifically excluded “defense affairs” from its ambit, for obvious reasons. Under China’s Constitution, national defense is always an issue for the country as a whole, just as it is in the US, and the Joint Declaration never suggested otherwise. Since Hong Kong has been unable to enact its own national security laws for 23 years, largely because of the threat of violence, Beijing has naturally had to rectify things, given the current threats to “one country, two systems”.

You, of course, would never countenance a situation in which a part of the US was deprived of the protection of national security laws, and China is no different. After all, the US has multiple laws protecting national security, including the Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Act and the Terrorism Prevention Act. Hong Kong, however, has none, and is now paying the price. This lacuna is being ruthlessly exploited by subversive forces, ready to deploy terror-style tactics on our streets, and, like the US, Hong Kong must now have the tools it needs to fully protect itself from those who wish it ill. Since Pompeo has apparently explained none of this to you, you have been left exposed, and it is important for you to see through him, while there is still time.

Your country, of course, is currently gripped by race riots, and several people have been killed by the police over several weeks, with many others injured and arrested. By contrast, over many months of riots in Hong Kong, which saw the police regularly firebombed, and people killed and maimed by rioters because of their opinions or where they came from, no protesters were killed, which illustrates the restraint and professionalism of our police force. You can yourself now see the sort of horrors Hong Kong has had to endure for far longer, and your reaction to the US riots has been that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”.

When, however, the riots erupted in Hong Kong last year, organized by people who wanted to undermine “one country, two systems”, Pompeo, instead of denouncing the rioters unequivocally, sought to curry favor with the protest movement. Ever the trouble-maker, he endorsed key demands of the protest movement, including their anti-police agenda, and even bizarrely accused the government of having “primary responsibility” for the situation. He must have recoiled in horror when, on July 22, you praised President Xi Jinping for acting “very responsibly” over the protests, but he has, by mindless China-bashing,  sought ever since to row back on your own very sound instincts, and this he has done at Hong Kong’s expense.

Indeed, although COVID-19 has resulted in restrictions around the world on public gatherings, Pompeo has grotesquely sought to make political capital out of it. After the police in Hong Kong decided it was unsafe, on public health grounds, for any gatherings on June 4, he announced that Beijing was denying the people “a voice and a choice”, and “so much for two systems”. However, after the police in the UK likewise banned any gatherings of more than six people under the coronavirus regulations, with John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation, explaining that, although the right to protest is important, “we are not in normal times”, there was not even a whimper of concern from Pompeo, whose hypocrisy is almost as brazen as his bias.

Quite clearly, Pompeo’s hatred of China is visceral, and this has warped his judgment. As you know, on May 27, he told Congress that Hong Kong was no longer autonomous from China, which could jeopardize its special trade relationship with the US. What, however, he failed to tell Congress was that, in Hong Kong, basic rights and freedoms remain intact, underpinned by the ICCPR, that it is blessed with an independent judiciary and first-class legal and financial systems, and that China is doing all it can to protect “one country, two systems” from those who are using violence to try to destroy it. Since he has been less than frank with Congress, he is also presumably pulling the wool over your eyes.

As a businessman yourself, you must see that what Pompeo is doing makes no sense economically, and will also harm your country. Indeed, over the past decade, the US trade surplus with Hong Kong has been the largest among all its trading partners, with the merchandize trade surplus totaling US$297 billion from 2009 to 2018. Although, in 2019, the surplus came down, as a result of trade tensions, to US$29.4 billion, from US$31.4 billion in 2018, if Pompeo has his way the interests of the 1,300 US companies based in Hong Kong, and their employees, could be badly affected.      

At a time when the polls show that your Democrat Party rival, Joe Biden, has surged to a 14 percent lead over you in the presidential stakes, you deserve far better than Pompeo. He is bad for you, bad for the US, and bad for the world. It is high time for you to restore reason to US foreign policy, and to show him the door.


Yours sincerely,

I Grenville Cross

Senior Counsel and Professor of Law

Hong Kong

June 28, 2020


To: President Donald J Trump,

The White House,

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,

Washington, DC 20500,

United States of America.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

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