Commentary on Political Economy

Saturday 5 October 2019


Hong Kong media tycoon makes ‘political asylum’ call to Australia

Jimmy Lai, center, holds a banner as he marches along Queen's Road Central during a protest in the Central district of Hong Kong. Picture: Getty Images
Jimmy Lai, center, holds a banner as he marches along Queen's Road Central during a protest in the Central district of Hong Kong. Picture: Getty Images
Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai has called on the Australian people to support the city’s pro-democracy protests and to offer political asylum to protesters if needed.
The founder of the anti-Beijing newspaper Apple Daily said the support of Australia and other Western countries was important for the ­future of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. “Give us your moral support,” he said in his offices in an industrial estate in Hong Kong’s New Territories.


“Put us in your narrative, in your political discussions.
“Hopefully, the people’s sentiment will move the politicians to give us political support.
“World support is very important for us. It is the moral power we get (from supporters offshore) that keeps us going.”
He said he hoped countries such as Australia would talk about the uneasy situation in Hong Kong when they were dealing with China.
Mr Lai was speaking as violence escalated in Hong Kong this week, with an 18-year-old student shot by police during a clash ­between police and demonstrators on China’s national holiday on Tuesday.
Mr Lai hoped some of the protesters would be ­offered political asylum in Australia if they had to leave Hong Kong.
“We want to fight to the end but if we lose, it would be good to know that there is someone who will be coming to their aid,” he said.
He called on Australia to uphold its values in dealing with China and not to backtrack on its decision to ban Huawei from supplying equipment for the next-­generation 5G network despite pressure from China. “Australia has to uphold its values in the face of a dictatorship like China,” he said. “Australia cannot allow China’s dictatorial values to ­encroach on its sovereignty.
“If China becomes the biggest economy in the world, the world will be suffocated by its values and the world will not have peace.”
Mr Lai said Australia could still do business with China while upholding its own values. “If you deal with China, you don’t deal with them with weakness, you deal with them with strength,’’ he said.
“Australia’s strength is its values. Australia can uphold its values in dealing with China, not because China buys from you to do you a favour, China buys from you ­because they need it.
“No trade is one-sided. If they don’t need you, they wouldn’t buy anything from you.”
Mr Lai said he feared Australia would eventually overturn its ban on Chinese companies providing equipment for the 5G network under pressure from the Chinese government. “I am sure the ­Chinese will not relent in letting Australia uphold this ban,” he said, although the ban was “the right thing to do”.
“Australia has to protect its nat­ional security and uphold its values in the face of a dictator like China,’’ Mr Lai said.
He called on Australia to pass a bill similar to that being considered by the US congress to monitor Hong Kong’s freedoms.
Under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, the US secretary of state will have to certify each year that Hong Kong remains sufficiently autonomous from China to justify its unique treatment under US law, including “the degree to which Hong Kong’s autonomy has been eroded due to action taken by the government of China”.
Mr Lai said it would be “great” if Australia could pass a similar law. “Somebody has to say when we deal with China, we have to insist on the universal value of human rights,’’ he said.

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