Chris Patten, the last Governor of Hong Kong and currently Chancellor of the University of Oxford, gave a lecture at the Australian National University in Canberra on March 14, 2023. In his address he said the world’s democracies must recognize their values and political processes are under attack by Beijing and urged them to stop China’s “bad behavior” and stand up for their cherished freedoms and open societies.
“It is hugely in our interest to constrain bad behaviour by China and to recognise that it is China which has determined that it has to attack our own system of values and interests at every point,” Chris Patten said.
The former Governor of Hong Kong listed three fundamental challenges facing China: an unbalanced economy with a huge debt burden; enormous environmental challenges; and a critical demographic problem characterized by growing gender imbalance and an aging and declining population.
On the issue of how liberal democracies should behave towards China, he outlined ‘five unacceptables of Chinese behaviour’ that everyone should be able to agree and clearly and openly express:
Firstly, Beijing should stop playing ‘the kennel club games’ where China periodically puts certain countries in the doghouse for questioning China’s political narrative and tries to punish these countries.
Secondly, China should not blur the distinction between influence and interference and stop United Front operations in other countries including activities such as the CCP extending its policing operations into sovereign states.
Thirdly, China should not breach international agreements like the Joint Declaration in Hong Kong, and international health regulations pertaining to the origins of the COVID pandemic.
Fourthly, China should not breach international law such as the UN convention on the Law of the Sea. Liberal democracies should not allow China to prevent freedom of passage through the South China Sea.
Lastly, the world should not accept China’s crimes against humanity in its own country. Incarceration of hundreds of thousands of Muslims, the forced abortions, the trade in body parts, the slave labor and other abuses.
“Plainly, given how often President Xi attacks the values of open societies, he regards them, as do other authoritarian leaders, as an existential threat. The other side of the coin is that we should see them as an existential hope,” said Chris Patten.