By Guy Faulconbridge
LONDON (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping is so nervous about the Communist Party’s position that he is risking a new Cold War and jeopardizing Hong Kong’s position as Asia’s preeminent financial center, the territory’s last British governor told Reuters.
Chris Patten said that Xi’s “crazy” approach in Hong Kong carries the risk of causing an outflow of capital and people out of the city that directs the bulk of foreign investment to mainland China.
The West should stop being naive about Xi, who has been Secretary General of the Communist Party since 2012.
“We have long since passed the phase where, without wanting another Cold War, we have to react to the fact that Xi himself seems to want one,” said Patten.
Patten occupied Xi as a dictator who was “nervous” about the position of the Communist Party in China after criticizing that she had dealt with the outbreak of the novel corona virus early on and the economic impact of her trade disputes with the United States.
“One reason why Xi Jinping is stirring up all this nationalistic feeling about Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other issues is because he is more nervous than an official would have about the position of the Communist Party in China,” he said.
The Chinese embassy in London did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The 76-year-old Patten watched the British flag go down over Hong Kong when the colony was returned to China in 1997 after more than 150 years of British rule.
Hong Kong’s autonomy was guaranteed under the One Country, Two Systems Agreement, which is enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984. But thousands of protesters in Hong Kong have opposed Beijing in recent months.
The Chinese parliament approved a decision this week to create laws for Hong Kong to contain turmoil, secession, terrorism, and outside interference.
“Xi Jinping hates the things that Hong Kong was promised under the United Nations One Country, Two Systems treaty, which he deliberately breaks,” said Patten. “He hopes he can get Hong Kong into shape.”
Patten said Xi’s actions had questioned Hong Kong’s position as Asia’s main international financial center.
“What does that mean? It means serious question marks not only about the future of Hong Kong as a free society, but also about Hong Kong’s ability to remain the probably most important international financial center in Asia,” said Patten.
“A lot of people will try to leave Hong Kong,” said Patten, adding that he feared capital would flow out. “It will be pretty rough in the next few months.”
The autonomy of Hong Kong has so far given investors confidence in the area’s legal and governance systems. China’s legal system is accountable to the Communist Party.
“What you are conflicting with is a dictatorial idea of what the law is with common law, which will undoubtedly lead to a constitutional clash,” said Patten
He added that the West was even more naive with Xi’s China than with post-Soviet Russia.
“What Xi has shown so far is that if you don’t fight bullies, they’ll continue to harass you,” he said.
Patten said the West should stand together when allies – such as Australia – were attacked by Beijing and be careful with companies like Huawei that have helped Britain build its 5G network.
“Huawei is an agent of an uncomfortable Chinese state,” said Patten. Huawei has repeatedly denied claims that it is an agent of the Chinese state.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Kirsten Donovan)