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September, 26, 2016

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Commentary > China Post > Frank Ching
After the disappearance last December of Hong Kong bookseller Lee Bo, Britain's foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, asked Beijing for information on his whereabouts, pointing out that the 65-year-old was a British national. China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, responded that Lee was "first and foremost a Chinese national."
 
In mid-April, the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong sponsored a lunch talk on the rule of law in China. What set this talk apart was the speaker: Wang Zhenming, head of the Law Department of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong.
 
China failed last week to pressure Japan and other G-7 countries into not discussing the South China Sea when they met in Hiroshima. Instead, foreign ministers from the seven countries issued a joint statement on maritime security on April 11 which, without mentioning China by name, emphasized the "fundamental importance of peaceful management and settlement of disputes."
 
For a country that believes strongly in noninterference in other countries' internal affairs, China, oddly, is constantly telling other countries what they can and cannot talk about.
 
The Hong Kong National Party, whose ideas of Hong Kong independence were weighed and dismissed by older and, presumably, wiser heads in previous years, nonetheless has succeeded in getting the attention of Chinese officials and, in the process, brought to the forefront discussion of freedom of speech in Hong Kong, a right clearly upheld by the Basic Law.
 
The impact of the latest health-care scandal in mainland China, this time involving the sale of illegal vaccines, is spreading as officials acknowledge that more than two-thirds of the country's provinces are affected.
 
The shock announcement that China and the Gambia have re-established diplomatic relations raises the specter of a return to the cross-straits diplomatic rivalry via checkbook diplomacy that prevailed before Ma Ying-jeou became the island's leader in 2008.
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Over the last quarter century, China's economy grew at a phenomenal rate, its diplomatic influence now reaches every corner of the world and its military might is rapidly approaching the level of American military power. Nevertheless, in one area, China remains extremely vulnerable: its human rights practices.
 
The case of the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers, who all turned up in China, has rocked Hong Kong society to its core, shaking confidence in the mainland's promises of "one country, two systems." At the same time, it has placed China under a microscope with governments around the world accusing Beijing of rampant violation of human rights and international norms by abducting individuals and taking them to the mainland.
 
The visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to the United States illustrates the seemingly schizophrenic relationship between the two countries that makes the word frenemies seem so appropriate.
 
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