US-China trade war and Huawei ‘suppression’ show West wants repeat of opium wars, says Hong Kong lawmaker Kenneth Lau, chief of powerful rural body Heung Yee Kuk

The US-China trade war and “suppression” of telecoms giant Huawei showed that the West wanted to repeat the opium wars of the mid-19th century and other military campaigns against the country, a pro-Beijing legislator in Hong Kong said on Monday.

Kenneth Lau Ip-keung, who chairs powerful rural body the Heung Yee Kuk, was speaking at the organisation’s annual spring reception. The city’s top officials, including Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, and Wang Zhimin, head of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, attended the event.

China and the United States have been locked in a trade war since July and imposed hefty tariffs on each other’s imports. Further punitive action is on the cards if a deal is not reached before the end of a truce agreed by President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump in Buenos Aires in December in less than three weeks.

Since Canadian authorities arrested Huawei chief financial officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on December 1 at the request of the US, China has detained two Canadians on suspicion of endangering national security and sentenced a third one to death for drug smuggling, moves Ottawa described as deeply concerning.

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Lau said: “The trade disputes triggered by the US were like a tempest. Its suppression of Chinese corporation Huawei and Meng’s case showed that some people in the international community are trying to repeat the opium wars and the siege of the international legations.”

The first opium war (1839-42) was fought over opium trade and diplomatic disputes, and ended with Hong Kong Island being ceded to the British, while the siege took place in present-day Beijing during the Boxer Rebellion, a violent two-year uprising against foreigners in China that ended in 1901.

“They have got it wrong … We firmly believe that under the strong leadership of President Xi Jinping, no one can still the great revival of the Chinese nation, and the peaceful rise of China,” Lau said.

He also said the kuk would continue to support the government, despite some policy discrepancies.

“There is no perfect government in the world … Ip-keung dares to guarantee Lam that as long as I am the chairman, the kuk will definitely offer strong backing and be a loyal and reliable ally,” he added.

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In December, the High Court dealt with a judicial review, sought by former civil servant Kwok Cheuk-kin and social worker Hendrick Lui Chi-hang, on the controversial practice of allowing only male Hong Kong indigenous villagers to build homes in the New Territories.

Lau said the kuk has been waiting for the court’s judgment on the case.

“The result of the case will not affect villagers’ love towards the country, Hong Kong and their villages. It will not sever our loyalty towards the country.”

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