Malaysia Dateline

Malaysia should play a constructive role in China’s conflict

While public attention is focused on the racial tension in the USA largely attributed to the late George Floyd’s untimely demise and inability of the American government to control the statewide situation, China on the other hand, is facing a challenge on its own.

Beijing’s decision to introduce the new National Security Law effectively reduces Hong Kong’s autonomy and places the island under substantial control of the central government, possibly impacting its economic freedom, trade relations, administrative powers and access to information going forward.

True enough, the outcome was poorly received in Hong Kong as protesters continue to voice out their displeasure in the open. The fact that leader Carrie Lam is positive about the legislation – said to establish and improve the legal system and enforcement namely through extensive targeting of terrorists and external forces interfering with domestic activities – is a major cause for concern among residents of Hong Kong.

Despite the consistent stance iterated by the Chinese government promising to uphold the concept of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ – repeated by Vice Premier Han Zheng on June 3rd – the prospects of reduced room for democracy and Beijing’s perceived intervention in Hong Kong’s administration undermine the peace and harmony in the region.

Taiwan’s role in the crisis sparked additional heat, as President Tsai Ing-wen’s opposition towards the security law gained momentum and provided much-needed support for Hong Kong to continue its fight against Beijing’s action and vouch for greater autonomy.

Judging by the recent ongoings in Taiwan and Hong Kong, China’s position as a champion of regional togetherness could be at risk as its handling of the legislative crisis is openly opposed by regional inhabitants.

On the flip side, there is a need to maintain mutual respect and develop positive relations based on the earlier agreement recognizing special arrangements between China and Hong Kong.

The benefits and drawbacks of the new law must be analyzed by all vested parties with care, without resorting to extreme measures to highlight discrepancies or disagreements as what’s being done in Hong Kong at present.

Additionally there must be a certain degree of tolerance between all sides involved, while China’s internal affairs could be handled with minimal or no outside interference. For instance, President Tsai’s hardline approach could be replaced by adoption of a softer tone based on the idea of promoting constructive deliberations.

If need be, Malaysia may be one of the most apt countries that would be able to move the Hong Kong-China discussion forward. Being a capable nation with strong East Asian ties (i.e. Japan, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan) in the areas of multilateral affairs, trade relations and sectoral exchanges, our credentials as a key mediator in global affairs are unparalleled and admired.

Malaysia’s possible efforts to resolve the existing hostility transcends economic aspects – it holds utmost importance in preserving regional peace, and helps to broaden the country’s democratic presence in the international arena.

With Covid-19 pandemic essentially recalibrating global economic trends, Asia is at the forefront of unprecedented expansion if the continental unity is strengthened and true potential of Asian countries is reached.

By ensuring our continuous peace and sticking to ethical principles, the goal of boosting Asia’s stature would be realized in the near future.

But the first step is to prevent any escalation of conflict, and China’s action in the region remains the prime component.