tv Dateline London BBC News June 16, 2019 11:30am-12:01pm BST
proposed law is demanding that the proposed law is permanently scrapped. the jailed british iranian woman nazanin zaghari—radcliffe has gone on hunger strike as iran protests about british claims that iran was behind attacks on two oil tankers. president trump has launched a scathing attack on sadiq khan, the mayor of london, over violent deaths in the capital. hundreds of people in lincolnshire still can't go back to their homes because of flooding, described by the environment agency is unprecedented. —— as unprecedented. now, dateline london. hello and welcome to dateline london. i'm carrie gracie. this week: hong kong in tears. gulf tankers in flames.
and britain's marmite man in pole position to become the next prime minister. my guests today are chinese writer diane weiliang, uk political commentator steve richards, agnes poirier of french news weekly marianne, and american journalist michael goldfarb of the podcast frdh. hong kong wept last week. its leader, carrie lam, was in tears because so many of her citizens distrusted her assurances on a new extradition law and took to the streets in protest. the protestors wept because they had been tear gassed by police. but their determination paid off. this weekend, the government suspended its plans for the extradition bill and said it would listen. what next for the unique and fragile ecosystem that is hong kong? diane, what happened here?
this looks like a a dramatic u—turn. last week, the government was defiant, sending out police with rubber bullets. it is in some ways a surprising move. if we look at the 2014 yellow umbrella movement and the stand—off, the hong kong government won in the end. recently, it was the 30th anniversary of the tiananmen democracy movement, and we know how that ended. that was beijing, not hong kong, and we know how that that autonomy, as we have been watching, has been eroded over time. this is one country two systems, it is not absolute terms. in a way, it was slightly surprising for carrie lam to step down and suspend the vote.
overnight, she was reported to have met with the minister for hong kong from beijing, and no one knew what they discussed but my suspicion is this is people power, and the demonstrators are winning this round, but it was the result of international pressure, for example, donald trump indicated he could bring this up at g20 meetings with xijinping in two weeks‘ time. in the context of the us—china trade war. and the us congress had passed a bill to annually assess the trade status with the us and china. lots of different active groups. we will come back to the international dimension in a moment, butjust to look
at the action on the streets of hong kong, what was really noticeable on this occasion was the support that the protesters had both from elements in the business community, the legal community, it wasn't just young students. that was important for any scholars of chinese history, china has had a long history of student—led movements that ended up in failure. 30 years ago, when those students went to tiananmen square, the big learning was, we must do something that was different than the may the 4th movement in 1990, which was to involve the whole community, the workers and civil servants, because student—only protests had never succeeded in china. this is a successful
movement as an example. but with a broader support and the voices of young people have become stronger. the uk has treaty obligations to hong kong until 2047, this 50—year period of autonomy, one country, two systems, but the british government was slow to get involved in talking about this extradition bill, really only since we have seen people on the streets. was it fear of beijing or misreading the mood in hong kong? both of those, but there is basically a vacuum in britain at the moment, ministers are not behaving normally. the foreign secretary is involved in a leadership contest. i don't think ministerial minds are focused very much on anything else, going on to iran in a moment, and to some extent the same applies there. it is partly that. it's partly the fact that it is trying to manage, in a way, an arrangement that worked theoretically at the time, but will be constantly challenged
in practice because the power lies with china, and i think it will be a constant balancing act. a combination where eyes are off the ball in the uk at the moment plus a constant reading about where power really lies, it lies probably, even though this protest was successful, with the chinese government. while we are doing the people confused by leadership elections, there is a leadership change going on in europe. do you think the underlying issues are the same as those steve has mentioned in relation to the uk, the assessment of forces on each side? there are french citizens speaking here, it always pays off to take to the street. the first round is victory for the people of hong kong, so it is a great thing to see from europe, but it is also... we are so far away and we fear that
hong kong is doomed eventually, you know, there is china and there is democratic china, which is hong kong. but in 28 years, it is going to be completely china, not democratic china. some businessmen are moving their assets abroad, and singapore and japan are going to welcome that very international community with a lot of ties to canada, europe and america, and it looks as if, if you look back five years ago to the umbrella movement, there was an optimism about it, and although we are seeing this from far away, i can only see despairand pessimism in hong kong, despite the great victory. if we take a long view, it looks to me like the last battle of hong kong.
michael, what do you think the us makes of all this? agnes says it is democratic china, but there is limited democracy in hong kong and more democratic china is actually taiwan. how does the us see these forces aligned ? you say the us, and we have to be specific and say, how does the trump administration see these things. who knows? one of the problems with the chaotic international leadership of the trump administration is that you just don't know. i am sure that this will be used as a chip in any negotiations with china, with the trade war growing and every week there are two or three different stories coming from either side about raising tariffs here and there, besides getting angry. i don't think democracy enters into it. if the people in hong kong, the brave...
can ijust say how remarkable it is? my twitter feed is full of hashtag resistors who send out nasty things about donald trump and think they are striking a blow for democracy. i million people from all walks of life went to the streets, they were not met with flowers, and this is an action for democracy. but in the trump administration, it becomes, this is a chip to play, or another sporting metaphor, hong kong does not want to be the football being kicked between the people's republic of china and the united states. i have not read anything about this from american congresspeople or anything but this is an action of democracy. 0n the numbers, the protesters said they had those numbers but the police say far fewer. but we saw the pictures.
i want to go to beijing and its strategic objectives and how it sees its strategic direction in hong kong. it must be a difficult moment for the chinese communist party which likes to see itself as unassailable, invincible and likes to look like that on the street. which they still believe they are. they see this as a setback but also in the short term it is strategic because they have the donald trump meeting, the 620, the trade war, they have bigger fish to fry. 0n the other hand, over time, i have to agree with agnes that you will see hong kong deteriorating, this autonomy, and we have already seen it happen. in this protest, people are already behaving very much as if they were in china. they don't talk to journalists, they don't want to give their names, they wear masks so they will not be photographed. because they fear
long—term victimisation? yes. it is different from the yellow umbrellas. hong kong is becoming more like china. china knows. playing a long game? absolutely. now we have to talk about iran. as on may 12th, so onjune 13th. except bigger. attacks on two tankers in shipping's most sensitive chokepoint. this time with fires that force the crews of both ships to evacuate. the us said iran is responsible. on friday, it released grainy video to back up the charge. iran hotly denies it. an aircraft carrier strike force is close by. how do you read this situation? this is probably an escalation of two long—term antagonists
who, at the moment, my guess is, in washington, the "we want a war with iran" faction is now in the white house, john bolton, mike pompeo, so they are pushing for aggressive action. do they really want a war? i don't think they really want a war, i think they would like regime change if they could, they cannot, and in iran you have the revolutionary guards, and they have factions but we don't get to know much about it because you can't operate as a journalist in iran and really explain what's going on. the question about war is important here. people get upset, "we are going to have war!" i remind people that iran kidnapped 52 american diplomats and kept them hostage for a year —
we didn't go to war. they blew up 250+ marines in beirut, we didn't go to war. over the last 40 years, where we are now is a lot of tension and it may increase incrementally, but we don't think about the other player here, which is russia. iran and russia are involved in syria and intimately connected, geographically, they are intimately connected, it is only a 500—mile drive from russia's main western caspian sea port to iran. if you put these factors together, you think, if russia wants to intervene here, is there going to be a war? no, but there will be tension. that is the great game you have set out and on the other side there are the uae and saudi arabia and regional rivals. 0n the direct question of
who actually attacked these tankers? i really worry about the rush. you would think all signs point to iran, even the foreign office today said, yesterday, jeremy hunt said on balance we think it is iran. but steve just eloquently and briefly pointed out that nobody is really paying much attention at that level in the british government so they mayjust be echoing america. you have to say, who benefits from doing this? they didn't sink anything, they made a point, the japanese owner of one of the tankers said it wasn't landmines — it was something that flew in and hit the side of the vessel. and it happened on a day the japanese prime minister was in tehran. exactly. everybody is making points. we have spoken about the 620 meeting. at the end of this month, there is supposed to be a big meeting in bahrain where the us
is going to present its plan for israel— palestine peace. i think it is about getting attention and, lord knows, we are talking about it, so they've got attention. and agnes, what about the european perspective on this? are the europeans blaming iran or are they blaming the trump administration for tearing up the nuclear deal? well, they haven't been as quick as the uk to actually say, "oh, yes, we clearly concur with donald trump's evidence". actually, germany said, we need more evidence. and i don't think president macron has said anything yet. actually, it might be iran or it might not be iran. but all this is the result, i think, of the very undiplomatic move by trump to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal we had with iran, which took so many years to actually strike. how does that relate?
well, because, i mean, the diplomacy of trump as regard to iran is all coercion, basically. so we're going to cripple your economy, more sanctions, and what is there for iran? iran made a real effort with the agreement. it was not a perfect agreement, but it was something. and actually, iran, a few weeks ago — do you remember — said if you are really wanting to ruin our economy, we are going to take measures so perhaps it is those attacks. so that question open and, talking about those who leave the question open, the opposition in the uk, jeremy corbyn, has said we should not be rushing tojudgement on this. where does that leave him? it leaves him making a distinct point, and he will get criticised for it, but in my view it is quite healthy to have a british political leader not automatically rushing
to assume that the us judgement on this is right. quite unusual in british politics. normally, a labour leader of the opposition will feel so under pressure to show their "responsibility" to lead as a potential prime minister, they would follow the orthodoxy. corbyn never follows the orthodoxy. now, he gets condemned as being anti—american instinctively and so on. but i think, at this point, where the evidence is not definitive, it is very healthy to have a sceptical voice as prominent as the leader of the opposition and quite unusual, not for him, but in british politics over the last 30 years where there is an immediate consensus which often proves to be wrong. i don't want to leave china out of this discussion either because, of course, global economic superpower, huge growing interest in that region, and both those tankers last week were bound for asia, so where does china sit on these issues? china is one of the largest
importers of oil from iran, a huge customer, and china has always said, in some ways, together with europe, that, when trump withdrew from the deal, that this was going to happen, that the tension would rise in the region, and china has always been against that move. china, together with south korea and japan, had exemptions from importing oil until very recently, november of last year, when trump cancelled that, so in a way that was the last lifeline for iran's economy. now it is being strangled. it is not out of the question that iran would have to react and this has been predicted by many countries, china included. ok, and we will leave that topic there because we're going to come back to the uk now. we are less than one week into the conservative party contest to find a new leader
and a prime minister to lead the country out of its brexit crisis. but several candidates have already fallen by the wayside. is the frontrunner now heading for a coronation? i think that's one for you, steve? the frontrunner being boris johnson, the former foreign secretary, stand—up comedian, various other things that he has done at various points. well, he's clearly the frontrunner. i don't think it will be a coronation. i think the contest has to continue into what becomes the last two candidates, like a whodunnit going to the party membership. i don't think the party membership want or would allow a coronation before they get the chance for that... and yet, of course, that is the speculation this weekend that in westminster there's forces that are saying, let's wrap this up, there's too much blue on blue conflict. it might happen, they might say that brexit is so important let's not extend this unnecessarily. i suspect there will be a contest which goes to the party membership. what i find so interesting about this contest is that,
more than most leadership contests, all kinds of extraordinarily wild pledges are being made, as if this new prime minister would be elected into a parliament in which he or she could do what they wanted, but what is unusual about this contest is it is taking place in a hung parliament, so the new prime minister will have no control over that parliament. leading in a hung parliament demands almost impossible skills of patience, of cunning, of charm, of mastery of detail, of accepting defeats and carrying on. every prime minister who has experienced it, go through forms of political hell. it seems to me now that the membership, not the candidates, are addressing that context. they are all saying, we will be out of the eu by the end october, or tax cuts here, tax cuts there — it will not get through a hung parliament.
the skills of a potential leader in that situation have not been tested or even raised as an issue so far, in what has been a kind of fantastical contest, in the sense that plenty of fantasies are out there. michael, what's your take? it's interesting, steve talks about this and i think we all, you know, the joke about the unicorns in the brexit deal have now extended to the entirety of the leadership contest. we never talk about jeremy corbyn when we start talking about brexit and the conservative party, but one of the dynamics that i have noticed is for this system to work, and actually it's true in the united states as well, is there has to be a viable opposition. it acts as a buttress to keep the abstracts of our political processes going, like a bicycle, it has to turn over otherwise it falls over. and because of the nature of the labour leadership, that buttressing simply doesn't
exist and so, if there was a plausible opposition, you wouldn't have a dozen anybodies contesting this leadership. there would be one or two plausible candidates, because labour would be presenting a plausible opposition platform but, because labour is absent on brexit, which is the big question confronting the country — he's trying to have it both ways, because jeremy corbyn hasn't really built on the surprise result of 2017 — it allows the conservative party to go off into cloud cuckoo land, which is what it seems like, and you end up with borisjohnson. on this programme a year ago, when we had conservative voices on, i've been told borisjohnson will never be prime minister because the parliamentary party, the conservative parliamentary party hates him, and here we are a year later and he is going to be crowned. agnes?
well, where do we start? look, there is only one candidate that is facing reality — his name is rory stewart, of course, he doesn't stand a chance of being elected as the head... and what do you think is the reality he is facing in a way that others aren't? all the others say, we are going to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement. this is not going to happen. all they can do is to re—discuss the political declaration with brussels, with the eu. and rory stewart is the only one to say, actually, there is only one withdrawal agreement. he also is not confrontational. you could see how, although he is a pure tory, you could see how perhaps being very different from theresa may, he could build a consensus in parliament. but let's not talk about him because he is not going to be elected... borisjohnson says, on your point about what is not negotiable, he doesn't believe that
because he believes that, the closer you get to a possible no deal, then brussels will change its mind. brussels is obviously very familiar with boris johnson, from various different episodes in his career asjournalist, as brexiteer, and as foreign secretary. do you think they think, bring it on, when the see borisjohnson so far in the lead or do you think they are brooding and muttering? i think both. they are bewildered, like the rest of us in europe. this national exercise in self— harming is bewildering to watch. you don't like seeing a friend self—harming, basically. boris johnson, the problem is it is a deadly combination between narcissism and laziness, and you don't achieve anything in politics, especially negotiating, with 27 other members, with that quality.
i want to get diane in here. agnes obviously not a big fan of borisjohnson but his supporters say he will bring energy, he will bring charisma. well, i think the dysfunction of the tory leadership election, it is a reflection of the dysfunction of politics in the country, where only one item has been catching attention for the past three years and exhausted everyone's energy, so it becomes who can promise the biggest and best solution on this one single solution alone? and whether it will be achieved or not, it is completely cast to the side. that is the reality that these contexts are representing, and so we are not looking at the quality required for a prime minister... coming back to you, stephen,
we are running short of time, but these kind of messages suggest that perhaps another few weeks of this contest is not really what the nation, or what some, will want. i think they will because theresa may, if you remember, got crowned with the thorny crown of prime ministership, after a very short contest, when she wasn't really tested, and so i think they will continue with the contest. the reason why — i did worse than your fellow panellists saying a year ago he wouldn't get it, i wrote a column! so it's probably out there somewhere... that's very honest of you. i thought all the rules of politics suggested he wouldn't get it, but i think what has changed... why, just briefly? in ten seconds, there was a sort of hysteria around him and, where there's hysteria, candidates don't tend to win. but what has changed — in ten seconds — is donald trump has given permission for candidates to surface with epic flaws and win. and nigel farage is this great campaigner, specifically on brexit,
and they feel they need a "winner" in that context and they think it is him. so i think those two factors have made him now the clear favourite when a year ago many were saying he wouldn't get to the last two because mps wouldn't back him. and there we have to leave it. thank you all so much. and that is it for dateline london for this week. we're back next week, same place, same time. goodbye. if you're planning to head out and the skies are clear and blue in your area, showers the skies are clear and blue in your area , showers may the skies are clear and blue in your area, showers may be heading your
way. lots of people have been crossing other parts of the country in the last few hours. you can see the winds blowing the showers inland. some these showers will be very heavy, bringing thunder and hailand very heavy, bringing thunder and hail and gusty winds so at times not particularly pleasant but some sunshine from time to time. later on in the day into the evening, heavy rain pushes into parts of northern ireland, the north west of england and scotland, but by the evening and end of the night it will have dried out. but not completely. there are still some showers there. monday will bring fewer showers to england and wales. there will be some around but most frequent showers for northern ireland and scotland. hail and thunder possible as well. towards the middle part of the week, it will warm up a little bit but more showers and thunderstorms to come in from the south.
this is bbc news i'm ben brown. the headlines at midday: tory leadership contender dominic raab says his party will be "toast" if britain isn't out of the eu by the end of october, and he accuses parliament of trying to ‘steal‘ brexit from the voters. the damage it's doing to businesses, many of whom come to me and say, we just want to know what you're doing, but also this corrosion of public trust, and it is... the tory party will be toast unless we are out by the of october. there's another huge protest in hong kong as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators march — despite a government climb—down on its controversial extradition bill that would send suspects to mainland china. the jailed british iranian woman nazanin zaghari—ratcliffe begins a new hunger strike — as tehran formally protests about british claims that iran was behind attacks