Walmart lists “Respect for the individual” as one of its core values. Coca-Cola says it works toward “a better shared future that makes a difference in people’s lives, communities and our planet.” Merck explains that it is “committed to the highest standards of ethics and integrity.” Amway proclaims its principles of “freedom, family, hope, and reward.”
Those words ring rather hollow when one considers how these and other major American companies just saluted a top Chinese Communist Party official, Wang Chen. Vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress, Wang was sanctioned by the State Department on Monday in response to China’s escalating repression in Hong Kong.
Wang’s ignominy doesn’t appear to bother businesses such as Amway, Coca Cola, ConocoPhillips, Dell, Honeywell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Mars, Merck, and Walmart. After all, these corporations are the exclusive U.S. members of the American Chamber of Commerce-China’s, or AmCham-China, so-called “Chairman’s Circle” of companies.
As first reported by the South China Morning Post, Wang provided a keynote address at AmCham-China’s annual dinner on Thursday. I reached out to each member of the “Chairman’s Circle,” asking whether it supported Wang’s dinner attendance. Dell and Hewlett Packard Enterprise declined to comment, but none of the other companies even responded. I also asked each company whether it had any reaction to China’s criminal charging of Hong Kong resident and businessman Jimmy Lai on Friday. Lai is accused, without evidence, of conspiring with foreign interests to undermine China’s national security (full disclosure, I write a weekly column for Apple Daily, a Hong Kong newspaper owned by Lai). Again, aside from Dell’s and Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s declines to comment, not one company responded.
This saluting of Wang, and by extension, the Chinese Communist Party, stains these companies. As they clap for Communist China, Xi Jinping’s war on Hong Kong is only escalating. Acting in overt breach of its treaty obligations under the Sino-British joint declaration (under which China promised to respect Hong Kong’s democratic rights until at least 2047), Beijing is destroying the former British colony. Xi’s interest is clear: to trammel any semblance of original thinking and free expression and instead imprint the Communist Party’s drone-like orthodoxy onto Hong Kong’s identity.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned companies are far from alone in their tolerance for China’s war on human rights. American banking institutions have shown a similar disinterest in speaking up for the rights that people take for granted, and Hong Kongers are now losing.
These businesses should be wary about so easily offering fealty to Beijing. Consumers might be willing to ignore the Communists’ oppression of Hong Kong and their soft genocide against China’s Uighur Muslim population. But as American service personnel come under increasing threat of Chinese military attack, American businesses entertain growing risk in their happy salutes to Beijing.