The Struggle for Democracy in Hong Kong Continues
While the People’s Republic of China has become the universal thug for its coronavirus cover-up, one would think, after certain countries threatened lawsuits against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), or under the pressure under the soft law by the international community, that the Xi Jinping regime would have learned a lesson. It seems, however, that the CCP is only exercising more muscle than anticipated.
Last weekend, the Hong Kong police arrested 15 more veterans of the uphill battle to preserve the freedoms that make the city autonomous. Those detained included the revered legal luminaries Margaret Ng, 72 years old, the crusading publisher Jimmy Lai, who is 71 and Martin Lee, 81 -- Lee is a Hong Kong politician and the founding chairman of the United Democrats of Hong Kong and its successor, the Democratic Party, Hong Kong’s flagship pro-democracy party.
Hong Kong is a special autonomous administrative region of China, located to the east of the Pearl River (Xu Jiang) estuary on the south coast of China. It consists of Hong Kong Island, originally ceded by China to Great Britain in 1842, the southern part of the Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutters (Ngong Shuen) Island (now joined to the mainland), ceded in 1860, and the New Territories. The Chinese-British joint declaration, known as “one country, two systems,” signed on December 19, 1984, paved the way for the entire territory to be returned to China, which occurred on July 1, 1997. It was ensured that Hong Kong would enjoy a “high degree of autonomy” until at least 2046.
What makes these arrests disturbing, apart that in nearly forty years of advocating for democracy in Hong Kong Martin Lee had never been arrested, is that notwithstanding Hong Kong’s autonomy to govern itself, Beijing’s Communist officials are clearly calling the city’s political shots. It is thus a sign during this pandemic-afflicted period, and of the determination of the CCP to exploit them. In other words, this is nothing more than Xi’s new effort and his puppet administration in Hong Kong to crush the pro-democracy movement, using the novel COVID-19 outbreak as a cover.
The spread of the virus already put a halt to months of mass popular demonstrations that authorities had been unable to quell, even with mass police repression and more than 7,000 arrests.
The protests were initially focused on a bill that that would have made it easier to extradite people to China from the semi-autonomous city. But the authorities’ harsh policing of the protests, coupled with a refusal of Hong Kong’s leader to completely withdraw the bill, compelled protesters to return to the streets time and again. After six months of protests, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition won a stunning landslide victory in weekend local elections in a clear rebuke to city leader Carrie Lam (Beijing’s puppet leader) over her handling of violent protests that have divided the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
The Hong Kong protests had served as a reminder of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy manifestations thirty years ago when a million Chinese students had both captivated and given the entire world the impression that communism in China was about to fall. Many of us vividly remember our tv screens, while U.S. and the rest of the “free world” sat and watched in silence, the scene of an unarmed man standing in front of a column of tanks -- the image of his defiance became a symbol of protest against the corrupt around the world -- halting their passage from the Square a day after the bloody crackdown of June 4; hundreds, if not thousands, were killed by the Chinese military, and many thousands of others were imprisoned.
Yet thirty years later not only has this event been practically erased from the memories of the Chinese people, China’s economy has catapulted up the world rankings, while political and religious repression in the country is harsher than many who watched those events would have anticipated. Fortunately, for the Hong Kong protesters, the United States came to the aid of democracy.
The inspiration for this was President Donald Trump’s signing into law the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which provides for regular reports monitoring the status of the rights and freedoms that China under treaty promised to Hong Kong, and penalties if these are found to be violated. Congress had also passed a bipartisan bill -- it passed in the House with a 417-1 margin and unanimously in the Senate -- suspending supplies to the Chinese police in Hong Kong with rubber bullets, tear gas and other anti-protest gear. The citizens of Hong Kong subsequently thanked America by singing “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Preoccupation with the pandemic did not prevent international reaction to the crackdown: Both the Trump administration and Britain issued critical statements, as did a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, pointing out that the CCP was blatantly disregarding the “one country, two systems.” Beijing swiftly rejected the criticism, but it may just have a more difficult time avoiding the repercussions that likely would come from Hong Kong’s foreign investors or its already aroused citizens -- even if the latter must wait until the epidemic passes.
Let us pray and support the pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong, and for that matter, the rest of the world where rogue regimes continue to carry out their slaughters of people who want to live in freedom. President Ronald Reagan once said: “America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.” This is why it is imperative that the U.S., as it did against the Axis Powers or the Soviet Union, notwithstanding its imperfections, continue to take up the cause of liberty in the world. If America does not do it, who will?