Will Xi Jinping, China’s president for life, be able to stop protests in Hong Kong?
One million people filled the streets of Hong Kong to protest a new extradition law
By Dawn Hoagland 6/25/19
Why should Americans care about what is happening in Hong Kong? The international community must pay attention. It is a Chinese city of seven million people that was once a colony of the United Kingdom for over 150 years. It has its own independent judiciary based on common law. It is the only place in China where freedom of speech is upheld for now. “Hong Kong is not China! Not yet!” was one message at the protest.
Hong Kong has a unique history. It is a “Special Administrative Region,” which has been allowed to maintain rights and freedoms that people in mainland China do not enjoy. In Hong Kong there is freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to own private property and an independent judiciary. Hong Kong has thrived under this capitalist system. Communism must be strictly enforced in mainland China because no one would choose to live under surveillance and without freedom. This odd policy is called one country, two systems.
Hong Kong was officially returned to China in 1997. Under the treaty signed by the UK and China, Hong Kong was guaranteed fifty years of semi-autonomy. It will lose its special status in 2047, becoming just like every other city in China, fully under the control of the Communist Chinese Party. How will that work?
One country, two systems allows freedom in Hong Kong for a limited time
The prospect of a law allowing China to extradite (basically kidnap) anyone it wants has provoked even the most mild-mannered Hong Kongers to hit the streets. Communist China’s opaque legal system is criticized for forced confessions, arbitrary detentions, torture, and imprisonment of political opponents.
Business and capital will leave Hong Kong if China continues to erode the independent rule of law there. No one has any confidence that the extradition law would ever be used fairly to obtain justice. Carrie Lam, the current Chief Executive of Hong Kong, insists that she initiated the passage of the law because of a brutal crime which occurred in Taiwan.
The case resulted in the perpetrator fleeing to Hong Kong to escape prosecution for murder due to a loop- hole in the law. He was finally jailed in Hong Kong for bank fraud, but will be released in a short time. Taiwan is sympathetic to the protests of the Hong Kongers, and has stated that it will not extradite this murderer even if Carrie Lam passes this law. Taiwan does not want to justify Lam’s actions.
Propaganda in China confuses the issue
Mainland China is suppressing news about the protests and blames them on the United States. The Hong Kong police estimated the number of protesters to be 240,000. Everyone else agrees that it was over one million. Propaganda whether in mainland China or Beijing backed agencies in Hong Kong is the norm.
When he first came to power in 2012, Xi Jinping announced a list of seven “unmentionables” which are values to be combated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Western constitutional democracy, human rights, media independence, civil participation, pro-market liberalism, and criticism of the CCPs past are all on this list of unmentionables. The unmentionables are the very values that millions of Hong Kongers cherish.
Chris Patten was HK’s last British governor who handed over the territory to China in 1997. He said in an interview in 2017, “Hong Kong is made up of refugees from some of the awful events in modern Chinese history, the Great Famine, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution, people who had swum to Hong Kong, people who clamored over barbed wire fences in order to get away from the mainland. So it was a city very largely made up of refugees and immigrants from mainland China. You can’t expect them to view with huge enthusiasm being back in China’s grasp.”
Joshua Wong was jailed for protesting as a student
Joshua Wong, a well-known activist, was released from prison on Monday, where he had served his time for participation in the “Umbrella Movement” in 2014. He was only seventeen when he led the occupation of HK streets in an effort to gain the democratic right for the citizens of HK to elect their own leaders. Within three hours of leaving prison, Wong joined the June 2019 protest, immediately voicing his disdain for Communist Chinese leaders.
He made this statement, “We will not allow Xi Jinping and Carrie Lam to suppress us. Carrie Lam must go. Hong Kong people will not keep silent. Hong Kong is still far away from democracy but we will continue our battle.” Carrie Lam tried to quickly push the extradition bill through the legislature.
On June 12, 2019, after one million people filled the streets of HK, and police used 150 rounds of tear gas as well as rubber bullets to disperse peacefully protesting students, Carrie Lam released a statement apologizing for poorly communicating the details of the bill. In an attempt to quell the protests, she announced a suspension of the extradition bill.
Suspending the law instead of withdrawing it forever is an insult
The people of HK were insulted that Lam was making it seem as if their protests were only due to a misunderstanding of the bill. They were angry that the police used batons and rubber bullets which injured students. Almost twice as many protesters filled the street the following Sunday with signs that read, “Withdraw the bill,” “Stop Killing Us, “and “Do you hear the people sing?”
Carrie Lam clarified that the incident on June 12 would not be classified as a “riot,” and anyone who had been arrested for peacefully protesting would not be prosecuted as a rioter, which can bring a ten year prison sentence. Lam’s apologies have been rejected by the people. She has lost their trust completely.
Lam is trying to appease the protesters to get them off the streets. Recently, police have been trying to project a kinder, gentler image paroling without tear gas and full riot gear. In Hong Kong, a religious gathering does not need a permit, so protesters repeatedly sing hymns while occupying the streets.
The New York Times subtitled a Hong Kong article, “Crushing civil liberties is harder when the whole world is watching.” It is, however, easier when Western companies sell facial recognition technology, tear gas, and rubber bullets to a brutal communist dictator. Microsoft, Google and many others are complicit.
Will Xi Jinping be president for life?
“Live by the sword, die by the sword” may be the fate of this president for life. Xi Jinping used brutal tactics to rise to his position of power. When he is no longer president, he will be vulnerable to retaliation and attacks by former political opponents who may use their power to crush him financially or even literally.
Joshua Wong, student activist, has no interest in being under dictatorial rule now, in 2047, or ever. He speaks as one who understands that if they do not speak now, China will just take power, not even waiting for 2047. America should show support for the fifty year treaty guaranteeing Hong Kong autonomy. This may give Hong Kong and ultimately all of China enough time to realize that communism and authoritarian dictatorships ruling with brutal force can never successfully suppress the people’s God-given right to be free.