Last week thousands of Chinese nationals in Hong Kong held a mid-evening rally to thank America for supporting the territory’s massive democracy movement. Some came carrying American flags, many held up signs printed with American flags and the words, “Thank You.” They packed a huge plaza near the waterfront, spilled out onto the sidewalks and the ramps of a nearby parking garage, and stood on tiptoe at the edge of the crowd to watch speakers and singers on an open-air stage celebrate their cause of freedom and democracy.
Hong Kong has been rocked by a series of protests by hundreds of thousands of people in recent weeks, many of which have ended in violent clashes between police and pockets of demonstrators. The protests were initially focused on a bill that that would make it easier to extradite people to China from the semi-autonomous city. But the authorities’ harsh policing of the protests, coupled with a refusal by Hong Kong’s leader to completely withdraw the bill, mean protesters have returned 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.
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. The region is bordered by Guangdong province to the north and the South China Sea to the east, south, and west. 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, which include the mainland area lying largely to the north, together with 230 large and small offshore islands—all of which were leased from China for 99 years from 1898 to 1997. The Chinese-British joint declaration signed on December 19, 1984, paved the way for the entire territory to be returned to China, which occurred July 1, 1997.
The Hong Kong protests 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; an many thousands 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, this time 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. There is more to it, and plenty of debate over what the effects might be in practice. Maybe the main thing to know right now is that Congress passed it with bipartisan near-unanimity—it passed in the House with a 417-1 margin and unanimously in the Senate—and China’s government and its puppet administration in Hong Kong both hate it. The law will also suspend supplying the Chinese police in Hong Kong with rubber bullets, tear gas, and other anti-protest gear.
Let us keep praying and supporting 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 necessary that the U.S. lead the cause against human rights violations in countries such as North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and let us not forget China itself. If America does not do it, who will?
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