Why Hong Kong Matters

Why Hong Kong Matters


Leonard Zwelling


If you visited Hong Kong, at least until recently, you would discover a very cosmopolitan city, rampant with capitalism. The streets are filled with people from Mainland China wheeling suitcases that they are filling with goods that they are buying in Hong Kong on day trips. These goods are either unavailable in the PRC or too expensive there. There was a line to get into Chanel when we were there in January of 2019. There were no westerners on the line that we could see.

Hong Kong is special. It even says so in its designation in the world. It is an SAR, Special Administrative Region, of Mainland China where freedom remains, unlike in the PRC. The people of Hong Kong do not consider themselves citizens of China. They are citizens of Hong Kong. And they want it to stay that way. The Chinese do not.

The days of the airport and street demonstrations were coming since the 1997 takeover of the SAR by the PRC and the countdown to 2047, when Hong Kong will be fully in the Chinese fold is getting closer. The people of Hong Kong do not want to get any closer to the Chinese. When the law was put in place that allowed extradition of prisoners in Hong Kong to the Mainland, the people rebelled. Carrie Lam is the puppet Chief Executive of Hong Kong. She is not handling the demonstrations well. It is reasonably likely that Chinese troops that are amassing just over the Hong Kong border will move in and quell the demonstrations if local authorities cannot. Demonstrations set for Saturday August 31 have been banned.

In the past, at a time like this, when freedom is being challenged by authoritarianism, the United States and its president could be counted on to speak out in favor of freedom and against autocracy. Not Mr. Trump. He just hopes no one will get hurt. People have already gotten hurt and the end is nowhere in sight. It is not impossible to imagine a scene like Tiananmen Square occurring in the shadow of the building from which Christian Bales’ Batman caught a plane.

This is a problem and it is a problem for America.

America is more than a place. It’s an idea. It stands for freedom and liberty. Freedom of speech and demonstration are part of the American character and the world looks to the United States to be a beacon of hope when the forces of oppression are stifling liberty in any part of the world.

This is clearly something that Donald Trump does not get. He cozies up to dictators and refuses to support our allies in Europe and Asia. He wants to make friends with Putin, Dutarte, and Kim, but will not severely warn the Chinese to keep their hands off the people of Hong Kong until 2047. Furthermore, there are people around Trump, Pompeo and Lindsay Graham, who grasp the importance of what is transpiring in the streets of Hong Kong and at the airport. They obviously have no sway in the Oval Office.

The American idea is in retreat. Immigrants no longer feel welcome. Even legal ones are going to be denied green cards if they use social services. We do not stand for anything any more and the world is watching.

It would be best if Mr. Trump made it clear that he supports the demonstrators’ demands of the Chinese authorities and backs their right to protest. It would be best. But Mr. Trump, like Yassir Arafat never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. This president is an embarrassment. We must vote him out of office for what he has done to our country and to the world.

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