[August 16, 2019] Something is going on that most folks in the West don’t know much about, nor seem to care. In Hong Kong, officially a “special administrative region” of China,1 there are large protests that started with a new Chinese law allowing citizens in violation of the law to be extradited to China for trial. Initial protests sprang up to oppose the law. The unintended consequence of this opposition morphed into something new and infinitely more significant.
What happened? The citizens of Hong Kong started to see the light of freedom and democracy. This was a seismic shift, open defiance of the Chinese government, and with it tremendous risk. The protesters now number an estimated 2 million. In response, China is massing troops in what is a clear signal that they will not tolerate such “lawbreaking.” The people of Hong Kong should know that Communist governments do not tolerate open revolts.
Here are some of my thoughts:
1. The risk of a bloody showdown is high. China’s senior leadership may use the protests as the final straw to resolving the independence of Hong Kong and finally bring them back into the fold of mainland Communist China.
2. The passion of Hong Kong’s citizens run deep on the issue of independence, freedom, and their desire to have a government that is elected by them and controlled by them. Any Chinese crackdown will not dampen this spirit very long and poses a serious risk to China.
3. Democratic nations have not shown a lot of support for the citizens of Hong Kong. Many in the West say it’s time for those who value their freedom to make it unmistakably clear that they stand with the freedom-demanding citizens of Hong Kong.
4. If China were violently to put down the protests and get away with it, they will learn that the West is a paper tiger. This will dramatically change the international calculus of how China views the rest of the world. What would they do next?
5. The China-US trade war is part of the makeup of any Chinese decision on what to do about Hong Kong. There are enormous risks to all parties involved if China were to crackdown on Hong Kong. Worldwide, financial markets have tumbled in response to this news.
6. Does the West have a response ready if China violently overthrows Hong Kong’s government? The West, particularly, the U.S. should have a clear redline that they will not accept Chinese violence. Any response from the West should be immediate, clear in message, and designed to punish China economically and politically.
Of course, these are just my thoughts. Some friends have helped shape my thinking; I hope for the better.