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USA Today Opinion: We’re in a new Cold War. Hong Kong, like Berlin before it, is the first battle.

An opinion piece in USA Today by Marion Smith, executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C., argues (as the title says) that the U.S. is in a new Cold War with China, and the protests in Hong Kong are the first battle in this new Cold War.

Smith writes:

Would the United States have let the Soviet Union invade West Berlin? Never. Yet America is on the verge of allowing Communist China to enslave the free city of Hong Kong. If this happens, it will be one of the greatest abdications of U.S. moral leadership in history.

Marion Smith in USA Today

This seems overwrought. The US is not “allowing” China to “enslave” Hong Kong. As regrettable as it is, China already controls Hong Kong, through their appointed chief executive, Carrie Lam. The U.K. handed control of Hong Kong back to China in 1997, per the agreement that had been worked out. There is nothing that the US can do about that bit of history.

Not only that, Hong Kong’s Basic Law still applies, and the Hong Kong legal system is still in place. Yes, Beijing has been meddling in Hong Kong, and that is what led to the protests, but Hong Kong’s government and legal institutions have not (yet) been overturned. The Global Times (a media arm of the CCP) has said that there will be no repeat of Tiananmen.

Smith goes on:

The United States is apparently unwilling to make the case for freedom — or even to publicly say a free city like Hong Kong even deserves to stay free. America having put down the torch of freedom, communist tyranny is on the march, no longer content to gather strength in the shadows.

Marian Smith in USA Today

Several U.S. Senators of both parties, including Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, have made strong statements warning Beijing against violent crackdowns. So Smith appears to be incorrect on the facts, unless “The United States” means to him “President Trump.”

On top of that, Hong Kong is not really a free city, and never has been. As most everyone knows, from 1845 to 1997 (other than a four-year gap in the 1940’s when it was ruled by Japan), Hong Kong was part of the British Empire. In 1997 it was handed back to China, per China’s treaty with the U.K. Even though it has its own semi-independent government and legal system based on the U.K.’s, it is not really, truly free. Certainly, Smith knows this, so why he called Hong Kong a “free city” is puzzling, unless his purpose is just to stir up emotions.

Could President Trump make stronger statements in support of the protesters? Sure, obviously. Should he? That is a much harder question to answer. Trump clearly believes that he has a good relationship with Xi Jinping. He may believe that maintaining that relationship is the best approach for influencing China’s approach to Hong Kong. Is Trump right about that? Maybe, maybe not. Only time will tell.

Beautiful Lotuses in Southern China

Although the situation in HK has dominated the news recently, it is not our intention on this site to only cover politics, nor to bash China. Beyond politics, there is much to admire about China – it’s long, complex history, beautiful landscapes, strong family orientation, ancient traditional culture, and energetic modern culture.

This scene from Xishuangbanna in Yunnan province, far in the south of China, showcases a bit of the beauty of China’s scenery. The amazing, huge floating lotus leaves are able to support the full weight of a person!

SCMP: Editorial and a Related Article on Hong Kong’s Economy and Political Situation

The South China Morning Post published an editorial titled, “More than money needed to resolve city’s political crisis.” The editorial argues, as the title says, that the political situation in Hong Kong cannot be resolved by pumping money into HK’s economy. We agree. As we said in this article on this site, “You can only buy people off for so long.”

Hong Kong is facing both political and financial problems, some brought on by the U.S. tariffs, and others brought on by Beijing and the HK government’s ham-fisted handling of the political situation (brought on by the proposed extradition amendment to HK’s laws) and the resulting protests. As committed authoritarians and statists, Beijing just cannot see why people would be angry at the loss of their political freedoms and right to self-determination. They seem to think that if people are prospering financially, then they won’t care what kind of government they have. That might be true in mainland China, where the people have never had political freedom or lived under the rule of law. Hong Kong is a much different case. Once people are free, they will not willingly surrender their freedoms. This is a huge blind spot for Beijing.

The SCMP editorial concludes:

The political crisis can only be resolved by political measures. It is incumbent upon the Lam administration to gear up for the challenge, not just to help businesses weather the storm, but also tackle the root of the problem.

SCMP Editorial

The editorial is no doubt in response to measures introduced by the HK government to deal with HK’s economic problems, reported on in a related article cited in their editorial.

The sweeteners, spanning help for small businesses to student subsidies and fee waivers for low-income households, will cost the government nearly 50 per cent more than it had originally planned for one-off measures in the annual budget for this year, which carried the price tag of HK$42.9 billion.

Making the announcement, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po
 cited a host of reasons for the relief measures but studiously avoided the word “protests”, describing the anti-government demonstrations of the past two months instead as “recent social incidents”.

SCMP Article

The SCMP editorial is spot-on. Unfortunately, unless and until the CCP is willing to allow political freedom in China as a whole and let the Chinese people exercise their right to self-determination that all people naturally have, this problem will not be resolved.

A Common Sight in China Gets a Little Quieter

In China, it common to see older women dancing together in parks and other open spaces as a form of exercise. It’s China, so of course, these exercise sessions are organized and planned – no random dancing to whatever music you might want! Typically, the older ladies use a “boom box” or other portable sound equipment to play the music to which they all dance together. Often there are dozens of women dancing; the music can be quite loud, so they can all hear it. The loud music often disturbs people living and working nearby, so the women sometimes aren’t so popular with their neighbors.

Well, some of these dancing aunties/grannies have come up with a solution. Xinhua news reports that one group of women have all bought headphones, so they can hear the music without disturbing their neighbors. Nice!

Dancing Aunties in Guangxi

China Daily: Return to Rule of Law in Hong Kong

Chinese state-run media arm China Daily reports that legal scholars in mainland China are saying that Hong Kong must return to the rule of law to solve the current problems.

Returning to the rule of law is the only way to solve the current problem in Hong Kong, leading legislators and legal scholars on the mainland said on Thursday.
The rule of law is central to Hong Kong society, but recent violence has damaged its value hurt people around the country, said Han Dayuan, member of Hong Kong Basic Law Committee under the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislature.

China Daily report

Is their sense of irony completely broken? Will the Beijing government allow an independent judiciary, evidence-based trials, presumption of innocence, and the other important aspects of a free and fair legal system in mainland China? Doubtful. How do they dare to presume to tell Hong Kong, which does have a fair legal system, what they need to do? Thus far, all Beijing has done is to undermine Hong Kong’s legal system. That’s what started the protests in the first place. What an embarrassing article for China Daily.

Hong Kong Free Press: Chinese Media Says No Repeat of Tiananmen Massacre

The Hong Kong Free Press reports that Chinese media (Global Times) says that any crackdown against protesters in Hong Hong will not be a repeat of the Tiananmen Massacre in June, 1989.

China is much stronger and more mature, and its ability to manage complex situations has been greatly enhanced.

Global Times as reported by the Hong Kong Free Press

The Chinese media is not free and not trustworthy, so make of this announcement what you will. Let’s hope what they are saying is true.

SCMP: HK Civil Servants Warn of Strike in 2nd Petition

Another interesting article in the South China Morning Post US Edition reports that more than 350 civil servants signed a petition – the second within a month – warning that some government workers may strike over the HK government’s handling of the protests.

Chinese media controlled by the CCP has been painting the unrest and violence as the fault of the protesters; this petition lends credence to the protesters’ claims that violence is being incited and perpetrated by the HK police.

“We have lost count of the number of ‘crimes against humanity’ Hong Kong police committed and we feel ashamed to call them colleagues,” they wrote, citing UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet’s warning that some acts by the force could run against international norms.

Kong Kong civil servants in their petition to the HK government

If the government refuses to make any concession, it will disappoint civil servants and leave little room for dialogue. We cannot preclude some colleagues making their voices heard by taking part in marches, rallies, or strikes, to save Hong Kong from the brink of breakdown.

Kong Kong civil servants in their petition to the HK government

SCMP Opinion: Carrie Lam Could End the Protests with One Speech

In an opinion piece appearing today in the South China Morning Post, Richard Harris – chief executive of Port Shelter Investment – argues that Carrie Lam could end the protests with a single speech, and he provides the text of such a speech in the article. Key points to his model speech:

  • An apology for proposing and complete withdrawal of the amendments to Hong Kong law allowing extradition of Hong Kong citizens to mainland China for trial and guarantees that it will never be revived.
  • An independent study by an “overseas judge” who will be “be tasked to investigate all aspects of the recent disturbances in Hong Kong,” so that the HK government can learn from the protests and improve.
  • Amnesty from legal action for the protesters.
  • Amnesty from legal action for the HK police.
  • Negotiations between the HK government and the protesters, and amnesty from legal action for the negotiators for the protesters.
  • Significant investment by the HK government into infrastructure, education, increased minimum wage.
  • Review and improvement of the HK government bureaucratic structures.

Many of these proposals make sense, especially complete and utter abolishment of any effort to subject HK citizens to mainland Chinese law, negotiations with the protesters, and legal amnesty. But without concrete, significant, guaranteed steps to give HK citizens more political self-determination, these proposals will be fruitless in the long run. You can only buy people off for so long. Likewise, unless the Beijing government backs negotiations, negotiates in good faith, and honors agreements without restrictions, none of this will make any difference. Negotiations that do not bear results or agreements that Beijing reneges on at their own convenience will just make the HK people angrier.

New Tactic in Chinese Disinformation Campaign

The latest in China’s disinformation campaign regarding the Hong Kong protests is to compare the response of the Hong Kong police to the response of police to protests and riots in other countries, especially (of course) the U.S. They don’t understand (as usual) that it is a tacit admission of Hong Kong police brutality and incitement.

The other aspect that they (of course, again) don’t understand is that the governments at all levels in the U.S. and other western democracies are legitimately elected (yeah, I know, there is some corruption, but speaking generally). There is a means provided to the people for changing the government. Every two and four years we have a “peaceful revolution” (an election) in the U.S. where the people can vote in new representatives, senators, and president. These elections also happen at the state and local level as well. The people select their own governments, which is as it should be.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

United States Declaration of Independence

Because the powers of the government of China were not derived by the consent of the people of China – and especially not by the consent of the people of Hong Kong – China’s government, and Carrie Lam’s government in Hong Kong, are by definition illegitimate governments, the people of China and Hong Kong have the right to protest and to establish new governments, should they so choose.

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