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.
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.