Protests by pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong have continued to escalate in recent days. Protesters on the street are battling with violent pro-China demonstrators (who are clearly backed by Beijing) as well as militant Hong Kong police, leading to several deaths and hundreds of casualties on both sides in the last week. Strict curfews and strong-arm police tactics have been answered by protesters with flaming arrows, homemade incendiary devices, and sophisticated street actions in what has become round-the-clock unrest on city streets. Communists never were good with uprisings.
Protests began this summer after Beijing’s handpicked Hong Kong administrator Carrie Lam announced a law that would allow China to extradite Hong Kong residents to the Mainland for crimes committed in the autonomous region. The law was rescinded after widespread protests, but Beijing’s continued meddling in Hong Kong’s political and economic affairs has not quelled the protests.
Chinese President Xi Jinping recently stated that the Chinese government would do whatever it deems necessary to bring an end to the violence. Coming from a Chinese leader, this could mean anything, up to and including tanks rolling through the streets of Hong Kong. This not-so-veiled threat has not quelled the unrest.
Hong Kong now faces major disruptions due to the protests and the police response. Stores have shuttered and business has suffered. Rail, road, bridge, and tunnel routes have been blocked by protesters, making it difficult for people to travel to work. Universities have told students not to report for classes, fearing that campuses will become the target of violent clashes between protesters and the police.
When it assumed control over Hong Kong in 1997, China had pledged to adhere to a “one country, two systems” policy for 50 years. Of course, like most things the Chinese government says, that was lie. Beijing worked in subtle ways for years to slowly convert Hong Kong into a province that would answer solely to the communist government’s rule, but things went into overdrive after Xi became president in 2013. Since then, Beijing has chipped away at Hong Kong’s autonomy, inserting puppet officials in public office and tightening restrictions on commerce and free speech.
Beijing finds itself in a tough spot, though. Hong Kong is one of the world’s richest cities and a key economic bridge between Mainland China and the rest of the world. If China meddles too much in autonomous affairs, that could all go away, particularly if the United States, Great Britain, and other nations withdraw trading partnerships with the region.
The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed a bill requiring the secretary of state to review Hong Kong’s record on human rights and democracy annually, giving the president the power to strip the region of trade and customs privileges should it fail to pass muster. The Senate is expected to pass the bill soon, with President Donald Trump’s signature all but assured.
Pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong wave American flags and call upon the support of the United States in their fight against the communists. It is evident after the horrors of the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square that Beijing will stop at nothing to maintain power. The United States must respond with its full support for the brave men and women putting their lives on the line in Hong Kong.