The Fight the West Needs Won
It started as a peaceful protest.
The people weren’t happy with proposed legalisation.
So hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets.
Banners were held, slogans were chanted.
Over the past couple of months, the protests in Hong Kong have moved from silent to loud to violent clashes between police and pro-democracy protestors.
But there’s the thing.
The Western world should be watching this fight.
Because the West needs Hong Kong to win this one…
The right to protest
Yesterday I mentioned that I am watching the Hong Kong protests carefully.
The reason is simple.
What China does next tells the West just how far China’s ‘modernisation’ has come.
Hong Kong is proud of its democracy.
And it has a vibrant history of protesting. Sometimes they’ve been peaceful demonstrations…sometimes they’ve ended up in violence.
But the point is, Hong Kong has embraced freedom of speech, and the freedom to challenge the government.
However, the protests taking over Hong Kong today are different from any other in its history.
Let me show you why…
Legislation damages freedoms
The protests stemmed from the proposed Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019. This bill was put forward by the government of Hong Kong.
The purpose of the bill is to enable extradition of people who are wanted in territories that Hong Kong does not have a treaty with. Namely, China and Taiwan.
The bill isn’t a simple partner swap of fugitives.
It’s much more sinister than that.
There’s the risk that Chinese dissenters can be captured by the mainland Chinese government just for being in Hong Kong.
Furthermore, this proposed bill means that anyone passing through Hong Kong (including foreign nationals) could be sent to trial in Mainland China.
Essentially, the legalisation would undermine Hong Kong’s Westernised legal system.
The bill is so damaging to the people of Hong Kong that it has received widespread criticism from around the world.
For now the bill has been shelved, but not revoked.
But that doesn’t mean it will be forgotten. In fact, the Hong Kong government’s decision not to dump the bill entirely has enraged the Hong Kong people even further.
The speed at which the government tried to push the bill through also alarmed people.
Four months later, the protests are worse, bigger and more violent than people expected.
What started as a peaceful protest back in March has escalated rapidly. It has a gone from a few thousand to several hundred thousand people storming the streets.
And China has been sitting on the sidelines…watching and waiting.
Hong Kong doesn’t want to be China
At the root of these protests is the fact that the people of Hong Kong want to maintain their democratic society. They do not want the authoritarian rule of China hanging over them.
Hong Kong is a city where people are free to protest. China is not.
Hong Kong is a city where people are free to worship their deity of choice. China is not.
Hong Kong is a city where people can voice their opinion without fear of reprisal from the government. China is not.
Tensions are heating up.
However, they’re increasing because of the Beijing-leaning government’s handling of the situation.
Law enforcement is using increasingly deceptive tactics, which is no doubt feeding into violent behaviour.
Aside from commonly accepted forms of riot-defusing techniques — like tear gas, pepper spray, pellet guns and crowd disbursement methods — Hong Kong police have been actively targeting people.
There have been plain-clothed police joining the protesters, and then arresting them when they decide their behaviour is ‘disruptive’.
But it gets worse. There are several videos showing police brutality. In one video, police are seen shooting pellet guns at point blank range (within one metre of the target).
In one instance, protesters were leaving a venue, and entering a train station in an orderly manner, when they were attacked from behind by police, shoved into walls and then fired with pellet guns.
Adding to the chaos is the fact that there are no protest ‘leaders’ to negotiate with.
Hong Kongers are terrified that if they identify themselves as leaders of the movement, it will lead to imprisonment from the Chinese government when the world stops watching these protests.
Police block free press
Why aren’t you hearing more about this?
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At the moment, the only thing I’m seeing from the Australian press is the odd travel warning. And coverage every couple of days…generally pushed all the way down to the bottom of a newspaper’s website.
Out of sight, out of mind — right?
Or perhaps publications are incentivised to avoid reporting on it.
Markets are down 3% in the US, and the Aussie market is taking the same path right now. Doesn’t that matter more than a protest 10,000 kilometres away?
However, accurate information on the protests is getting much harder to access.
Journalists and reporters from Hong Kong have repeatedly said that the Hong Kong police are making it impossible to report on what’s happening.
According to reporters, police have trampled them and shoved them out of the way when they’re reporting.
The internet is littered with videos of police flashing lights in journalists’ cameras to prevent them from getting accurate footage of how the police are treating the rioters.
This means that few people outside of Hong Kong are getting accurate coverage of the crisis.
And then there’s the propaganda coming out of China…
Nothing but propaganda
Make no mistake about the Hong Kong protests. China is doing everything it can to control the narrative reaching us.
Chinese state-owned newspapers recently called the protests ‘the first signs of terrorism’.
The South China Morning Post has actively sought to dampen the protests, insisting that the protesters are getting news from the ‘wrong’ sources by using social media for information, and driving the information divide between social groups.
More to the point, each article from the SCMP points out that the protesters are mainly youths.
To boot, there a pro-China Twitter account doing its best to demonise the protests.
Finally, in a bid to show how powerful the Chinese government is, China has bullied a private company into towing the line.
Cathay Pacific (a Hong Kong-based airline) have been forced to hand over identification of any crew member who is going to enter Chinese airspace.
Pressure is mounting on companies to support the Middle Kingdom’s government.
Make no mistake. The Chinese government is using state-owned news outlets, Western social media platforms, and the coercion of privately or publicly owned Hong Kong-based companies to show support for the China machine.
Military on the border
Twenty-five kilometres is all that separates the Hong Kong people from the military arm of China.
There are many videos showing scores of military trucks, tanks and assault vehicles driving down a freeway to amass on the Hong Kong border.
Some of these videos have come from citizens.
Those videos are far scarier, as they show the sheer scale of the Chinese military.
Why hasn’t China invaded yet?
Well, it’s taken 30 years, but there’s now an entire generation of Chinese people who have no idea about the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
In China, the government calls it the ‘June Fourth Incident’.
Whatever you want to call it, the Chinese government is responsible for the ‘official’ 300 protesters who died that day. Depending on who you ask and what you read outside of China, the real death toll could be 1,000-10,000 people.
The West has not forgotten about this. It serves as a grave reminder that the Chinese government does not tolerate dissenters.
The point is, the Chinese government is ready to deploy its military to ‘contain’ the protests in Hong Kong. But it would rather the world didn’t watch it do it.
One country, two systems’ no more
Hong Kong and China are meant to have a ‘one country, two systems’ type of setup.
However, Hong Kong was meant to fall under totalitarian rule in 2047. The end of two systems has always been part of the plan.
But that transition is likely to happen much sooner.
The proposed fugitive bill plays a key part in bringing the two systems closer to an end.
And the people of Hong Kong do want to lose their democratic freedoms.
Those in the West have not forgotten about China’s martial law. And if Chinese President Xi Jinping sends in his military now, it’s a clear signal to markets that Chinese is a totalitarian society and its moves to mimic Western capital markets are just a mirage.
Democracy in Hong Kong is under threat. And what happens in Hong Kong matters to you.
If China does indeed storm into Hong Kong and exert its military authority, then the West has all the confirmation it needs that China will never morph into a society that favours individual liberty.
China will be sending a message to the world that all of our personal freedoms in the West are in jeopardy.
Watch what happens in Hong Kong.
Watch how this is reported back to you.
Anything from China is an absolute assault on the freedoms of the Hong Kong people.
China is a global superpower. Squashing democratic rule in Hong Kong is effectively a challenge to all Western democratic countries.
Hong Kong is the litmus test for our personal freedoms in the West.
We need Hong Kong to win this fight.
Until next time,