Reese: Stand in Solidarity with the People of Hong Kong


Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protest (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

For weeks, the people of Hong Kong have taken to the streets to protest their government and to show support for democracy. People young and old have peacefully protested against the government for allowing influence from mainland China into their local government. The tension began to build when a controversial extradition bill (supported by Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam) was introduced that would permit Hong Kong citizens to face trial in mainland China. According to the protesters, extradition from Hong Kong would continue a pattern of power shifting from the island to the People’s Republic of China, violating the principal of  “One Country, Two Systems” established in the 1997 agreement that saw Great Britain wrest control of its former colony.

While these peaceful protests eventually escalated into violence, Hong Kong citizens deserve the support of other pro-democracy people across the globe who must stand in solidarity with them against the oppressive Chinese government. Blaming these pro-democracy protesters for violence is shortsighted and unfair, as the threats posed by Chinese rule are worth fighting against. They are being pushed to violence by government suppression, not because they are violent extremists. This government is so inhumane, it is clear that many Hong Kong citizens do not feel as if they have another option but to willingly stand up to the powerful forces seeking to crush them.

The Chinese government, like many influential, economic powerhouse nations, is an oppressive and cruel regime. Hong Kong citizens’ freedoms are under threat from the same government that has been committing ethnic cleansing in Tibet since the 1950s as well as the current genocide of the Uighur people, which includes the forced sterilization of Uighur women. While looking to the past and present of China, Hong Kong citizens can see that the Chinese government is a direct threat to their way of life, culture, society and identity.

China has already gone to work to paint the protesters as the villains in this conflict, spreading misinformation in an effort to turn the rest of China against Hong Kong. Some reports have even claimed the Chinese government is helping to push organized crime syndicates to attack protesters in an effort to make the situation appear more violent.

These brave protesters should be commended for their use of brilliant tactics to express public dissent. Protesters have started a sit-in at the Hong Kong International Airport, disrupting air traffic and canceling fights to bring their protest to the global stage. This tactic is similar to when American airport workers went on strike to demand the end of the 2019 government shutdown. Air traffic is a global connector for people and trade, and disrupting it applies pressure to force governments to respond to the will of the people — as they should, since the beauty of democracy is that governments are expected to be in service and submission to their constituents, not the other way around.

The people of Hong Kong deserve the full support of democratic countries with their own histories of revolution against oppressive regimes. Protesters in Hong Kong have been documented singing “Can You Hear The People Sing?” from the musical “Les Misérables,” using the influences, inspirations and ideology of past revolutions as a rallying cry.

The leaders of the nations who tout their support of free democracy globally should certainly not show solidarity or sympathy with China. When President Donald Trump was asked to comment on the protests in Hong Kong, he weakly stated, “The Hong Kong thing is a very tough situation, very tough. We’ll see what happens, but I’m sure it will work out. I hope it works out for everybody — including China, by the way.”

Spineless comments from President Trump are no surprise — his administration commits atrocities of its own within the United States — yet it remains disappointing for a president of a powerful democratic nation to leave other democracy-seekers without support.

Thankfully, even as President Trump tiptoes around Chinese President Xi Jinping’s brutal regime, political leaders within the United States are speaking out and taking action. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) called out Trump’s irresponsible stance in a tweet:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has begun to push legislation that will penalize Chinese officials who try and aid in the suppression of Hong Kong citizen’s freedoms. If world leaders will not take strong stances, it is up to lawmaking bodies to pick up the slack and stand in solidarity with Hong Kong.

Some may ask why the protests in Hong Kong are something that Americans and college students should pay attention to. After the election of Donald Trump, people took to the streets to protest his election, and in the following months, protested to defend the civil liberties of many marginalized communities. People in Hong Kong are doing what Americans and other citizens of democracy do when they are frustrated with leadership and their freedoms are threatened — they protest. Any person who supports civil rights, civil liberties and self-determination should stand in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong. Contacting Utah’s elected officials in D.C. to ask them to stand with Hong Kong is one way to show solidarity. Joining a protest yourself is another. On Saturday, Aug. 17, a protest is planned in Provo to demonstrate support to the protesters in Hong Kong. Hong Kong needs and deserves our support against the cruel, inhumane Chinese government that seeks to suppress their voice.

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