Hong Kong: A Losing Battleground for Freedom

Hong Kong: A Losing Battleground for Freedom

Hong Kong. What is it, like, a country? A city? An island maybe? Do they speak Chinese or British English?

Well, sort of, yes, sort of, and yes. Hong Kong has been tumultuous and roaring since the founding (historical fiction nerds should read Tai-Pan for a rollicking telling of Hong Kong at its origin). The unfortunate truth of the matter is that most people aren’t aware of the nuance and political dodginess that make Hong Kong vibrant while threatening the very core of its identity, freedom, and inhabitants.

Hong Kong started as a mostly uninhabited archipelago. In short, the British set it up as a concession to open China’s back door while simultaneously trying to preserve some of the Middle Kingdom’s ‘face’. It was a British territory until 1997.

The crown ran the city as a libertarian’s wet dream, allowing the free-market to run rampant with the excesses of a China that couldn’t trade freely and the capital injections of international businesses clawing at the dragon’s tail.

Laissez-faire capitalism made a lot of people rich, including the Chinese. It was for this that they tolerated Hong Kong’s abundance of freedom, democracy, and free speech. That all started to change under a certain Pooh Bear who decided his iron paw needed whetting with that sweet Hong Kong hon- .. money.

You see, China had been rolling with a ‘one country two systems’ policy up until a rumble disturbed the bear’s tummy. What the CCP couldn’t have predicted was a massive backlash from Hong Kongers – they took to the street in protest by the million. In the age of social media, those buggers in the Hundred Acre Wood knew they couldn’t just Tiananmen their way out of this one; they decided instead to drop the legislative hammer.

Extradition and National Security laws

It started with an ‘extradition’ law. If Hong Kongers broke mainland Chinese law, this new piece of legislation would have allowed them to be extradited to mainland China for trial. The protests quashed that law, and things were looking up for pro-freedom in the CCP sphere.

The CCP, being the nefarious bunch of freedom-hating gangsters they are, couldn’t stand being beaten. The Hong Kongers had dealt them a blow. And when a honey bear loses face he becomes way more dangerous than if you’d just backed him into a corner.

Enter China’s draconian and frankly insane ‘National Security Law’. You see, in order to protect the stability of an autocracy, you must spare those within it from the power of free speech, because people might just tell the truth when you allow them to. When you allow people to protest legitimate grievances you may have an awkward moment of discovering that those grievances are indeed legitimate and that you and Christopher Robin and that stupid donkey thing have been total dicks to everyone else in the forest, and they might find out.

What the National Security Law does (more details here – I’m going to give the gist without spelling out the particulars) is disallow criticism of the CCP. Because criticizing the CCP is actually a national security issue. Because if everyone was allowed to do it they might realize they’re living a few artistic liberties shy of a Bladerunner film. Which would rightfully and with proper justice threaten the nationalist security that the CCP has fostered.

Get this, though: these buggers had the audacity to make their national security law international. This means (as our previous guest Ken so succinctly put it) that anyone in the universe can be charged under the law. For criticizing China’s ruling party. As in, they’ve already charged an American living on US soil with it.

The CCP: As Always, a Threat to Global Freedom

We may scoff at the utter pedantry on display here, but it’s really quite telling and rather pathetic that the international community hasn’t sounded more of an outcry. Hell, we at the Liberty Revolt (who spend more than a fair amount of time in China and will continue to do so) could be charged under the law for writing this article. Will the CCP overcome their bureaucratic scruples to actually slap small-fries like us with charges? Na. But they could.

We can one day imagine a world in which certain countries who may or may not have their balls in debt-trap vices decide to cooperate judiciously with the CCP and send their own citizens to Mainland China for trial. Though this may seem like a stretch, far more outlandish things have been done on the basis of political gain or backlash.

Hong Kong was a frontier in the fight against the CCP for justice, human rights, and free speech. It’s clear that forecasters who predicted the liberalization of China with economic prosperity were dead-wrong. As Xi pulls Western textbooks from Chinese schools and widens the breadth of enforcement on those who dare oppose him, we who live in at least nominal freedom must realize how Hong Kong has tipped the scales.

Protesters have been arrested for holding up blank pieces of paper. Children and teenagers have been indicted and cast off to the mainland for trial, where the conviction rate is 99.9%. Chinese law states clearly that all court cases must be decided in favor of the CCP.

Conclusions

We don’t much balk at the masses of people already living under authoritarianism; from this disappointing fact of life springs the adage that injustice everywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. But watching a city that’s been nominated as one of the freest in the world succumb to tyranny hits differently. Ignorance is bliss for those long-clenched in the iron fist. Hong Kongers don’t have the luxury of ignorance. They know what they’re up against and what they’re losing. Many are leaving in droves, though many more will stay.

Pundits on the fringe have stated that China is a globalist model for the world. While I personally think this a stretch, there’s no denying that Hong Kong is a model for every thinking Chinese who dares to oppose the CCP.

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