“Hong Kong has created one of the most successful societies on Earth.”
HRH Charles, Prince of Wales
In 1997, an era ended and Hong Kong was transferred from the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China. For one-and-a-half centuries Hong Kong had developed, prospered and thrived under the influence of the West, becoming a beacon of freedom in Eastern Asia.
The West held its breath, hoping for a miraculous end of authoritarianism in China. This transition from tight state rule to democratic freedom is yet to occur. Now, the threat of violence hangs over the city; Chinese forces now stand poised to seize the last beacon of freedom on the East Asian mainland.
This has come unexpectedly for some. Why now has the situation spiralled out of control? Why now have matters come to a head? Has not the disgraceful attempt by the Communist sponsored government of Hong Kong to introduce a mainland Extradition policy been thwarted?
What these questions fail to realise is that the events of the last few weeks are not ‘out of the blue.’ They are simply the long overdue culmination of twenty-two years of encroachment by mainland China on the freedoms of Hong Kong.
China is bound to maintain its commitment to the ‘one-country, two-systems’ style of governance that was agreed ere Britain ceded the sovereignty of the city. Yet China, as it has for so many years, seems unconcerned about its duty to abide by a rules based international order as its constant violations of international treaties and agreements show. The people of Hong Kong cannot directly elect their leader, and protests in 2014 did not sway the mainland’s desire to limit open elections. In 2015, four persons connected with a Hong Kong publisher of books banned in China, and later a fifth, ‘disappeared’. Since 2017, Carrie Lam has served as Chief Executive of Hong Kong, beholden to the mainland. In 2018, the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party was banned. Judges have been pressured, votes suppressed and freedom curtailed. Hong Kong’s separation from the mainland has been literally closed, by the construction of massive infrastructure projects that link the city with the mainland. The Extradition Bill is simply a symbol of a long process of unacceptable integration with the mainland. No respect has been shown to the agreements that set out the future for the territory.
Hong Kong, however, is so much more than just another violation of international agreements, or unscrupulous trade practices, or the unlawful construction of artificial islands. Hong Kong is a living, breathing edifice of Western culture and a testament to the West’s values, and the power of those values to bring prosperity to all, regardless of race, culture and history. When will we stand forth and say that enough is enough?
Hong Kong and its fate matter, even to us in the West. It is a society whose success is built on the very same foundations as our own society: democracy, the English common law, the rights to be free, to find success. Hong Kong endures as a symbol of the great tenets of Western civilisation such as liberty and equality before just laws. This rich tradition is the birthright of our societies, birthrights that we take for granted. They are the birthrights of Hong Kong as well. Will the West now stand idly by, with eyes shut and fingers in our ears, as the tree of liberty is cut down and burned before us? Will we sit idly by and allow the dark thuggery of our ideological opponents to triumph? Will we continue to stand by and allow the weight of tyranny to crush our friends in Hong Kong?
We cannot sit idly by, with not a word of condemnation, not a single impulse of action great or small. To go down that path is to abrogate our duty. When we who have freedom come not to the aid of those without, we condemn them and damn ourselves.
Hong Kong is the great test of our time. Our duty to uphold the freedoms of the oppressed ended not with our victory in the Cold War. If we do not maintain the field of liberty and safeguard the crop of freedom, the raging fire of tyranny will burn it, and we shall be left to tread through the ash and dust that remains. The call has been made. Our duty and our purpose have been made clear. Are we strong enough to answer that call?
The Pearl of the Orient is entrapped by the dark, raging storm. Will history record that we were the ones to save it from the overmastering torrent of tyranny?
By Alexander Back