The Hong Kong Reminder

While we fight over the things that really matter, which pronouns to use and whether there are 37 or 38 genders, the people of Hong Kong have taken to the streets in defense of autonomy from China.

The demonstrations, which began as a fight against a bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be extradited to the mainland, have more broadly morphed into a call for free elections, which largely do not exist in China. To Beijing, it would be a direct challenge to the leadership, tantamount to losing control of Hong Kong.

When China reclaimed Hong Kong from the Brits in 1997, this clash seemed inevitable. How could a bastion of freedom, even if limited and even if subject to a self-imposed culture of order, exist within an authoritarian regime?

The unrest is exposing the inherent conflict in the political experiment that began when China reclaimed Hong Kong from Britain in 1997, an ambitious attempt to marry Beijing’s brand of authoritarianism with a bastion of civil liberties.

China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, wants to make Hong Kong more like a mainland city, using economic incentives to buy happiness and propaganda to win loyalty. The protesters, who represent a wide swath of Hong Kong, want a government that looks out for their interests, not just Beijing’s, to help resolve problems like astronomical housing prices and low wages.

The two sides no longer seem to recognize each other’s concerns.

The two sides are hardly equivalents in this fight. The protesters against the overwhelming might of China doesn’t seem like a fair fight, and it’s surely not. Yet, they have taken to the streets and march forward carrying a curious inspirational icon, the flag of the United States of America.

While Americans battle over their issues, Hong Kong protesters fight for their freedom from China. They do so without the aid or support of the president of the nation whose anthem they sing and flag they carry, but with the support of many Americans for whom freedom still matters.

Unlike the first world problems over which so many lose their heads, claim brutal suffering and trauma, the protesters on the streets of Hong Kong take rubber bullets, tear gas, bean bags and clubs. These inflict physical pain, not the psychic trauma of being “erased” by not being put on a pedestal for their virtue toward victims. There is no sign of the protesters letting up. China will not tolerate this insolence for too much longer.

The party is determined to not look weak in the face of the tumult, which has quickly become the biggest public resistance to the rule of Mr. Xi since he took power in 2012. The Chinese government has made veiled threats of military intervention and accused protesters of plotting a “color revolution” with help from the United States, referring to anti-Communist uprisings it says are orchestrated by the West.

“It is now a ‘life-or-death’ fight for the very future of Hong Kong,” Wang Zhimin, the head of the central government’s office in the city, warned members of Hong Kong’s establishment last week. “There is no room for retreat.”

For the past few years, we’ve been told the sky is falling, our society is crumbling, we must resist at all cost. Hong Kong is what a real fight looks like. And as they march into battle, perhaps doom, they carry our flag.

Kinda makes one think we’re not nearly as awful as some say, and we don’t appreciate our freedom as much as we should.

This isn’t about the US being perfect, or not having a great many problems in serious need of redress. This isn’t about how much you hate Trump or merely dislike him for his vulgar, amoral, ignorant, racist antics. And for the people who argue that no populace can stand up to the overwhelming might of an authoritarian government, you may well be right, but the protesters in Hong Kong are ready to take on the fight that some of you would not.

We are made no better or worse by the image of protesters in Hong Kong marching under our banner. We are a flawed nation and a flawed people. Yet, people risk their lives to come here, and there is no mass exodus from America for all that’s wrong. The reason we hear the complaints is that we cherish the freedom to speak out.

Hong Kong is facing a fight for its freedom, and the protesters have chosen the American flag to taken into battle, a symbol of freedom. Godspeed.

20 thoughts on “The Hong Kong Reminder

  1. Liam McDonald

    Holy crap, Scott. I was just in Hong Kong for 3 days and actually ran into the protests 3 times. (They move from site to site)
    They do NOT use the American flag in their protest, ffs.
    And they are not supported by the majority either. Just a sizable minority.
    Guess the interweb got it wrong

    1. SHG Post author

      So this is lying video, or maybe you didn’t see it and, given pathological narcissism, believe that if you didn’t see it, it couldn’t be?

      1. Liam McDonald

        One 18 second video does not a movement make. So do I believe this video or my own lying eyes

        1. SHG Post author

          You confuse two things: the video shows it happened. That’s all it needs to do. Second, believe what you want. What makes you think anyone else cares?

  2. Skink

    From once upon a long time ago:
    “We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

    A long time ago. A very long time ago. When that pledge was made, the signatories were assured two things: they would be defeated and they would be killed. They pressed on because they believed a world based on equality and justice could and should survive, regardless the personal cost.

    Now, our biggest problems aren’t recognized and those torches aren’t held. The squabbles are of pronouns and of perceived, often unreal, dissonance. The ability to recognize, and more important, engage issues with a similar pledge is lost art. We are a puny lot compared to those that made the original pledge.

    We have forgotten, if ever we knew. But somewhere in the world, maybe many places, others remember the promise that was once us.

    1. wilbur

      I believe the most important principle a person in this country can learn and internalize is that freedom isn’t free. There will always be those, foreign and domestic, who will probe for openings to take it away, either bloodlessly or through violence.

    2. B. McLeod

      The American colonists were not suicidal. Britain was a long distance away, and could resupply and deploy additional troops only very slowly, by sea. Britain was also in concurrent hostilities with France, which accordingly found it in French interests to provide material support to the revolutionaries.

      By contrast, China has no similar distance or resupply problem with Hong Kong, and no similar distraction with other foreign wars. Chinese tolerance of the protests to this point is (in my opinion) due to the government’s preference to avoid wholesale bloodshed and economic disruption in Hong Kong, which is a considerable economic asset to the Chinese. This tolerance will not be unlimited, and the protesters are indeed taking long odds and are risking long terms of imprisonment and summary execution. I don’t see this ending well for them, but it illustrates the importance people place upon autonomy, especially when they have become accustomed to it, and do not want to suffer its loss.

  3. Guitardave

    “… but the protesters in Hong Kong are ready to take on the fight that you would not.” That’s quite an assumption, Mr. logic and reason.

      1. Guitardave

        Thank you. There are still a few people who adhere to, and fully understand the consequences of the phrase, “live free or die.”
        PS: I also understand the phrase, “live to fight another day”, so you won’t see me volunteering to be a martyr.

        1. B. McLeod

          Fighting another day may or may not be an opportunity these people have. As bad as their prospects are, they might grow only worse with time.

          1. Guitardave

            Aye. ‘Tis true. For the serious patriot, when backed in a corner with absolutely no options, No. 1 trumps No.2.
            What i was thinking (but did not communicate well) with the second phrase, as pertains to the post, was the vague recollection of an unarmed man standing in front of an advancing tank. I have a feeling the Chinese Gov. ain’t gonna let that happen again. It’s a thin and blurry line that separates a brave act from a stupid one.

  4. Richard Kopf


    Just a couple of minutes ago, and I mean that literally, I received a text from my daughter: “Everyone home safely with no issues.”

    Yesterday, as Air Canada finally lifted off from Toronto (according to Air Tracker) on its way to Hong Kong, Joan and I breathed a sigh of relief. Our son-in-law and our three grandchildren, all born in China, would not be separated much longer from our daughter who awaited them in the family apartment just across the bay from Hong Kong in Shenzen on the mainland. While HKG was closed to departing planes, arrivals were accepted. (Whether that window has closed now I am uncertain.)

    Our daughter had to return early to take up her duties as a school principal. Her Canadian/Czech husband who is a teacher at the same international school and the grandkids could squeeze out just a little more time for their summer vacation. After the fourteen hour flight, the four travelers did not need to confront the protestors who had filled the arrival and departure area. They went directly within the Hong Kong airport to a water taxi and then on to the mainland to be reunited with their wife and mother.

    And not for the first time, my wife (who, coincidentally, was born in China to American parents shortly after the end of WWII) and I are reminded how intensely interconnected our world has become. Additionally, having traveled to China ourselves and having watching our little family grow and prosper in China over these last 10 years, we have come to love China and its people including the Hong Kongers.

    In short, two old people in America wish all of the people of (and in) China the very best including especially a certain five among the billion plus. And that especially includes a wish for peace.

    All the best.


  5. John Barleycorn

    So are you implying that The Obscene Articles Tribunal of Hong Kong will or will not get involved when the Jimmy McMillan banners start flying?

    1. Guitardave

      Liam, weather your wight or wong, as an SJ Associate Cultural Liaison I award you 50 bonus points for creative doubling-down. LMAO!!!

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