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.
Protestors in Hong Kong are using the American flag and anthem as a symbol of freedom to rally.pic.twitter.com/QNyJdQlG1Q
— Melissa_Strategic ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (@Melis_Strategic) August 11, 2019
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.