Hong Kong protests: How China mocks human rights
Recently, Hong Kong occupied the limelight in international news with depictions of mass protests, violence, and various wrongdoings committed by the Chinese government and protesters. This reporting, while important, fails to note the severity of the situation and the oppression that the people of Hong Kong face at the hands of the Chinese government and the Communist Party that heads it up. Hong Kong was initially a small bit of territory that was largely unpopulated and belonged to China until 1860, at which point it was ceded to the British government after the Opium Wars. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the British held unchallenged control over the region until 1898, when they agreed to a lease on the territory for 99 years with the land being promised to the Chinese government when 1997 rolled around. Eventually, the territory was turned over to the Chinese per the agreement, but there was an additional stipulation from the British. According to Vox, China allowed Hong Kong to remain independent and have a democracy for fifty years (until 2047), thus making it a part of China but also politically distinct from the mainland. This agreement is called the Sino-British Joint Declaration (SBJD), and it is the basis of China’s claim to Hong Kong.
However, China never really fulfilled its end of the bargain. Despite what China claimed to agree to, the parliament of Hong Kong not only is anti-democratic, but its executive office is as well, according to Vox. The people of Hong Kong did not choose the chief executive, Carrie Lam; a small committee of pro-China officials chose her. The legislative council, the parliamentary body of Hong Kong, has seventy seats. In a decent and honest democracy, the people in each respective district of the society would vote upon who sits in these seats, but in the faux democracy that is Hong Kong’s legislature, this is not the case. The people of Hong Kong don’t vote for all of these seats; thirty of the seats are reserved for various business industries connected to China, as reported by Vox. In every election that Hong Kong has had, the pro-democracy parties have won majority support from the people of Hong Kong, but they are a minority in the legislative council. Simply put, the agreement that led to China owning Hong Kong in the first place has not been followed. China was supposed to wait until 2047 to begin integrating Hong Kong’s political system into China, but in 2014, the Guardian reported that the Government in Beijing vetted the pro-democracy candidates in that year’s election, resulting in protests. China’s entire claim to Hong Kong is based on the democracy that was supposed to exist there, but there has been nothing of the sort granted to the people of Hong Kong. If anything, China’s claim under the SBJD ought to be null and void, nonexistent.
Which brings me to the current events: the protests in Hong Kong. The New York Times reports that the protests began in June of this year over an extradition bill that would allow criminals fleeing to Hong Kong to be returned to Taiwan, but also mainland China. On the surface, this seems unremarkable and perhaps reasonable, but when dealing with the Chinese government, nothing is so simple. China routinely allows its people little to no freedoms, suppressing speech and activism, and treating such activities as criminal. So, if someone in Hong Kong, a territory technically in China, decides to criticize China, they may be sent to the mainland to face a much harsher criminal justice system there.
Indeed, Hong Kong has already begun to see this political repression. The Atlantic reports that three organizers who started the aforementioned 2014 protests were put on trial for a non-violent demonstration that was met with violence from their government. Similarly, a group of bookstore owners were kidnapped from the island for producing literary works about scandalous behavior perpetrated by Chinese officials. It should be no surprise that people took to the streets, taking action against the government that was not even theirs to begin with. What is surprising is how little people seem to care. Carrie Lam, the appointed Chief Executive in Hong Kong, called upon emergency powers to ban masks in public, according to the Wall Street Journal, ensuring that the police that serves the pro-communist agenda will swarm demonstrators and beat them down as they already have.
In one instance, the Hong Kong Free Press reported that an officer knelt on a protester’s head whilst hitting him with a baton. In another instance, it was alleged that police officers shot pepper spray into a crowded group of protesters, rupturing one individual’s eye, according to the Hong Kong Free Press. The Chinese currently have over 12,000 troops stationed in Hong Kong, a force that answers directly to Xi Jinping, the president of China, as Reuter’s reports. Everyone should condemn this enduring violence and brutality, and the world should not idly watch while Democracy perishes before our very eyes. If we are serious about opposing tyranny, then maybe we should start with our number one business partner, China.
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- Vox. “China Is Erasing Its Border with Hong Kong.” YouTube, YouTube, 25 July 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQyxG4vTyZ8.
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