Hong Kong's darkest hour: A city beset but not defeated, and the world's imperative to support it
Views 23 | Time to read: 4 minutes | Uploaded: 10 - 23 - 2019 | By: Matthew Metz
For nearly six months, the people of my hometown, Hong Kong, have protested against a government that is increasingly infringing on their basic rights. While the protests were originally against an extradition bill, which would have allowed the mainland Chinese government to snatch activists, investigators, and political refugees to silence them, the protests have evolved into condemnations of police brutality, international law violations, human rights abuses, and calls for democratic reform. Make no mistake: the people know they are staring down the full might of the Chinese government; yet they still resist, saying that no matter how costly, justice and democracy are worth fighting for. It is the world’s moral and legal duty to support such human rights and democracy movements.
For the uninitiated, Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China, with its own laws, borders, and governmental system. Its leaders are appointed by the Chinese government, and administer the city with some autonomy. In recent years, that autonomy has been substantially eroded due to Chinese government interference. At the government’s direction, Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, ordered the police to use brutality tactics, hoping to scare the protesters into submission. Overnight, Hong Kong’s police force went from Southeast Asia’s finest to being condemned by groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the European Union. Widely spread footage showed police officers use overwhelming, disproportionate force against protesters, without any attempts at responsible safeguarding. It is also an open secret that both governments hired criminal gangs to undertake terror attacks against protesters, predominantly non-violent activists. The leader of the Hong Kong Civil Human Rights Front was recently hospitalized by five men wielding hammers, district councilors were beaten, and a 19 year old activist was almost disemboweled last week. Chinese state media has done everything possible to smear the protesters, from allegations of foreign sponsors to openly racist harassment targeting expats and ethnic minorities like myself. Most recently, police water cannons “accidentally” defaced a Muslim mosque in an attempt to scatter reporters, who have been increasingly harrassed by police and gangs.
Amidst increasing pressure, the protestors have not backed down. They know they resist an oppressive, authoritarian regime that cares nothing for justice or human rights. They know they are unlikely to succeed, but they also know that justice must be defended, regardless of personal cost. Stories abound of doctors and nurses taking to the streets to provide first aid to the injured, of lawyers rushing to help newly arrested protestors (whose only ‘crime’ is loitering or unlawful assembly), and of pastors and senior citizens following Gandhi’s example by standing in the way of charging riot police, shielding their younger peers with their bodies in nonviolent resistance.
It is said that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The Chinese government’s actions in Hong Kong set an unjust precedent for what they will do to anyone who resists them. It is actively increasing interference in international affairs, trying to suppress any negative press against itself, and punishing businesses that support Hong Kong. America, alongside the global community, must hold the Chinese government accountable, showing China that such interference is just as inappropriate as the brutal tactics it uses in Hong Kong and against its own people. Aiming to do just that, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, and (alongside the European Union) has banned sales of police weapons to Hong Kong. Americans and Europeans alike should follow their leaders’ examples by raising awareness about the many abuses the Chinese government attempts to silence. By telling the whole story and raising their voices, the people can further encourage further action by state and international actors to resolve the situation. Alone, the defenders of justice fall by the wayside. Together, they triumph.