By William J. Furney
The sterile halls of power in Beijing will be filled with fiery alarm at the mass insolence in Hong Kong when the omnipotent Communist Party thought it had full and total control of the former British territory. How dare the plebs rise up against an impending law that would see people suspected of various crimes extradited to the mainland!
China just doesn’t get how the Western world works; nor does it have any interest in anything to do with democracy. Hence, the Great Firewall of China that blocks anyone without a Virtual Private Network that can get around state-controlled online blockages and open up a world of information that’s rightfully theirs — including what their secretive, self-interested governments are up to.
When will the one-party state learn that the massive country of nearly 1.4 billion people — the world’s most populous — is not theirs to control, but that they should be under the control of the people?
Thirty years after Tiananmen Square, when people dared to stand up to the tanks that rolled into the central Beijing area in a show of force designed to quash a simmering rebellion, the message still has not been learned. And, tragically, the youth of China — many middle-class thanks to the rise of the country’s economic might and enjoying luxuries beyond the thoughts of their forebearers — don’t even know what happened in that heady maelstrom of events led by students in 1989. They are clueless about potentially destabilising political events in China because their government has prevented them from knowing.
It’s a cruel, dystopian existence that deeply betrays the people their government is supposed to serve but, actually and just like any authoritarian regime, is entirely self-serving.
So it’s no wonder that in formerly British-ruled Hong Kong, where the citizenry is more used to, and expectant of, transparency, they have had enough. Many have had their fill of hapless chief executive Carrie Lam, who naturally is in thrall to Beijing and has repeatedly refused to kill off the contentious extradition bill, despite repeated and mass protests that have been violent at the hands of both protesters and the police. She keeps saying it will die a natural death, sometime next year, as its time in the legislature runs out, and so can’t be passed into law; but that’s not good enough for high-minded Hong Kongers, who want it removed from the law-making schedule now, before it has the chance to rise from the dead. (She says it’s “dead”, but it’s not.)
Protest organiser Jimmy Sham, of the Civil Human Rights Front, said the fact that it was still not possible to vote for political leaders in Kong Kong — despite previous protests demanding a vote, notably under the Umbrella Movement of 2014 demanding democratic rights — was inherently problematic.
“The government, Carrie Lam, some legislators in functional constituencies are not elected by the people, so there are many escalating actions in different districts to reflect different social issues,” he told the Reuters news agency. “If political problems are not solved, social wellbeing issues will continue to emerge endlessly.”
Is China, and democratically minded Hong Kong, now experiencing its own version of an Arab Spring, the convulsive uprisings across much of the Muslim world in recent years that sought to trigger people-powered change but that, ultimately, failed? It’s possible, but unlikely.
The bulk of the rights of the world lie in Europe, where we have the kinds of wild freedoms that people elsewhere in the world could only dream of. Unlike China and equally Chinese Singapore, which is also a dictatorial state — both overwhelmingly ruled by money too — in wealthy, people-focused Europe we take a wider approach. This means our mindset is ruled not just by a material outlook but by the fundamental human rights of all people: to say what we want; to vote for who we want, and the ability to do so; to love who we want — and all of this without fear of any kind of reprisals or persecution.
China may be a rising economic power, but until it gives power to its people it will never have much clout at all. The Western world cannot, and certainly won’t, stand blithely by as China’s rulers walk all over their people and seek to impose their strong-arm ways in places like Hong Kong.
Money and might alone does not a nation make.