Anywhere else, it would've been a normal night on the train. But this is Hong Kong, and nothing is normal. Not anymore. When Ng Chi Fai changed out of his chef's clothes to go home, he did what five months of protests have taught him: he checked his phone to find out where the worst riots were. Stepping onto the crowded train, he noticed some protestors -- but silently hoped the police wouldn't. Wiping away tears, he remembers the moment he knew they had -- the moment, he says, when "all hell broke loose."
Running down the stairs toward the platform, the city's Tactical Squad started beating people with batons. Ng cries just thinking about a young man, who had blood pouring from his neck. Like so many of the victims, he wasn't a demonstrator. "He just fell," Ng sobbed to a pair of Los Angeles Times reporters, "and I didn't see him move again." People were terrified. "I saw a mother holding her two little daughters. They were all crying. I saw two young women who probably just came back from shopping or a night out because both were dressed in nice clothes. They were clinging to each other, huddled in a corner, crying. There were old people holding onto their shopping bags, shaking with fear."
The police worked in teams, landing blow after blow with their batons, while another pushed the bodies over. The crowds who weren't bludgeoned were burned with pepper spray or tear gas. Ng hears the screams when he tries to sleep, sees the images replaying in his mind -- the bloodied bodies, the chaos. And yet, every day, the brutality continues. Wednesday, the carnage involving one pro-democracy leader was so graphic that some news outlets blurred the picture. Jimmy Sham, part of the Civil Human Rights Front, had been attacked by men with hammers and knives. When they weren't smashing his skull, they were slashing open his arms and legs -- presumably following the orders of communist dictator Xi, who threatened: "Anyone who attempts to split any region from China will perish -- with their bodies smashed and bones ground to powder."
Seven thousand miles away, the violence is hard to imagine. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was so disturbed that he got on a plane to see the situation for himself. He "loped through the streets," the Federalist's Ben Domenech wrote, "standing head and shoulders above the crowd." The protesters and organizers knew who Hawley was, Domenech observed, as he started conversations with protestors and the press, occasionally pulling out his phone to take pictures. "His staff had to work to pull him away from the scene, even when the loudspeakers are ordering crowds to disperse."
Wednesday, on "Washington Watch," he explained that the terror was real. "It's becoming a police state," Hawley warned. And the NBA players and U.S. corporations -- who are at best silent about China's abuses, and at worst excusing them -- aren't helping. When LeBron James accused Hong Kong sympathizer (and Rockets' owner) Daryl Morey of "not being educated on the situation" in Hong Kong, Hawley couldn't contain himself. "News flash," he fumed, "People ARE being harmed -- shot, beaten, gassed -- right now in Hong Kong. By China. By the Communist Party the NBA is so eager to appease."
It's just disgusting, Hawley told listeners.
"It's terrible to see all of these corporations -- and the NBA [is] at the top of the list -- put their own monetary interests [first]. It's about making money. I mean, let's be honest -- that's what the NBA is most interested in. If they have to sell out America and American values to do it, then they're happy to... They ought to remember that they are an American organization. [Or at least,] they used to be. And they ought to start acting like Americans, which is that we don't bow down to dictators. We don't salute and take orders from communists. And when Beijing told them that they... couldn't say anything about Hong Kong, the NBA should have said, 'Take a hike!' They should've said, 'We're canceling all of the exhibition games in China until the Hong Kong situation is peacefully resolved.' But they're not willing to do that. And listen, this is just the beginning...
Let's not forget, Hawley went on, that the Communist Party of China is trying to censor American speech. (Just ask Hollywood.) "They're trying to make the NBA a part of their propaganda machine. They're trying to make Apple a part of their propaganda operation. They're trying to bully us into being quiet. And that's why I went to Hong Kong, because I said, I'm not going to be bullied." At the end of the day, he warned, "I think most people don't understand how urgent the situation is in Hong Kong. They don't realize that Beijing is escalating. And if we don't take a stand here -- if China is able to dominate Hong Kong -- they'll dominate Taiwan. They'll dominate the region. They'll dominate us," he said soberly. "If they could shut us out of Asia, they would absolutely do it. And, that's their goal."
If there is reason to hope, it's that U.S. leaders from both parties are on the same page. They've moved legislation that would trigger an annual review of Hong Kong's autonomy -- and another bill that would stop any tear gas exports to the region. They understand that the situation isn't just about Hong Kong. For once, we can all agree with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.): "If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interest, then we lose all moral authority to speak out for human rights anyplace in the world."