The Beijing Games over Hong Kong

November 20, 2019

By FRC's Arielle Del Turco

Around 100 protestors are still trapped inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University, after days of confronting the police surrounding the campus. The university has recently been the stage for some of the most dramatic events in the protests which have been going on for seven months. And as Gordon Chang told listeners on Washington Watch Tuesday, "I don't think that we're going to see an end to these protests for quite some time."

Students in the besieged university are desperate to avoid arrest, which the police have often carried out violently. The pro-democracy demonstrators have five demands (one of which was satisfied a few weeks ago). Among them are an investigation into police brutality and universal suffrage, which they currently don't have.

Police violence has only fueled the demonstrations. Chang said, "the protesters who have managed to escape or who weren't on the inside in the first place are extremely angry... But we also can count on Beijing to do things which will anger people in Hong Kong."

Chang is quick to offer examples of what Beijing has done that has rightly angered the residents of Hong Kong. "A couple of days ago Beijing has been issuing statements that the Hong Kong High Court can't interpret the basic law of Hong Kong." These statements only validate the fears protestors have about Beijing's further encroachment into Hong Kong and the end of Hong Kong's special status with some autonomy which has enabled them to thrive. Chang notes that Beijing's reactions to the Hong Kong protests are problematic. "In a number of ways, of course, China looks coercive and belligerent."

In response to these threats to Hong Kong, the U.S. Senate passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act last night, following the House of Representatives' passage of their version of the bill in October. This couldn't come at a more crucial time.

Lawmakers including Representative Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) have been instrumental in passing this legislation, and their efforts to address the threat of Chinese oppression should be applauded. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has urged Trump to personally voice support for the protesters.

The Senate's passage of this bill has provoked a strong reaction from Beijing. Yet, Chang indicates that the international attention and pressure such as that provided by the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act is protecting the protestors from a brutal crackdown. "[Since they are what] I would describe as a tyrannical communist... [a] repressive government, in order to keep it together, they've got to use repressive tactics. But if they do that now with Hong Kong they've got the entire world watching. The only real tool in their tool chest is one they can't use -- at least without consequences."

This is good news for the protestors, such as those at the Polytechnic University, who are trying to voice their desire for democracy and freedom in Hong Kong.