Hong Kong: the steady erosion of freedom

This report from the UK think tank The Henry Jackson Society takes a look at freedom in Hong Kong.

As we mark the 30th anniversary of the crackdown on China’s democracy movement in 1989, it is a reminder of the United Kingdom’s responsibility to Hong Kong. while the city is no longer a colony, the UK and Hong Kong have a special relationship, tied together by a long history, marked by commercial success and the development of a unique culture – with strong Chinese cultural characteristics, moulded by British rule-of-law and custom. It is tempting to ask “what if?”.

What if the 38th, 63rd, and 28th armies of the People’s liberation army had refused to leave their barracks that June evening? What if they had refused to fire upon the crowds – and instead joined them as occurred in their fellow soviet neighbour only four years later, when Russian soldiers dismounted their tanks in front of the white house? What if the small clique of China’s leaders had supported the modest reformist agenda put forward by Hu Yaobang instead of deposing him? his death, shortly after, was the inspiration of the original protests. What if instead of trying to exert more and more self-serving control over the Chinese citizen body, the CCP realized that a loftier goal would be to confer political rights and liberties upon its citizens? the prospect of a fairer Chinese state has galvanized and inspired Chinese patriots for many a year, and doubtless will continue to do so as long as its leaders continue to measure political success by the amount of control they exert on their fellows.

As we close the door on the prospects of a politically reforming China, we must think what future lays in store for the people of Hong Kong. is their fate sealed with the mainland and its high-tech Orwellian system? or can the UK continue to press Beijing to respect the values and norms promised to the citizens of Hong Kong, which have made the city so successful? Does the UK have either the political will or leverage to succeed in such an endeavour or will its own Brexit-driven troubles keep it from challenging such a lucrative source of investment revenues? As we think of those Chinese students and workers shot down in the streets of the capital in 1989, were their deaths meaningful? did they have lasting impact on the pursuit of liberty among the world’s Chinese. We certainly hope so.

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