September 7th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Hong Kong's David and Goliath struggle

CLIMATE ALARMISM Governments plan to do what the climate itself has so far failed to do: Impoverish our lives

GENDER POLITICS Transgender sport policies are now in Morrison's court/pitch/field

LIFE ISSUES Sloppily drafted NSW abortion bill invites open slather

LIFE ISSUES NSW abortion bill: Nothing but danger and death ahead

GENDER POLITICS From Safe Schools to 2,400 child transitioners

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Confucius Institutes: China's art of soft power

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Why Cardinal Pell is appealing to the High Court

CLIMATE POLITICS Political posturing ignores true forces shaping Pacific islands

HISTORY AND POLITICS Lord Acton, nationalism and multiculturalism, Part 1 of two parts

HISTORY The lost Namban Caves

HUMOUR Incense and Insensibility

MUSIC Refinement: Delicate touches that make all the difference

CINEMA Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood: The day the music died ...

BOOK REVIEW All are losers in classroom warfare

BOOK REVIEW Model minority strikes back




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Hong Kong's David and Goliath struggle

by Patrick J. Byrne

News Weekly, September 7, 2019

For three months, huge crowds of up to two million people have protested in Hong Kong against Communist Beijing’s efforts to impose sweeping curbs on freedom of speech in the territory.

Hong Kong was a British territory that was handed back to China in 1997, but with promises from Communist Beijing to respect the long tradition of free speech, its independent legal system and particularly to have a directly elected chief executive and a fully elected local parliament.

Hong Kong is tiny: one-ninth the size of Sydney, with a population of 7.4 million, 1.6 times Sydney’s population.

The vast majority of Hong Kong’s population are people who escaped the brutal communist rule of Mao Zedong in China, or are their descendants and remember their family’s escape. Or, more recently, they have escaped Beijing’s crushing of democracy protests with tanks and guns 30 years ago in Tiananmen Square, China’s slave labour “re-education” camps, and the brutal exploitation of Falun Gong members and Uighurs for the organ transplant industry.

Since reverting to China, there have been occasional protests against Beijing in response to Beijing’s backtracking on its promises to respect Hong Kong’s political and legal autonomy.

There have been protests at the kidnapping of critics of Beijing from HK, and their reappearance months later in China, where they profusely apologised for offending the Chinese regime, and claimed to have gone to China voluntarily. Other protests have taken place over attempts by the HK administration, which is effectively appointed by Beijing, to curb freedom of speech and association.

In 2005, popular demonstrations forced the resignation of HK’s Chief Executive, Tung Chee-hwa, a business tycoon who is now a vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a rubber-stamp body based in Beijing.

Extradition law

In recent years, the protests have increasingly been led by young people. Some have directly attacked the centres of Chinese power in Hong Kong, inc­luding the Legislative Council building and the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, which is Beijing’s unofficial headquarters in Hong Kong.

This led to violent police assaults on protesters, thousands of arrests and overt threats from Beijing.

None of those earlier protests compares with those maintained over the past three months, which began in opposition to a proposed law that would have allowed extradition to China of any­one, even visitors to Hong Kong, who aroused the ire of Beijing.

As the anger intensified, HK Chief Executive Carrie Lam declared the proposed law “dead” but, under pressure from Beijing, she pointedly refused demands for the law to be withdrawn.

While earlier protests petered out, the recent mass rallies have intensified and been sustained, and the protesters have resolutely withstood threats of intervention by paramilitary forces of China.

Over the weekend of August 17–18, an estimated 1.7 million people participated in a peaceful but unauthorised street protest. It was a massive declaration of no-confidence in the administration of Carrie Lam.

The younger HK generation have been in the vanguard of the public protests. They realise that, as Hong Kong officially integrates fully into China in 2047, unless they fight now, they will progressively lose their freedoms until they are eventually snuffed out.

Better to confront Beijing now, when it is in clear breach of the promise to respect HK’s freedoms for a period of 50 years, than have their freedoms sliced off “salami style” so that HK is no different to any other Chinese province by 2047.

Although the imbalance of power between the unarmed demonstrators in HK and the overwhelming military and political power of Beijing is clear, a forced takeover of HK would cost China dearly. A large number of Western corporations do business with China through HK, because contracts are enforceable there, unlike on the mainland. If the rule of law were overturned in Hong Kong, many of them would relocate to cities such as Singapore, or transfer their businesses to other countries.

Further, the Chinese economy, already suffering the economic effects of the Sino-American trade conflict and the slowdown in international economic growth, would be hit hard by a crackdown in Hong Kong. To the rest of the world, Beijing has tried to cultivate an image of predictability and stability despite its military expansion into the South China Sea. This veneer of respectability is being stripped away by its threats against HK protesters.

In standing up against the might of the People’s Liberation Army and the dictatorship of Beijing, it is to be hoped that the moral authority of the HK people proves to be more powerful than brute force, and ultimately, that the Beijing regime is forced to reach an accommodation with the HK people. If this happens, the consequences within China itself would potentially be immense. The long-suffering people of China, terrorised and repressed by the communist dictatorship, would see that the Chinese Communist Party has feet of clay.

We recall that it was a popular uprising in Eastern Europe in 1988–89 that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the overthrow of communist tyrannies, and the establishment of true democracy in many countries. Could it happen again, this time triggered by the protests in Hong Kong?

Patrick J. Byrne is national president of the National Civic Council.

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