Over the years, Hong Kong has cemented its status as a global financial center, as well as a tourist and shopping paradise. The region’s unique ties to mainland China have allowed its people to remain largely independent and reap the benefits of a free market economy.
However, the rights of Hong Kongers are always in jeopardy. Mainland Chinese officials recognize the area’s value and have become increasingly reluctant to loosen Beijing’s grip on it. In many ways, Hong Kong has become this century’s answer to West Berlin—a bubble of democracy interlocked with a great communist power.
The history of modern Hong Kong dates back to the British colonial era. In 1898, Britain signed a 99-year lease with the Imperial Chinese Qing dynasty, allowing the colony to remain firmly in British hands and prosper economically. When the lease expired in 1997, China regained control of Hong Kong and designated it a “special administrative region” (SAR).
Hong Kong’s classification as an SAR gives way to a large gray area regarding its relationship with China. Officially, China’s two SARs (the other being Macau) are governed under the “one country, two systems” doctrine. While Beijing is officially responsible for the defense and foreign affairs of SARs, they enjoy self-governance and greater civil liberties than those on the mainland.
The terms “defense” and “self-governance” directly contradict each other. The Chinese government cited the need to defend Hong Kong during the 2014 “Umbrella Revolution,” during which Hong Kongers took to the streets to demand greater involvement in Chinese elections. Ultimately, the protests ended with no changes to the structure of said elections.
Of course, a similar situation unfolded this year. Pro-Beijing officials in the SAR government proposed a controversial extradition bill, which would allow suspected criminals to be detained by local authorities and sent to China and other countries to stand trial.
As the bill fails to consider the principle of due process, critics quickly denounced it as a hostility to democracy and gathered by the thousands to oppose it. Last month, protesters stormed into Hong Kong International Airport and disrupted hundreds of flights in an effort to send a message to the international community.
Americans received that message loudly and clearly when a video showing a group of protesters waving American flags and singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The video’s origin is unknown, but it gained traction after conservative activist Kaya Jones posted it to her Twitter account.
Other citizens marched with pro-Second Amendment signs in hand. While calling for the policy of a foreign nation to take place during an internal crisis is extreme, the protesters’ favorable rhetoric toward the United States serves several purposes:
First, such bold actions centered around American values indicate that Hong Kongers are looking outward to distance themselves from China. Hua Chunying, the spokeswoman of China’s Foreign Ministry, publicly blamed the U.S. for sponsoring and influencing the protesters.
Given that U.S.-China trade relations are tense right now, the demonstrators may have the right idea to call on the U.S. to address the situation and leverage against China in the process. Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden has already pledged his support to the protesters.
More importantly, both the national anthem video and Second Amendment signs are symbolic of America’s image on the world stage. While the United States is an imperfect society, it speaks volumes about our country when citizens who feel oppressed in their homeland rally to our flag and our style of democracy with hopes of a more promising future. That future is something that a governmental structure such as China’s cannot provide.
Recently in the United States, Antifa protesters have caused public disturbances in multiple cities. Members of the group, whose name is short for “anti-facism,” have flown Soviet flags at demonstrations to disavow far-right ideas. But these flags stand for a defunct and broken nation. Antifa’s criticisms are valid, but its protesters never express a desire to break from the country that stands for the values that fortunate citizens across the world know and love.
After months of unrest, Hong Kongers have come to know the value of this freedom. Just like Americans, these protesters recognize that a free society can be deeply flawed but always fixed.
Carson Swick is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.