June 5, 2020

Hong Kong

“Thousands of people in Hong Kong defied a police ban Thursday evening, breaking through barricades to hold a candlelight vigil on the 31st anniversary of China’s crushing of a democracy movement centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square… Earlier Thursday, the Hong Kong legislature passed a law making it a crime to disrespect China’s national anthem.” AP News

Last Friday, “U.S. President Donald Trump said… he was directing his administration to begin the process of eliminating special treatment for Hong Kong, in response to China’s plans to impose new security legislation in the territory.” Reuters

See our prior coverage of Hong Kong here. The Flip Side

Both sides urge the US to stand with Hong Kong and take action against China:

After the Tiananmen Square massacre, “International condemnation was swift, sanctions were imposed, and the Chinese leadership was treated as a pariah, for a little while. But while President George H.W. Bush publicly condemned the massacre, privately he quickly and quietly resumed his drive to pursue friendly relations with Beijing, signaling to Chinese leaders their brutal crackdown would have little long-term cost. Economic engagement quickly resumed, most sanctions were soon lifted and China’s economy surged for the next three decades…

“The Bush administration could be forgiven for thinking China’s leaders were moving toward opening and reform in 1989. In 2020, nobody can make that argument. The CCP has abused its access to the international economy for economic aggression while protecting its own markets from free competition. China’s internal repression has blossomed into wholesale ethnic cleansing of Uighurs and other ethnic Muslim minorities, severe repression of millions of Tibetans and the snuffing out of any space for political dissent… The world failed after Tiananmen Square. We must not fail Hong Kong now.”
Josh Rogin, Washington Post

“Hong Kong is the new frontline in a clash of value systems—a clash about to be lost if the free world does not act immediately, robustly and in unity… Along with seizing its opportunity in the current crisis, Beijing also learned from the tepid global response to Vladimir Putin’s conquest of Crimea in 2014. China has far more geopolitical leverage than Russia and clearly doesn’t believe the international community has the will or ability to deter it from this latest crackdown…

“The free world must stop kowtowing to this mendacious, brutal regime whose duplicity led to a global pandemic with untold impact… This is a battle between two contrasting visions of the future—freedom, openness, the rule of law and human rights, represented by the Hong Kong of yesterday, and deception and vicious repression, represented by the Chinese regime that seeks to impose its will on the Hong Kong of today. We must act, at least if we still believe in freedom half as much as the brave Hongkongers risking their lives for it.”
Garry Kasparov, The Bulwark

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“Business, and Beijing, seem to be betting that Trump will not remove all of Hong Kong’s privileges, or even the most important ones. Trump’s threat on Friday about the risk posed to U.S. investors and the rule of law under the new regime could, if the administration wanted to do so, offer the mainland a face-saving out to reverse or back down from its assertion of national security sovereignty over Hong Kong…

“[But] Actions like banning some Chinese students and pulling out of a U.N. organization do nothing, or less than nothing, to make it harder for China to control and reap profit from Hong Kong. They signal that for Trump this continues to be all about domestic politics — and that Chinese moves against Taiwan, a vibrant island democracy that Beijing also explicitly intends to return to mainland rule, might be met with similarly indifferent response.”
Heather Hurlburt, New York Magazine

“Trump continues to improvise responses to China without regard for, much less the enlistment of, key U.S. allies. The United States could have joined with Britain last week in offering refuge to Hong Kong citizens who will be threatened by the new security regime; instead, Mr. Trump announced unilateral action to restrict some mainland Chinese from studying in the United States.

“The withdrawal from the WHO places Washington at odds with the European democracies that share U.S. concerns about China’s pandemic behavior. Meanwhile, the United States’ allies in Asia hope in vain for the most effective step the United States could take to counter China’s mounting leverage over the region — rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) writes, “An American government that really wanted to stick it to the Chinese Communist Party would be reinforcing U.S. alliances in Asia, instead of threatening to withdraw troops from South Korea and Japan until they pay extortionate rates for U.S. bases. Imagine Ronald Reagan going to Berlin during the Cold War and saying ‘Pay up, or we’re leaving’ instead of ‘tear down this wall.’…The United States would be building global coalitions to challenge China’s predatory trade practices, instead of simultaneously sanctioning allies, facing China alone and hinting we’ll back down if Beijing buys some of our wheat.”
Tom Malinowski, Washington Post

The U.S. should also reclaim its economic leadership, by rebuilding its industrial strength. That means spending more on infrastructure, basic research on key technologies and STEM education… The U.S. should invest in advanced weapons systems to deter China and reassure its allies. But it shouldn’t give up on cautious, productive cooperation with China on issues where the two countries’ interests are aligned: on vaccines, debt relief for distressed economies, trade and travel, biosafety, and above all climate change. In these vital areas, limited cooperation is better than none.”
Editorial Board, Bloomberg

“In the past few days, several commentators have invoked 1968 as the proper historical parallel for our current tragic moment [in the US]. It’s worth remembering that 1968 was a banner year for the Soviet Union. In 1968, the embrace of communist ideas was growing around the developing world, throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America. U.S. leaders were consumed with domestic struggles over civil rights and the Vietnam War, which Soviet propagandists exploited relentlessly…

“In the long run, however, 1968 helped to end U.S. overextension in Vietnam and gradually nurture democratic renewal at home. To compete more effectively with the new Chinese ideological challenge, we need the same now. Making choke holds by police officers illegal is an element of our contest of ideas with China. Stopping the arrest of innocent protesters, affirming our commitment to the First Amendment and ending violence against journalists at home will help the country better meet the ideological challenge of the Chinese Communist Party… If you want to help win the ideological struggle with the Communist Party of China, help seek justice for George Floyd.”
Michael McFaul, Washington Post

From the Right

“Unlike the mainlanders, the people of Hong Kong have lived in freedom, under the rule of law, and in a polity close to a democracy. They have a better understanding of, and treasure more, a life of freedom and dignity. Backing down before Chinese Communist Party pressure would mean the end of their way of life, the end of their unique and cherished identity and community, and indeed, a kind of spiritual death. They are ready to sacrifice their lives to avoid this…

“America’s Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act needs to be enforced vigorously. If it is, it will threaten to withdraw all U.S. preferential treatments and privileges granted to Hong Kong as an autonomous entity unless its freedom is restored, and to punish individual officials and perpetrators. Both actions would have more teeth than what other countries are doing, and hence would be more effective…

“Ultimately, the battle for Hong Kong is a battle of ideas, one in which liberal societies, which have in recent decades lost some of their own commitment to freedom, have a huge stake. ‘Tank men’ of Hong Kong will do their part. We must do ours as well.”
Yang Jianli & Aaron Rhodes, National Review

Compared to sanctions, “A much more immediate effect could be achieved simply by exposing the hypocrisy of China’s Communist rulers… Mr. Trump could instruct the director of the Office of National Intelligence or the Central Intelligence Agency to investigate the personal wealth of the Communist Party leaders who are destroying Hong Kong as well as the places those assets are kept for safekeeping…

“Such action can be taken relatively quickly, and it is what the brave protesters in Hong Kong need in the present emergency. The fact gathering would also provide the basis for the more time-consuming process of imposing sanctions and forfeitures. The prospect of public exposure may make some of Xi Jinping’s key supporters begin to question his aggressiveness.”
Paul Wolfowitz and Frances Tilney Burke, Wall Street Journal

“The boldness and timing of China’s de facto takeover of Hong Kong (taking place in the midst of a global pandemic that has much of the world's attention focused elsewhere) suggests that a move against nearby Taiwan has been promoted from the realm of possible but realistically inconceivable to entirely probable…

America owes a moral obligation to Taiwan to consider strengthening existing arrangements in light of current developments. The conventional wisdom is to approach a problem the size of Taiwan by ignoring it. But we may not be able to for much longer. As Kissinger pointed out in his magisterial book on the topic, On China, the Taiwan Relations Act binds only the American president. Red China has never acknowledged it. Says Kissinger, ‘It would be dangerous to equate acquiescence to circumstance with agreement for the indefinite future. That a pattern of action has been accepted for a number of years does not obviate its long-term risks.’”
Kelly Sloan, Washington Examiner

Some argue that, “Unfortunately, there is little Washington can do… First, military action is a nonstarter. The U.S. will not go to war, nor threaten to go to war, against a nuclear-armed power on the Asian mainland over that government’s human rights violations in territory universally acknowledged to be legally under its control. Nor should Washington do so. Full stop. Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union slaughtered millions. The U.S. did not start World War III over the issue. Mao Zedong’s China slaughtered millions. Washington did not start World War III to stop the Chinese Community Party then…

“Moreover, short of war, the U.S. has no way to force even weak governments to change policy. Sanctions usually fail to win compliance with American demands. Especially policies viewed by other governments as vital, essential to maintain authority, enhance power, preserve order, suppress opposition, and deter challenges. Washington has run ‘maximum pressure’ campaigns against Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela. None has yielded… For [China], a rising nationalistic power, authority over Hong Kong is not a peripheral matter to be bartered away.”
Doug Bandow, The American Conservative

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