Protests Escalate in Hong Kong, as Fears for the Global Economy Worsen

After plans were announced in mid June for a law that would have allowed extradition from Hong Kong to Mainland China, protests have become increasingly tense, and no sides show any sign of backing down

Photo of when the protests first began in mid June

Photo of when the protests first began in mid June

8/15/19, 11:02 am EDT

By John Corry, photo from the BBC

August /> 2019 /> The US government has been in a trade war with China since early July. Critics have argued that it will hurt the US economy more than it will China’s, others that over time: it’ll be worth it. They say that China is aggressive, and has been stealing jobs and intellectual property, not only from the US, but from everyone, for decades. China has long been known to restrict speech and other freedoms for its citizens; for example: Hong Kong is one of the few places in China allowed to commemorate the Tiananmen square massacre of 1989…

Hong Kong /> 1842 /> China’s Qing dynasty is defeated in the first opium war and the Hong Kong island is ceded to Britain. The city is a huge trade port for the region. Almost sixty years later, in 1898, China leases the island, along with 235 more, to Britain for 99 years, starting July 1st of 1898…

Beijing /> 1982 /> Britain and China begin talks as the lease’s end approaches. They agree to a ‘one country, two systems’ formula, with Hong Kong enjoying the defense and military protections of communist rule, however retaining their capitalist economic structure and partially democratic system (including rights for things like free speech) for fifty years after the transition, which is scheduled at that time to happen in 1997…

Hong Kong /> 1989 /> The Tiananmen square massacre puts Beijing on notice. Over the ensuing eight years, in the run-up to the transition, Hong Kong’s last British governor, Chris Patten, wrangles with the Chinese over details. After some controversy, the transition does happen as scheduled…

Hong Kong /> 2001 /> Former deputy to Patten and big Chinese interference opposition, Deputy Chief Executive Anson Chan, resigns amidst pressure from Beijing…

Since then, a flurry of controversy has fuddled the relationship between Hong Kong and Beijing, in no small part thanks to disagreements over democratic and Chinese-communist rule. Among them a march for US fugitive Edward Snowden, who was living in Hong Kong prior to his becoming a US fugitive in 2013, and a mistrust of Chan’s successor as Deputy Chief Executive, Donald Tsang.

For a better run-down of Hong Kong’s storied history, see this.

After two months of tense protesting, the clash between the Chinese government and the Hong Kongian people has taken a jump in heat (such heat). On Tuesday: after seizing a man they considered to be an undercover Chinese agent, riot police were forced to use pepper spray and batons to help paramedics to reach the man, and the Hong Kong international airport was forced to be shut down as a result. The protestors have since apologized, and have issued a stand-down for at least yesterday. President Trump yesterday tweeted that "our intelligence has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong. Everyone should be calm and safe!" though no further information on that proposition has yet been given.

Trump’s apparent lack of interest comes as a surprise in one sense, though expected in another. With his trade war looming over his reelection bid like giant inflatable dummy over London, this would be a perfect time to let loose on the economical and geo-political reasons he had for starting it. On the other hand, news that the Dow went down 800 points yesterday and that US bonds went below the yield of two-year treasury notes–a big sign that a recession may be on the horizon–shows that it may be backfiring on him. The economy is by far Trump’s best pitch for reelection, and if that goes–which more and more every day experts agree that it likely will–Trump will have a hard time winning Americans over, no matter how well he exploits the authoritarian Chinese government.

A study by the University of Hong Kong found that only 11% of Hong Kongians consider themselves Chinese, and 71% are not proud to be Chinese citizens. Protests have been consistent as far back as 2003. On June 9th of this year, over a million Hong Kongians protested a proposed bill which would have allowed extradition of people in Hong Kong to mainland China and Beijing. According to the Hong Kong Free Press, as of August 5th: four-hundred and twenty people have been arrested by Hong Kong police in relation to the protests.

Hong Kong is waving American flags in the streets, and singing American national songs. However one feels about America and its problems, the fact that it represents something so coveted to so many people (freedom, whatever that may mean (maybe that only means the ability to think about it?)) is something worth preserving. Hong Kongians are fighting against the thought that they can’t even begin to think about gun rights, or how awesome GTA5 is (link for general point), or whether a classic Italian name is actually a slur against Italian people, because their proposed government thinks that they’re just not smart enough to bear that responsibility.

“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.” –Lao-Tzu (601-531 B.C.), author of the Tao-Te-Ching