Hong Kong strife hits close to home

By Anthony Parlogean

Students on campus should be empathetic toward the plight of Hong Kong protesters because government interference in individual liberties is a growing concern for Americans as well.

The demonstrations among Hong Kong citizens that started back in April have turned into “clashes between protesters and police that have spread across the city,” according to an Oct. 10 South China Morning Post article. 

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Not only is the Chinese government persecuting its own people in the name of communism, but its also punishing American companies and organizations that show support for movements running in opposition to Chinese ideologies, such as the Hong Kong protests. The NBA, airlines, hotels, retail stores and technology companies have all faced similar economic pressures from the Chinese government by losing access to Chinese markets, according to an Oct. 10 CNN article. This is communism in action.

“The Chinese Communist Party is the founding and ruling political party of modern China,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Many Americanized students who have familial ties to China see the negative impacts of communism.

“Communism doesn’t work; it’s not for the people,” Whalen Good, senior psychology major and second-generation Chinese American, said.

Democracy and communism are starkly different: similar to splashing red paint on white canvas, the contrast between the two political systems is sharply defined. This contrast is just one of the reasons why many Hong Kong citizens consider themselves separate from China.

“One of the reasons people are so upset is because they really feel that the Hong Kong government does not represent them anymore,” an NIU staffer said, whose identity is being anonymized to protect their family. “If you ask most [people], especially the younger generation, they don’t feel like they should be called Chinese; they [would rather be] called Hongkongers.”

Despite the feeling of mutual identity, many Hong Kong citizens may feel their democratic rights are being infringed upon by the Communist government.

“People in Hong Kong have been feeling the Communist Party encroaching their freedom and encroaching the ‘one country, two systems’ agreement,” the NIU staffer said.

The “one country, two systems” policy started in China when Deng Xiaoping became the paramount leader in 1978, according to a June 30 The Economist article. Seeking to reunify China without causing panic and mayhem, Xiaoping established the policy to give Hong Kong an increased level of autonomy. Hong Kong could keep its own political administration, capitalist system and armed forces, only if it recognized the Communist government in China; this policy should last until 2047.

Even though the policy promises autonomy, the Hong Kong administration has been attempting to interfere with individual liberties.

Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam introduced an extradition bill in April that allowed citizens to be transferred to mainland China under specific circumstances, according to a Sept. 19 BBC article. Though the bill was removed in September after pressure from citizens, riots have continued to increase after months of conflict between protesters and police, according to the same article. Protesters are demanding a fair election process for citizens and some are even calling for the resignation of Lam from office.

This attempt by the Hong Kong administration to diminish its citizens’ autonomy has caught the attention of Chinese Americans who understand what the Chinese government is capable of.

“[Chinese Americans] are aware of how much power the Chinese government actually has,” Good said. “[The Chinese government] doesn’t need to necessarily jump through the checks and balances if there’s a conflicting opinion. It’s a concern for the Hong Kong protesters because the minute that they’re taken away from Hong Kong into China, [they] disappear.”

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Even as protesters fight for their own freedom, there are those who feel Hong Kong should be unified with China.

“A lot of people in mainland China support integrating Hong Kong into China,” Good said. “People that are Chinese and not Americanized might want to support the Chinese government because it’s the status quo. It’s patriotism; it’s what you do for your country.”

This patriotism among Chinese citizens can even disrupt family relationships.

“Most of my family are in ardent support of protesters, but it does divide families,” the professional staffer said. “People that have been raised, mostly among the older generation, don’t look at the current realities. They have this patriotic nationalistic feeling. Their identity as a Hongkonger is subordinate to their ethnicity as Chinese.”

Despite this patriotic fervor among the mainland Chinese population to unify the country, Hong Kong protesters are adamant in maintaining their freedoms and liberties. That level of patriotism is something Americans can empathize with.

“Most of my family members have been through Tiananmen Square,” the professional staffer said. “They have seen the Communist party and its work in the ’80s when they crushed the last democratic movement with tanks, guns and troops. They know.”