A Very British Protest

Americans are likely the foremost proponents of individual freedom in the world. We have been as long as there have been Americans. There sits John Winthrop’s “Shining Citte on a hill’. Over there is the Declaration that fueled both the French and Russian Revolutions, although they both let it get out of hand, which we didn’t. There is a Constitution that almost uniquely has been honored for over 200 years more in its use than its breach.  But that is our heritage, above all that is what makes Americans, Americans. But it didn’t spring forth like Pallas Athena from Zeus’s brow on 4 July 1776, where did it come from? Edmund Burke knew and put it as well as anyone ever has when he said…

First, the people of the colonies are descendants of Englishmen. England, Sir, is a nation, which still I hope respects, and formerly adored, her freedom. The colonists emigrated from you when this part of your character was most predominant; and they took this bias and direction the moment they parted from your hands. They are therefore not only devoted to liberty, but to liberty according to English ideas, and on English principles. Abstract liberty, like other mere abstractions, is not to be found. Liberty inheres in some sensible object; and every nation has formed to itself some favourite point, which by way of eminence becomes the criterion of their happiness. It happened, you know, Sir, that the great contests for freedom in this country were from the earliest times chiefly upon the question of taxing. Most of the contests in the ancient commonwealths turned primarily on the right of election of magistrates; or on the balance among the several orders of the state. The question of money was not with them so immediate. But in England it was otherwise. On this point of taxes the ablest pens, and most eloquent tongues, have been exercised; the greatest spirits have acted and suffered. In order to give the fullest satisfaction concerning the importance of this point, it was not only necessary for those who in argument defended the excellence of the English constitution, to insist on this privilege of granting money as a dry point of fact, and to prove, that the right had been acknowledged in ancient parchments, and blind usages, to reside in a certain body called a House of Commons. [emphasis mine]

But we are not, and never have been alone. This is the heritage of Britain, seen undiluted in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and some others, and imperfectly in others such as India. But it is the most powerful drive in the world. Take another look at the picture that leads this article. That is not London, nor any other great British city. That is a picture of the protests last weekend in Hong Kong. The former crown colony, now belonging to China, but with guarantees till mid-century about its English style justice system which is now being threatened by mainland China.

A good write up in The Federalist.

Last Sunday, more than 1 million Hong Kong residents, despite brazing heat, took to the streets to protest the government’s controversial extradition bill. Should this bill become law, Beijing will be able to demand Hong Kong authorities extradite anyone, including pro-democracy dissidents and human rights activists.

The Sunday protest is the largest since the United Kingdom handed Hong Kong over to Beijing in 1997. The protest was peaceful until midnight, when a small group of protestors clashed with local police. For an event involving 1 million people, a mostly pacifist protest is a no small accomplishment.

In some way, Sunday’s protest feels like Hong Kongers’ Alamo moment. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive appointed by Beijing, vowed the day after the massive protest that she would push ahead with the extradition bill in spite of dissent. She probably doesn’t have much choice, because Beijing won’t allow her to back down. Since 1989, Beijing has always suppresed any dissent immediately and ruthlessly.

Hong Kongers Want to Keep Their Freedoms

But Hong Kongers won’t back down either. More protests are taking place this week. What’s amazing is that, unlike 2014’s “umbrella movement,” which demanded universal suffrage, there is no single visible leader like Joshua Wong who is in charge of this week’s protests. Instead, ordinary Hong Kongers—students, airline crews, office workers, labor union organizers, Catholic Church workers, business people, and even some legislators—are taking part in these protests of their own initiative.

Teachers’ unions called for closing schools on Wednesday so teachers and students could participate in the protest. Art galleries, restaurants, and many other businesses gave their employees a day off so they could join. These grassroots efforts demonstrate that the protest isn’t only about opposing the extradition bill. Hong Kongers are fed up by the constant economic and political squeeze by Beijing. They feel that Beijing has broken its promise of respecting Hong Kong’s autonomy. They are also deeply disappointed in Hong Kong authorities’ submissive attitude. Now, ordinary Hong Kongers are showing they won’t go down without a fight.

Protesters have surrounded Hong Kong’s legislative building since Tuesday, which forced the pro-Beijing legislature to temporarily delay the second round of debate of the bill. However, the Hong Kong government’s responses to the peaceful protests have become more hawkish.

The legislature resumed the debate of the extradition bill on Wednesday. Lam called the protests “riots,” which reminded people of the language Beijing used against the 1989 pro-democracy protest in Tiananmen Square. The latest video shows Hong Kong police are firing rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd. According to a government report, more than 70 people, including both police and protesters, were injured during the clash.

The most likely outcome of this extraordinary event in Hong Kong is that the legislature will pass some version of the extradition bill. So are Hong Kongers’ efforts futile? I don’t think so.

Helen in her article thinks President Trump should make a statement supporting the protestors. I want to agree, I admire them greatly. But like Hungary in 1956, we cannot effectively support them, so do we risk increasing their casualties by encouraging them, or do we sadly remain silent, recognizing that there are things even the United States cannot do. I don’t know that answer.

But I do that the Hong Kong protestors are in the best tradition of Anglo-American freedom, and I’m cheering for them.

But think of that, it was twenty years ago that Britain gave up control of the Crown Colony of Hong Kong, and now like a phoenix, its flag again flies, carried by the former colonists. Takes a special sort of empire for that to happen.

About NEO
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

11 Responses to A Very British Protest

  1. Nicholas says:

    My prayers for the liberation of Hong Kong from China and a revitalisation of the Commonwealth following Brexit. May the LORD bring us together as nations consecrated to Him and to the principles of liberty flowing from the divine grant of free will to mankind. God bless and keep you, Hong Kong.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. the unit says:

    Very British. No French “Yellow Vests” in sight. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: NATO at 70, Uncivil Serpents, and Doing the Right Thing | nebraskaenergyobserver

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