When I visited Hong Kong three years ago, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge was still under construction, with pylons lined up along the existing road from the airport to the city still uncrowned with new highway. Linking the three biggest cities of the Pearl River delta, it is an engineering monument, “a 55-kilometre (34 mi) bridge–tunnel system consisting of a series of three cable-stayed bridges, an undersea tunnel, and four artificial islands. It is both the longest sea crossing and the longest open-sea fixed link on earth… The HZMB was designed to last for 120 years and cost 127 billion yuan (US$18.8 billion) to build.” But the locals weren’t quite happy to be connected to this marvel since, as I joked at the time, “it will allow three lanes of tank traffic in each direction.” Delayed by two years, the bridge finally opened last year.
Three years ago I was cautiously optimistic: “PLA tanks have never rolled into Hong Kong in a reenactment of 1989, as was commonly feared, and they probably won’t either in the future, once the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge is completed. The somewhat fraught relationship between China and Hong Kong has become a discreet staring match and a waiting game played out over a longer term: will China become more like Hong Kong before Hong Kong becomes more like China?” In light of the events of the past few weeks I’m less certain, though still hopeful that Hong Kong won’t see a full-scale crackdown and bloodshed.
While I have some sympathy with the pragmatic view according to which the best thing for everyone now to do would be to go back to the uneasy but calm status quo ante, the protesters having achieved their original objective in regards to the extradition laws, there is no doubt about where the rightness and the virtue lies in this struggle. On the one side there is the majority of the Hong Kong population, which wants to enjoy freedom and democracy as we, throughout other parts of the developed world, also do; on the other side there is the Chinese Communist Party, not Marxist (and genocidal) anymore but still definitely Leninist in its role as the authoritarian guardian of all.
Not surprisingly in situations like this, the Hong Kong protests are becoming a political prism allowing everyone to see through it what they want to see, including the dependably stupid Ilhan Omar:
Could we take back our democracy if 1.7 million Americans marched for it? https://t.co/LVVaPrm1pJ
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) August 18, 2019
Omar represents the worst of all worlds, a sort of a Sharia socialism, which stands exactly opposite to the aspirations of millions of Hong Kongers. Trying to put herself on the same side as the anti-communist protesters while pursuing a hostile agenda insults the people of Hong Kong, but is all too characteristics of the usual ravings of “the Resistance”, with their illusions of heroism while in fact enjoying all the fruits of liberal society. These sorts of hot takes, of course, aren’t restricted to the Rep from Minnesota:
Hongkongers fight for democracy. Algerians fight for democracy. Sudanese fight for democracy. Russians fight for democracy. What do Americans fight for? https://t.co/3GT6fMhCCh
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) August 19, 2019
Judging by the left’s efforts, they are fighting for the right to believe they’re as oppressed as the Hong Kongers, Algerians, Sudanese and Russians. The protesters in Hong Kong who are waving American and British flags, singing US anthem and other songs of liberty – and even adopting Pepe the frog – are longing for the freedom and the vision that the Western left is at pains to pretend don’t exist anymore. Omar and countless others might believe our societies are hellholes of racism, sexism, bigotry and oppression but all those around the world who actually know the difference continue to believe otherwise.
So far though, the Hong Kong conflict between the pro and anti-democracy forces has not spilled onto the streets of America as it already has had in Australia, with its large population of both Chinese residents as well as international students from China. From the initial scuffles and vandalism at the University of Queensland directed against the pro-Hong Kong activists, we are now seeing marches and counter-marches on the streets of cities like Sydney. As Andrew Bolt comments, “There are two ways of looking at this, both frightening. One, that China is mobilising Chinese here to attack pro-democracy rallies supporting Hong Kong. The other is that China really does have hundreds of people here prepared to fight for tyranny.” Indeed – either interpretation is disturbing in the context of China’s growing role as a competitor and rival to the West.
A long time, in the run up to the United Kingdom’s ill-fated handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, I thought that a smart thing for Australia would be to lease some real estate up in north Queensland to the Hong Kong Chinese yearning to live free without the Mainland cloud hanging over them. It was a fanciful idea, and in the end not that many residents chose to migrate to other Western countries (though a significant number over the years ensured they are in possession of alternative passports), mostly because “one country, two systems” proved reasonably workable. But if it now doesn’t anymore, maybe it’s time to rethink the refuge option. I, for one, continue to be in favour of a free New Honkers, where our Chinese brothers and sisters who share our democratic and capitalist values can prosper in safety and security in the future for their and our benefit.