• September 21, 2019

NATIONAL VIEW: China has misread the Hong Kong protests from the start - Odessa American: Guest Columns

e-Edition Subscribe

NATIONAL VIEW: China has misread the Hong Kong protests from the start

THE POINT: Chinese leaders need to discuss Hong Kong protesters' demands or face political consequences.

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2019 2:30 am

Hong Kong’s political battleground has expanded. Protesters who in June demanded cancellation of an extradition bill that would make it easier for suspects to be transferred to mainland China are now asking for greater democracy and an investigation of police brutality. The demonstrators have shifted tactics, too, from sprawling marches to smaller, unpredictable flash-mobs, as well as intrusions such as the airport protest last week that led to massive flight cancellations. China’s leadership has misread the situation from the start. Time to get this right.

China gained control over Hong Kong from Britain in 1997, pledging autonomy for a city that has come to define capitalism and freedom in Asia. Gradually, China has been whittling down those liberties, including by suppressing the “Umbrella Movement” in 2014, refusing to allow direct elections for chief executive, kidnapping five Hong Kong booksellers and attempting to impose the extradition bill. When protests erupted over the extradition proposal, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam should have immediately canceled it. Instead, Ms. Lam, more sensitive to the demands of her overlords in Beijing than to the values that underlie Hong Kong’s success, tried to sidestep the issue with some obfuscation. It didn’t work.

Another miscalculation was to assume that the protests would simply flare out. The protests are a political groundswell, a reflection of genuine popular anger and commitment to democracy. But authorities treated the protesters as “terrorists” and “rioters,” a law enforcement problem to be handled by the Hong Kong police, who have repeatedly overreacted, including this weekend when they fired tear gas into a subway station and were discovered using undercover officers to infiltrate the demonstrators. In response, some protesters have turned more violent, unwisely resorting to vandalism, throwing bricks and a petrol bomb, and disruption.

Yet another mistake of the Chinese authorities has been to roll out the boogeyman that the protests are inspired by foreigners. China’s state media have trotted out the ghost that seems to frighten all authoritarians, calling the protests a “color revolution” instigated by the United States. The charge seems almost comical given President Trump’s lack of sympathy for democracy movements anywhere in the world. But it speaks volumes about paranoia in the Communist Party that holds a monopoly on power in China. This protest movement is very much indigenous to Hong Kong and its people.

Lately, there have been dark hints of a stronger crackdown by the military. But repeating the catastrophe of Tiananmen Square would be terribly counterproductive; hopefully China’s leaders understand as much. They might be hoping to slowly strangle the protest movement without violence and without giving an inch. This would be yet another miscalculation because the pent-up demands of this summer won’t go away.

The right answer for President Xi Jinping and for Ms. Lam, if she remains in office, is to open serious negotiations with the protesters on their demands, which are quite reasonable. Cinching the noose ever tighter, as the Chinese government has done in recent weeks, is the pathway to a dead end that could harm both Hong Kong and mainland China economically as well as politically. A cliff looms, and China’s leaders should turn back before it is too late.

Odessa, TX

Current Conditions

Rain
71°
Humidity: 91%
Winds: S at 11mph
Feels Like: 71°

Your Extended Forecast

Tomorrow

weather
High 80°/Low 68°
Thunderstorms. Lows overnight in the upper 60s.

sunday

weather
High 87°/Low 69°
Morning clouds followed by afternoon sun. Highs in the upper 80s and lows in the upper 60s.

monday

weather
High 89°/Low 69°
Mix of sun and clouds. Highs in the upper 80s and lows in the upper 60s.
Online Features

Pet Central

pets

Having a pet is a lot of responsibility, and we’ll help by giving you lots of tips and tricks! More >>

Fitness

Fitness

Our fitness articles will help teach you how to work out with gym- and home-based exercises. More >>

Crosswords

Crosswords

Enjoy the crosswords challenge in our free daily puzzles, from the harder Sunday crossword to the quicker daily. More >>

Sudoku

Sudoku

Every Sudoku has a unique solution that can be reached logically. Enter numbers into the blank spaces so that each row, column and 3x3 box contains the numbers 1 to 9. More >>




  • ALL-ACCESS: Subscribe to our e-edition and premium website at myoaoa.com.
    You can read your daily newspaper without taking a walk to the driveway.
    Look back at yesterday's newspaper, or issues from months ago with our archive feature.
    Call circulation at 432-337-7670 to sign up today.