Hong Kong Protests and Freedom

Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region) is part of the People’s Republic of China under “One Country, Two Systems” created by the Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed in 1984 and coming into effect in 1997. “One Country, Two Systems” stopped China’s communist system from taking effect in Hong Kong, leaving Hong Kong with political and economic autonomy for 50 years, until 2047. Here in the U.S. the Hong Kong demonstrations have caused issues with certain organizations loyalty being split between ideology and profit.

In March of this year, demonstrations broke out in Hong Kong over the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019. The bill would allow authorities to arrest and extradite criminals wanted in territories Hong Kong doesn’t have extradition agreements with, including China. The people of Hong Kong were worried the bill would undermine their autonomy, putting them further under Chinese jurisdiction.

Showing support for the protesters in Hong Kong has become divisive for some companies here in the U.S. To name two, the NBA and Blizzard. Both have attempted to open markets in China, now having a lot of money at stake there. The Chinese government, being authoritarian, can easily ban things within its country. These companies then have a profit motive to keep people associated with them quiet on the issue of support for Hong Kong’s protests.

Obviously these organizations can do what they want as far as silencing people associated with them, since they are not the government. It’s not censorship in the strictest definition. But it is a worrying trend when a foreign government can have that much influence on speech in the United States.

It also complicates ideas of free trade, which is a staple of both classical liberalism and neo-liberalism. Is it really free trade when the trade is being done with a country that has an authoritarian government? That foreign government can begin dictating the conditions of trade to both sides, including what is allowable speech.

It’s easy to call these organizations, such as the NBA and Blizzard, cowards. And so I will. Because they are being cowards. The NBA, for instance, likes to take stands when its easy and won’t cost them much. When they actually have to put something at stake they readily back down. That is the definition of cowardly.

However, I do worry about the demonstrators in Hong Kong shooting themselves in the foot. The protests have expanded beyond not wanting the extradition bill to be passed and have taken on greater demands for freedom. It worries me that the chaos that has ensued there might have the opposite effect: greater repression and perhaps more intervention from mainland China. Obviously I don’t know all the facts on the ground there and have only a cursory knowledge of how things work in Hong Kong, so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I hope for the success of Hong Kong’s cause and therefore do not want to see them overreach too quickly.

That being said, I also support independence for Taiwan, Tibet, and East Turkestan. Come at me China, with your Winnie the Pooh looking dictator.