Why we need to support democracy and civil rights in Hong Kong
Many undemocratic governments around the world are using the current pandemic to increase their powers and to crackdown on people’s freedoms. Thinking that the international community is too preoccupied with fighting the pandemic in general, and seeing that each country is becoming more isolationist, these governments are hoping their actions will go unnoticed.
Today, for example, Chinese officials announced that “China’s Communist Party will impose a sweeping national security law in Hong Kong by fiat during the annual meeting of its top political body […] criminalizing “foreign interference” along with secessionist activities and subversion of state power.”
Before the pandemic, the world hopefully watched the protestors in Hong Kong courageously fighting to protect their essential political and civil rights against the encroachments by the Chinese Communist Party. Numerous statements of support for democracy were made by different countries, but no obvious diplomatic action followed.
What will happen now if the Chinese Communist Party succeeds in suppressing the freedoms of the people in Hong Kong? Will the world watch silently and be too busy with their own internal issues?
The first important question is what can the world do to try to influence the course of events in Hong Kong, apart from mere United-Nations-style “expressions of concern”?
The truth is we do have many diplomatic and economic leverages, which, if we decide to use them, can be effective at convincing other governments to listen to us. China is as dependent on our cooperation and trade as we are of theirs. Pretending that there is nothing Western democratic countries can do that is capable of affecting China’s policy often serves as a pretext to cover lack of determination and the unwillingness to endanger profitable financial ties.
The second important question is why do we care? A typical isolationist would argue against spending a cent of our tax money or jeopardizing profitable business deals for the sake of anything that takes place outside of our borders.
The answer to this question has two components:
First, if all international players observe the rule of law and respect freedoms and human rights of their citizens, it raises the standard of living and the economic opportunities for us all. Transparent democracies that observe the rule of law have consistently proven to generate more stability and more economic prosperity. The more prosperity and stability there is in the world, the more wealth is generated worldwide and the more innovation and trade take place from which all of us profit. And this prosperity sees people rise out of poverty.
Second, standing up for other people’s rights and freedoms and against violence and oppression is the right thing to do, just like it is the right thing to call for an ambulance when you see a person on the street falling ill.
What is your take on this? Do you think we need to stand up for democracy in Hong Kong? If yes, what tools do you think we can use to achieve this most effectively and peacefully?
“China to impose sweeping national security law in Hong Kong, bypassing city’s legislature” by By Shibani Mahtani, Anna Fifield and Tiffany Liang, The Washington Post, May 21, 2020
“One country, one system: The week that China shredded its promise on Hong Kong” by By Shibani Mahtani and Timothy McLaughlin, The Washington Post, April 24, 2020
“The Democracy Advantage: How Democracies Promote Prosperity and Peace” in Foreign Affairs
“The Role of Transparency and How It Can Spur Global Prosperity and Sustainable Economic Opportunity at Home and Abroad”, the US Department of State
“Economic Freedom: Policies for Lasting Progress and Prosperity” in 2020 Index of Economic Freedom
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