The latest chapter of Hong Kong’s ongoing fight for freedom took place on Sunday, August 18. This was the biggest protest since that in June when some 2 million people walked across Hong Kong’s financial district.
This time an estimated 1.7 million Hong Kongers braved not only torrential rains, but China’s heavy-handed authorities. Protesters defied police orders to limit the protest to Victoria Park and marched two miles through the city. Thankfully, in spite of that, this latest protest was also one of the most peaceful. Perhaps the growing participation of older residents, children, and teachers helped to ensure police restraint.
Since the spring, demonstrators in Hong Kong have been marching against a controversial extradition bill and other issues that would erode Hong Kong’s autonomy from mainland China. Under this bill, Hong Kong’s Christians, who have practiced their faith in freedom, could join the plight of their mainland brothers and sisters under the Communist Party’s vicious crackdown on believers.
The extradition proposal (now declared “suspended” by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam) would allow the Communist regime to request the extradition of suspected “criminals.” We know what that means. Virtually every human rights and, particularly, religious freedom dissident persecuted, tortured, and/or imprisoned by China has been accused of some “criminal activity.” It’s the Soviet model.
As with the Soviet Union – or with the People’s Republic of China itself – such demonstrations are not tolerated. On August 16 The Epoch Times reported that over 700 protesters – many underage – had been arrested since the demonstrations started. Protesters have been subjected to tear gas, rubber bullets, water hoses, and other forms of intimidation and repression.
Hong Kongers observed faithfully the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. That massacre is on everyone’s mind. It’s even on the mind of those Chinese authorities that deny its reality. They call it “the June 4th incident.” (Interesting that they nevertheless use an event that supposedly never took place to threaten those fighting for freedom today!)
The Tiananmen Square massacre and the possibility of such an event being reenacted in Hong Kong today is definitely on the mind of the Executive Director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C., Marion Smith. Smith, who organized the 30 year Tiananmen Square commemoration on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, has warned that the US must “show Beijing that Hong Kong’s freedom isn’t up for grabs” declaring that this “would be one of the greatest abdications of U.S. moral leadership in history.”
“One of,” yes. But also above the Hong Kong protest are the specters of other brave freedom fighters, let down by a watching world and allowed to be crushed by the forces of tyranny.
Think of the lack of help to hope-filled Czechs in the heartbreaking conclusion of Prague Spring.
Think of the even more deliberate abandonment by Barack Obama of millions of Iranians that took to the streets in the 2009 Green Revolution.
These are just a few of the missed opportunities to change history. Many believe that this current fight for freedom is also a moment to change history – a Kairos moment, not just for Hong Kong, but for us. It is a moment for President Trump to stand for freedom and against tyranny with the people of Hong Kong by making sure China knows that the United States will not be abdicating its moral leadership this time. These are our brothers and sisters in spirit – people who value freedom above their own lives – a value that the United States did, and hopefully still does, cherish, as the right of all those created in the image of God.
Hong Kong’s fight for freedom includes earnest young people waving American and British flags, reverently singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Do You Hear the People Sing?” and “Sing Alleluia to the Lord,” and politely apologizing to airport travelers for “the inconvenience” they cause defending the sovereignty of their home. Compare this with America’s currently most well-known protesters, Antifa. More than a few have pointed out the irony.
In July, even as Hong Kong was fighting for freedom, the U.S. State Department held the second-ever “Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.” The Ministerial demonstrates America’s commitment to advancing religious freedom and protecting religious believers, inviting civil society and government officials from all over the world to Washington. Now the United States government needs to demonstrate that commitment on behalf of the people of Hong Kong and stand with them against China’s oppression.
At the first Ministerial, in July 2018, Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan declared that for the people of the United States, “religious freedom is in our DNA.” That’s why we fought for our freedom and why we believe it is our moral obligation to stand with those who are fighting for freedom. It doesn’t take a 23andMe test to see that Hong Kong’s freedom fighters share that DNA.