Maybe we can help democracy in Hong Kong best right now by strengthening our own Canadian democracy?

Aug 14th, 2019 | By | Category: Countries of the World
Just after 10 AM ET on August 12 Ryan Michaels (@ReasonBound) tweeted : “#Hong Kong Protests occupy the airport. All flights in and out are cancelled. This is a pivotal moment in world history.”

TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA. AUGUST 14, 2019. Yesterday the pro-democracy protests at the Hong Kong Airport (if these are quite the right words) broke through the bubble that usually shields US TV from too much contact with the outside global village.

Now we can supplement our troubled research elsewhere with TV coverage on CNN and MSNBC. (FOX News is not available in our far too liberal office communications room.)

For brief background, what began as the “2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests” this past spring “have continued through the summer, often escalating into increasingly violent confrontations between police, democracy activists, pro-Beijing triad gang members, and local residents in over 20 different neighbourhoods …”

The protests have focused on the Hong Kong Airport this week. According to the Independent in the UK : “Hong Kong airport cancelled all flights after thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators occupied the main terminal to denounce police brutality, with Beijing denouncing the long-running protest movement as showing ‘sprouts of terrorism’.”

According to the Associated Press in the US : “Riot police clashed with pro-democracy protesters at Hong Kong’s airport late Tuesday night, moving into the terminal where the demonstrators had shut down operations at the busy transport hub for two straight days.”

Some are urging that the Hong Kong protests have now reached some dark point of crisis. Many (outside China at least) still remember the Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 4, 1989 – in a deadly suppression of the “the ’89 Democracy Movement.” Some are asking today : “Would China risk another Tiananmen in Hong Kong?”

The widely accepted immediate conclusion is : “While China might be exploiting fears of a bloody ‘Tiananmen’ crackdown on Hong Kong’s protest movement, analysts say the potentially catastrophic economic and political consequences will deter Beijing from any overt boots-on-the-ground intervention.”

Like others again, however, we wonder how much longer the current somewhat measured local authority and mainland Chinese response can continue. In the more recent past Chinese military might has apparently been gathering in Shenzhen on the Hong Kong border. The latest good news is at least that “Flights resume after second night of chaos at Hong Kong airport.”

On our own philosophical view, even with some growing violence among the good guys and some controversial “protesters … dressed in black” at the airport, anyone anywhere in the world who seriously believes in the future, importance, and value of democratic ideals must also feel deep sympathy and unambiguous visceral support for the current Hong Kong protest.

At the same time, we were impressed by Elizabeth Warren’s recent tweet : “The people of Hong Kong are making clear that they will not tolerate repression, and their movement affirms: The power is with the people. They deserve our support and the support of the world.” But we have serious doubts about the real-world possibilities of expressing this support in any altogether decisive or practical way.

A “Chinese journalist” detained by Hong Kong protesters after infiltrating their ranks?

One protestor (or protest supporter?) on Twitter, eg, put the sharpest (and craziest) point on the issue this past Monday : “Only by completely eradicating the Communist Party can this earth enter a real civilization! The United States… Western democracies must unite to annihilate the Communist Party! Everything is just getting started!”

Presumably not even a US President Elizabeth Warren in 2021 would be at all prepared to declare the kind of war on the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China that would be required to achieve this objective.

In our own country we are similarly skeptical about Terry Glavin’s recent article in Maclean’s : “While Hong Kong fights for democracy, Canada goes silent … ‘We have emboldened China’s thuggish behaviours, because we haven’t done anything,’ says one organizer.”

As CBC TV explained Tuesday night, there are some half a million people from Hong Kong living in Canada right now (and another 300,000 Canadian citizens living in Hong Kong!). As a Wikipedia article on “2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests” also points out, there have been some people of Chinese origin in Canada who have demonstrated in support of the Hong Kong protestors over the past few months – and others who have demonstrated in support of the Hong Kong and Chinese governments.

“Demonstrators hold signs and yellow umbrellas as they gather in front of the Chinese Consulate in Vancouver on June 9, 2019 to protest against a controversial extradition law proposed by Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government to ease extraditions to China. DON MACKINNON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES.”

In our view Prime Minister Trudeau has in fact recently said as much as can be reasonably and effectively said about the current Hong Kong protests by any Canadian government : “We need to see the local authorities listen to the very serious concerns brought forward by Chinese citizens and their concerns around the decisions that the … authorities in Beijing have taken … We continue to be mindful and watchful of protecting Canadian interests and Canadians, specifically in Hong Kong … We certainly call on China to be very careful and very respectful in how it deals with people who have legitimate concerns in Hong Kong.”

Meanwhile, like so many others, we will be watching to see just how Xi Jinping’s Chinese government does finally deal with the current round of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. We are taking some heart ourselves from these latest Chinese (and vaguely related Russian?) pro-democracy actions. Authoritarian governments have their limitations in the emerging high technological global village. Democracy has its advantages. And this is useful for we Canadians to remember ourselves, as we contemplate the next free and democratic federal election on our own local political horizon, this coming October 21.

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