Colleen Hammond | Opinions Editor
Tear gas and rubber bullets showered the city streets of Hong Kong as protesters took to the streets for a fifth consecutive month of protests. While these events are not new or uncommon in the region, the tumultuous history of Hong Kong and its current political state are too often overlooked by American citizens.
The political struggles of an island on the other side of the world often seem insignificant to average citizens with their own troubles to worry about. However, the events in Hong Kong are vital to the promotion of world democracy.
Over the past three centuries, control over Hong Kong has frequently changed hands. Within the past hundred years alone, Hong Kong has been controlled and occupied by the Japanese, British and now, Chinese.
Although Hong Kong has often been treated as a bartering chip for powerful nations on the Pacific coast, it has a rich cultural tapestry and great economic significance. High technology industries elevated the island to the status of an “Asian Tiger,” a term used to describe economic powerhouses in the region.
Despite Hong Kong’s presence on the global stage as a strong economic partner, it is currently under the control of the Chinese government.
Hong Kong was returned to the Chinese from the British in 1997 and were given the ability to elect their leader. Unfortunately, the democratic freedom of Hong Kong is severely in question.
In July, the Chinese government proposed the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill. This would allow the Chinese government to extradite those charged of crimes in Hong Kong for trial in China where sentencing and the prison system are much stricter.
This proposed bill would have been a grotesque violation of Hong Kong’s autonomy. If it were become law, alleged criminals in Hong Kong could face extreme sentences from the Chinese government.
Because Hong Kong is a territory, it can be compared to the relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico. If the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill were to pass in Hong Kong, it would be akin to criminals in Puerto Rico, where the death penalty is illegal, being brought to Texas for trial where they could face the death penalty.
Clearly this is a gross perversion of democracy. Citizens accused of crimes cannot be brought into entirely different court systems based on the feelings of a more powerful and oppressive nation.
This proposed bill demonstrates China’s desire to manipulate Hong Kong for political gain. China is notorious for limiting free speech. The Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill would allow the Chinese government to extradite political adversaries and those who publicly disagrees with the policies of the Chinese Communist Party.
This blatant disregard for self determination is perfect cause for political uprising.
Even after the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill was shot down in September, protests have continued and are elevating day by day. Hong Kong is on the brink of war. Dozens of schools and universities have been temporarily closed because they have become war zones where fights between college students and police have broken out.
The attitude of the Chinese government to exercise total control over another culturally significant and economically powerful region is enough for any nation or territory to feel oppressed to the point of near war.
If American citizens are going to continue to preach about the importance of global democracy, then the current situation of Hong Kong must become a priority. While American military involvement is not called for at the moment, the American public must acknowledge the importance of these events as the people of Hong Kong struggle for true democracy.