Unarmed citizen protesters are simply asking for respect, tolerance, and recognition from a tyrannical government. The authorities have blood of millions of people on their hands. The citizen protesters stare down a tank who are under the orders of authoritarian goons. The government wants nothing more than to put a violent end to dissent. This was the scene in 1989 during the Tiananmen Square Massacre in China. The recent struggles in Hong Kong are remarkably similar; the protests, the authoritarian response to those yearning for freedom, and the hopelessness of the situation. Britain’s fingerprints are on both the Chinese and Hong Kong atrocity even though they’re a world apart and years of history has changed so many things.
Great Britain leased Hong Kong in 1898 from mainland China. The deal stipulated that Britain would be the governmental force in Hong Kong for 99 years. During this time, China began to limit their citizens’ freedom through the all-controlling Chinese Communist Party. At the same time, Britain surprisingly kept their governance off handed. Local governance partnered with sincere capitalist policies and the location on a major trade route, allowed Hong Kong to prosper.
Britain only gained control of Hong Kong from China after feuding with the Chinese in what is known as the Opium War. The Opium epidemic roared across China after Britain introduced the drug to the region. They subsequently used the drug trade as a reason to go to war with China. Historians argue that the trade rules that Britain wrote after winning that war harshly penalized China. The war battered the Chinese economy, but they were also facing a drug epidemic that wreaked havoc amongst their citizenry. Therefore, China handed Hong Kong to British control in hopes that would calm the situation and allow them to focus on problems in their country, instead of fending off foreign invaders.
Neil Monnery at Human Progress puts it this way:
Happily, that was enough, and the people of Hong Kong quickly re-established the entrepôt trade with China. The population rebounded and incomes per capita rose back to their pre-war level of around $4,000 per annum (in 2018 PPP adjusted dollars).
The Making of Chinese Communism
The unfortunate fact of war-mongering Britain gaining another far-off colony saved Hong Kong from the unseen doom of communism invading the Chinese government. Even though the Ming Dynasty and other ancient Chinese philosophers had classically liberal principles, their government quickly turned brutal between the time Britain exposed their society to unusual and highly addictive drugs, fought a war with them, and decimated their economy.
As the story goes all over the world where communism finds a place to grow like moldy residue, the society and the economy must be failing, the people must feel utterly hopeless, and the current system lacks any answers.
Hong Kong’s Fate Is Sealed
In 1997 as Britain’s original lease came to an end, they elaborately and peacefully handed the governance of Hong Kong back to China. However, they stipulated that Communist Chinese respect and allow Hong Kong to still be capitalist and relatively free for the next 50 years. That means their economy is free until 2047.
However, their civil rights are currently under threat. In 2019, China was seriously considering a bill that would extradite “law breakers” from Hong Kong to mainland China for trial. That original bill did not become law, but China has still been incrementally asserting themselves in Hong Kong’s legal and political institutions.
This has led to dissent being violently quelled and some dissenters imprisoned. At this point, Hong Kong is feeling the terror of an authoritarian government bearing down on them. These protesters are as hopelessly fearful and breathtakingly courageous as those in Tiananmen Square. Britain is silent and just hopes their fingerprints go unnoticed.