The People’s Republic of China is responding to a political movement in the former British colony of Hong Kong with predictable authoritarianism and heavy-handedness, a threat to ban the political party that is promoting independence.
This is not the direction that China should be moving.
Hong Kong is indisputably Chinese territory and the international community has little real influence over how China governs its provinces and semi-autonomous regions.
However, the international community has an interest in human rights, free global trade, and the advancement of democratic processes.
The Chinese government condemned the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong for allowing Andy Chan, an advocate for Hong Kong independence, to be invited to speak to the club.
The government is now threatening to ban Mr. Chan’s party under a law that was written for use against organized crime groups. According to a report in the New York Times, it would be the government’s first use of the ban against a political party since Britain returned the port city to China in 1997.
As a legacy of its colonial past and under agreement between China and Britain, Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous region that retains much more freedom of political and personal activity than other parts of the country. China has at times exerted its ultimate authority over Hong Kong, such as by prohibiting certain people from serving in the territory’s government.
Mr. Chan contends that China rules with a heavier hand than did Britain. In Mr. Chan’s words, “the nature of China is oppression.”
China’s current socialist regime is trying to thread a very difficult needle that is contrary to natural human aspirations by maintaining an iron grip on political power while embracing market economics that allow the people to enjoy the benefits of a rising standards of living.
The attempt to be both economically free and politically imprisoned can’t last forever. For the sake of human rights and the advancement of democracy, China should look to Hong Kong as a laboratory for democracy rather than trying to stamp out freedom and dissent there.
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