Where is the solidarity with Hong Kong?

If we can march over events in Minneapolis, we can surely be moved by this assault on freedom.

Michael Northcott

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On 4 June 1989, when the Chinese military gunned down several thousand of its own citizens in Tiananmen Square, nobody captured it on a smartphone and tweeted it. In fact, hardly anybody captured it at all, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) made a good fist of stopping any footage of the incident from even leaving the country. It harassed, intimidated and detained some international journalists who were trying to report on what they saw by calling in the story over the phone. It even cut off satellite links to major Western news networks.

Perhaps then, in 1997, when the British handed over Hong Kong as the ‘last colony’, they were naive. The Sino-British Joint Declaration was an international treaty. China would uphold its obligations in order to retain the confidence of governments and business around the world – or so the theory went. That treaty was supposed to guarantee Hong Kong’s ‘autonomy’ for 50 years – until 2047. Under ‘one country, two systems’, Hong Kong residents enjoyed considerable freedoms and a partial democracy, unlike their compatriots in mainland China.

Fast-forward 23 years and that treaty has been torn up. China introduced the National Security Law this week, which contains sweeping new measures that give jurisdiction to Chinese courts and police to act inside Hong Kong with impunity. It criminalises opposition to the Chinese government with a number of new spurious and vaguely defined ‘crimes’ that carry huge custodial sentences. The first arrests were made on the anniversary of the British handover, this Wednesday.

You might think, as an Asian democracy breathes its last breath, that the ‘anti-fascist’ ideologues of our Western woke brigade would have something to say. Perhaps, while an authoritarian regime with a disgraceful human-rights record tramples on a free people, there might be a march down Whitehall to demand international condemnation of China? Or maybe, in solidarity with these newly oppressed millions, we might close a few bridges in London by lying down on them, Extinction Rebellion-style? Hong Kong is a long way away, granted. But then, so is Minneapolis.

Yes, Minneapolis, where the killing of George Floyd last month spawned transatlantic Black Lives Matter protests that have dominated the cultural conversation in the ensuing weeks. Let’s just remind ourselves of some of the themes that have characterised those protests: injustice, resistance to systemic oppression, solidarity against police brutality and anti-fascism. Perhaps the most memorable mantra of the movement has been: ‘Silence is violence.’

Silence, indeed.

Even as the first Hong Kong detainees head to prison for years on kangaroo-court charges – the first man arrested was merely waving a banner saying ‘independence’ – some will argue that there is only so much bandwidth available at home for moral outrage. Yes, the jackboot of totalitarianism is on the neck of our brethren in Asia, but hey, there is a lot wrong in the world and we can’t be expected to march every day.

Western activists have spent the past few weeks tearing down statues of long-dead historical figures, daubing the word ‘racist’ on plinths and painting slogans on to roads so that they can be seen from space. These actions all have one thing in common: they are insta-worthy. They get retweeted. The dopamine-hit engineered by Silicon Valley quite literally drives the outrage and excitement. And when viewed through that lens, so to speak, the choice of smartphone-captured subject matter makes sense. Teargas in Seattle goes viral, but water cannons in Hong Kong do not.

As for justice, where’s the fun in yelling about Xi Jingping? You can’t shame him. You can’t get him fired. You can’t cancel him. Far better to marshal the online mob to ruin the life of someone here who made a stupid comment. Easy scalps always have been the target of bullies and the unprincipled.

There is important work to be done in tackling racism, both day-to-day and systemic – hardly anyone denies that. But for too many of those who shout loudly about systemic oppression here in the UK, the message rings hollow. Being seen to take the side of ‘victims’ here is both socially rewarding and requires minimal effort. It is much harder to take the fight to a truly authoritarian state where virtue-signalling falls on deaf ears.

Of course, black lives matter. The slogan is so compelling because there is no escaping its ultimate truth. However, if we are to believe that it springs from protesters’ genuine belief in the universal equality of mankind and justice for the oppressed, then Hong Kong’s plight now demands a placard too. Or at least a tweet.

Michael Northcott is a writer.

Picture by: Getty.

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Comments

George Whale

5th July 2020 at 10:07 am

A Hong Kong exile says: “We got used to what we had before. We had freedom of speech, we were free to criticize and comment on anything we didn’t like, but now it seems that you have to discipline yourself.”
Haha, that’s quaint, they think free speech still exists in Britain – like the bowler hat and stiff upper lip!
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asia/hong-kongers-say-possible-china-repression-spurring-exodus-taiwan-n1232743

James Conner

5th July 2020 at 2:45 pm

What’s even funnier is that according to your link, people are moving from HK to Taiwan to escape Chinese interference. I wonder how that will work out. lol

Gordon Te Gopher

5th July 2020 at 6:17 am

Yellow lives matter

alan smithee

4th July 2020 at 2:57 pm

Crap. No country would allow sedition so why should China? Imagine Ireland for instance…

It’s a win win situation for China but not for Boris. Thousands of HK citizens leave for the UK causing an Immigration disaster for the UK while China would be happy to let them go. They are not freedom fighters, they are imperial pawns with a xenophobic attitude to the Chinese.

Don’t forget HK was a colony of the UK not a democracy. Don’t get played into supporting UK/US imperialism.

Jonathan Marshall

4th July 2020 at 5:11 pm

You are Dave Spart and I claim my £5.

Martyn Baker

4th July 2020 at 8:04 pm

Sedition is a ridiculous anachronism. Of course any liberal modern country allows it and those that don’t should be opposed. Just because HK was a colony once is of no importance whatsoever. The past is dead and gone.

Mor Vir

5th July 2020 at 7:18 pm

Sedition is practically my middle name. Mor Sedition Vir. The sooner that we dismantle the British State the better. Likely BS do not like it but they can GFT. Which is not to say that we have free speech in this society, we do not – but sedition, that is practically expected of me these days.

Lewis Deane

4th July 2020 at 9:56 am

The street II.

Now and then a curtain flits and a stare
At second or third floor windows opposite,
Half inquisitive of hotel happenings,
Half irritated by mock grandeur,
Brute noise this particular Victorian,
Part empty site displays. It’s the habit
Of some drawn up to face, across the nightly peace
Of no mans land, the street, dull combatants
On each side: Perhaps poverty separates you
From the pub downstairs, a certain angst
About the pull of popular haunts,
Getting more than your fair share of inarticulate friends.
A chance modern law decides
Dividing speech and the neighbourhood,
Forming false battles, situating
Between you and it a televisual screen,
Your thought on some Heaven
Where face to face we met,
Your eyes on some dark glass of a window.
You’re seen, the curtains drawn.

It’s something to be remarked upon,
Odd how every night it is done
Not only by you but repeated
Down the street, each side a sentinel,
If not throwing sticks in a fire, then
Looking out to see who’s watching who,
Catching the nightly skirmishes that,
With not uncommon frequency, continue
To punctuate a phoney war. Now and then
That irregular exchange of cigarettes
Or your side strikes the light, mine offers the fag.
Usually, though, askers are causalities
Rejected by us both, mostly ignored,
Often sleeping somewhere out of sight,
Under a bridge or whatever bomb shelter
Accident has devised, they roll in slumber
Tight into a plastic bag or the damp,
Soggy cardboard once used to wrap our guns,
Tanks, communications, surveillance units.

It is to be remarked upon how little
I see of you, how quickly you disappear,
How suspicious of you and I this neutral,
Unneutral status makes us: Together
Manufactured means of war – now we test them out.

But I’m bored of killing, it’s become such a
Common exercise – I wish you’d sign a truce.

James Conner

4th July 2020 at 9:36 am

I’m looking forward to 3 million Chinks relocating to England. I wonder a)where they’ll all live, b)where they’ll all work, c)where all their kids will attend school and d)which doctors/dentists/hospitals they’ll all be using.

George Whale

4th July 2020 at 3:06 pm

Rest assured that the ruling class will be untouched by the incoming horde, just as they were untouched by previous hordes they invited in.

Gloria Britanniæ

6th July 2020 at 11:30 am

Spot on, George—and specifically replying to post of 5/7/30 9.43am, they’re being imported not just for the economic benefits to the Political Class but to shore up the Conservative vote (assuming that a Parliament that places the entire population under house arrest ever deigns to hold an election again, or at least one that is more than a Potemkin farce); and it’s amazing how many supposed ‘conservatives’ are lapping up idea.

Native Britons have never been more vulnerable: the Left, failing to persuade sufficient of us to their cause adopted Brecht’s idea (‘The Solution’) of ‘dissolv[ing] the people and elect[ing] another’; the bosses, failing to persuade sufficient of us to work for low wages likewise; and now the so-called Right does too?

(If you waste time with twitter, you might look up DHmpuk account, there’s some posts linking to the Oxford study on DNA and historical maps showing that 1½ millennia later, we’re still basically the same people.
…Or were.)

Martyn Baker

4th July 2020 at 8:07 pm

Most of them are quite well off. They won’t be applying for asylum, they have passports. They will bring money in.

Treacle Tart

4th July 2020 at 11:04 pm

3 million is the same as the population of Wales. James Conner’s point is pertinent. Where will they live? Where will their children go to school? Where are the hospitals they will use? Where are we going to build the additional roads they will need?

James Conner

5th July 2020 at 5:24 am

“Most of them are quite well off. …They will bring money in.”

Yeah right. That was the lie that was peddled when our country was flooded with EU scum who now rob, rape and beg. Have you ever been to HK? I stopped off there for a few days en route to Oz and it was a real eye-opener. It’s a filthy depressing place and most of the Chinks there don’t have a pot to piss in.

George Whale

5th July 2020 at 9:43 am

Britain is more than just a giant corporation, we have a people, a culture, an identity, an environment. We should sacrifice all that to line the pockets of the ruling class?

Major Bonkers

3rd July 2020 at 7:27 pm

I am sure that there is a major Western politician who has consistently warned against the Chinese communist party, and its policies of internal repression, trade dumping, currency manipulation, and espionage. He has recently criticised it for its handling of the Chinese coronavirus and makes a point of standing up to its bullying of its neighbours.

Who could it be, I wonder? Perhaps he was, and is, right?

Albani (Q)osja

3rd July 2020 at 6:41 pm

Woke people are not against oppression, they are against the “wrong” kind of freedom. A woke oppresion is good, a Chinese oppresion is yellow, so it is probably good. In any case not worth losing your voice when you have much more important things to deal with, like Jimmy Kimel’s black faces and shitty impersonations.

Dominic Straiton

3rd July 2020 at 5:51 pm

People are scared their bank account or their life will be hacked. If China wins the race for quantum supremacy then that is the least of everyones problems.

KATHLEEN CARR

3rd July 2020 at 5:48 pm

young spoilt brats with issues or earnest idealists as they prefer are only interested in themselves. They know nothing about George Floyd or the history of slavery which are the current excuses to riot and destroy statues-so of course they have no interest in people who are being genuinely persecuted.

CJ Hawes

3rd July 2020 at 5:33 pm

Silence may not be violence but it’s certainly deafining or as Priti would say deffenin.

Linda Payne

3rd July 2020 at 5:25 pm

Why should we care? don’t we have enough problems in this country?

Richard GIBBONS

3rd July 2020 at 4:56 pm

The woke squad ignore Hong Kong because they are the wrong sort of ethnic minority. Just like the Chinese and the Indians in the UK they are independent and successful. The SJWs are only interested in victims and as Blacks and Muslims have played the victim card for hundreds of years that is where their time and effort is spent. Slavery has gone on (and is still going on) for over 5 thousand years but BLM are only interest in 200-250 years of American slavery of Africans sold to them mostly by other black people.

Flossy Morris

3rd July 2020 at 5:50 pm

Pretty much agree with your post, although anyone can play the victim card.

I reckon the wokists will probably target, if that’s the right word, the Chinese sometime after they’ve finished their hostilities towards “whiteness”; there’s no way they will be able to tolerate their oppressive work ethic and patriarchal maths skills. But the cynical (and slightly twisted) part of me is imagining the radical leftist types actually encouraging the Hongkongers to remain in freedom-loving communist China and not to make the mistake of coming to our terrible, racist little island. Granting residency to them is obviously a trap to keep the yellow man under whitey’s boot.

Hasting Keith

3rd July 2020 at 4:41 pm

“You might think … that the ‘anti fascist’ ideologues of our Western woke brigade would have something to say”. My first thought to this was “of course not – they are Maoists. They want to destroy the West, not the CCP, so they aren’t going to criticise”. Then the more rational part of my brain kicked in and said “no – it’s because they are f***ing ignorant – they are only interested in their virtue signalling and not interested in real cases of persecution – the Uighurs anyone?”. I hope the rational part of my brain is right, because the woke brigade are starting to sound more Maoist by the day.

Hasting Keith

3rd July 2020 at 4:22 pm

The reason for the silence is that it does not fit in with the current narrative. Hong Kong is an example of where British colonialism might have actually done some good – the populace being in general wealthier and better educated, and certainly enjoying far more freedoms (until now) than on mainland China. Nobody wants to highlight any positive influences of the UK on the world.

George Whale

3rd July 2020 at 4:09 pm

Hong Kong was never fully democratic under the former British colonial administration, indeed they blocked several attempts at democratic reform https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_development_in_Hong_Kong
I’d be inclined to agree with you but for our government’s evident hypocrisy on this issue.

George Whale

3rd July 2020 at 3:35 pm

Hong Kong is none of our business, it belongs to China now. Moreover, the West is in no condition to preach freedom, democracy or morality to the rest of the world. Post-Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, we should have learned to stay out of other countries’ domestic squabbles. But watch Johnson and the media now ramp up propaganda for bringing three million Hongkongese into Britain – as if we didn’t have more than enough ‘refugees’ already.

Nick Catt

3rd July 2020 at 3:48 pm

So we should just ignore international treaties, especially one signed and agreed by all the parties involved?

Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya bear no relation to the situation in HK. I agree we should stay out of other countries domestic “squabbles”, but what’s happening in HK is not interfering, Britain is responsible.

George Whale

3rd July 2020 at 4:10 pm

Hong Kong was never fully democratic under the former British colonial administration, indeed they blocked several attempts at democratic reform https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_development_in_Hong_Kong
I’d be inclined to agree with you but for our government’s evident hypocrisy on this issue.

Nick Catt

3rd July 2020 at 7:17 pm

Perhaps this is an opportunity for Britain to atone for its past failures.

George Whale

3rd July 2020 at 7:31 pm

Well yes, as long as it doesn’t involve inviting millions of people here (which seems to be the establishment’s unimaginative default response to overseas conflicts).

Gloria Britanniæ

6th July 2020 at 1:54 pm

Nick, we have ignored treaties when expedient, such as our ignoring the 1852 London Protocol guaranteeing Danish territorial integrity (wrt the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein) when Prussia embarked on the Second Schleswig War in 1864 (n.b. France, Russia and Austria, also signatories, were also defaulters—and it was those powers uniting in opposition to Prussia that led to the latter’s unsuccessful conclusion of the First Schleswig War in 1848–51).

Oft cited in defence of our decisions to go to war in 1914 and 1939 are our treaty obligations but there was as much ‘realpolitik’ governing going to war on those occasions as there was in not going to war in 1864.

wrt to modern relations with China, we *should* be more circumspect, e. g. ensuring that no manufacturing is dependent on them, thwarting their ambitions when we can do so safely, etc.; but we should *not* unnecessarily provoke them.

silly billy

3rd July 2020 at 8:38 pm

An additional three million people will, however, stimulate demand for housing etc, keeping asset prices high.

Jonathan Marshall

4th July 2020 at 5:13 pm

I very much doubt that all three million will come here.

Gloria Britanniæ

6th July 2020 at 2:05 pm

Jonathan (4/7/20, 5.13pm): ‘I very much doubt that all three million will come here.’ An immigration policy should be based on ‘I doubt’—what if your doubts are wrong and our concerns correct? An ‘oops’ and a shrug from you at that point won’t be much use.

Gloria Britanniæ

6th July 2020 at 2:11 pm

* Above should read: ‘An immigration policy should NOT be based on “I doubt” ’, if that isn’t obvious.

Martyn Baker

4th July 2020 at 8:17 pm

Hong Kong is our business as is anywhere we want. We’re not going to invade it. Whatever injustices people of the past did is of no matter now. HK people coming here will not be asylum seekers and will bring money with them. We need to stop trading with China and encourage others to stop as well. We must support the Uighurs, the other nations in the South China Sea, India and the people of Tibet. China has built concentration camps, is sterilising women and is building its military with an aim of expansion. It openly lies. The CCP is a menace to the world.

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