America must consider involvement in Hong Kong

The United States should fight for Hong Kong’s freedom by passing a bill that holds Chinese officials accountable for abuses of power.

Hong+Kong+continues+14-week+protest%2C+urging+the+American+officials+to+pass+the+Hong+Kong+Human+Rights+and+Democracy+Act.
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America must consider involvement in Hong Kong

Hong Kong continues 14-week protest, urging the American officials to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

Hong Kong continues 14-week protest, urging the American officials to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

Photo by Thecla Li/ THE CHIMES

Hong Kong continues 14-week protest, urging the American officials to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

Photo by Thecla Li/ THE CHIMES

Photo by Thecla Li/ THE CHIMES

Hong Kong continues 14-week protest, urging the American officials to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

Amanda Frese, Opinions Editor

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“Oh, say can you see,” sang protesters in Hong Kong, with signs that read “Fight for our city, stand with Hong Kong” as they marched on Sept. 8 near the U.S. consulate in the Central district of Hong Kong. According to The Guardian, protesters urged American officials to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act; a bill that would place sanctions on officials in China and Hong Kong who had undermined the political and economic autonomy of the city. 

Police responded to the protests with tear gas, dispersing those who sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Protesters set fire to cardboard boxes to ward off officials. Vandalizing train stations and storefronts, they barricaded themselves in street alleys with metal fences, according to The Guardian

As Hong Kong continues its now 14-week protest, the U.S. should consider providing diplomatic aid to the city to help them achieve universal suffrage, as well as amnesty for those arrested in the protests and investigations of police violence. 

HONG KONG PROTESTS

Since 1997 Hong Kong has been under the “one country, two systems” policy, allowing Hong Kong to retain a limited democracy government system separate from mainland China’s communist government, granting Hong Kong with certain freedoms that are unavailable to citizens of mainland China, according to The Economist. However, despite the separation of the two systems, the Chinese government asserts itself into Hong Kong politics, according to The New Yorker

For example, in 2014 the Chinese government proposed reforms to elect the chief executive for the region, resulting in mass protests and demonstrations in Hong Kong known as the “Umbrella Protests.” The protests did not result in any policy concessions. 

In 2019, a 14-week protest began in June when Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam proposed an extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong citizens to be tried in Beijing—mainland China. According to Amnesty International, the bill would allow for mainland authorities to target critics, journalists and human rights defenders. After months of protesting, Lam recalled the legislation in attempts to end the chaos in Hong Kong. However, Hong Kong protesters declared that this action was “too little, too late,” according to the Hong Kong Free Press

Lam only acted after months of police brutality, mass arrests of protesters and activists, as well as threats from mainland China to intervene. According to The Guardian, protesters are now calling for investigations into police brutality, amnesty for arrested protesters and universal suffrage. On Sept. 9 protesters called the U.S. to help achieve these demands. 

THE HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY ACT

According to the New York Times, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act would penalize officials who suppress freedoms in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory of Hong Kong. By passing the bill, the U.S would affirm its commitment to the protection of human rights, protection of freedom and democracy. 

Human Rights Watch reported that Chinese police officers have a history of denying detainees access to lawyers and torturing them. In the past 24 hours, according to CBS news, 22year-old pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong was arrested while walking to a subway station, in which he was “forcefully pushed into a private minivan on the street in broad daylight.”

If the Chinese government is given more power in Hong Kong, there will only be an increase in police brutality. The Chinese government will only continue abuses of power that result in Hong Kong losing political and economic autonomy, as well as access to basic human rights. America has the opportunity to help Hong Kong maintain freedom. The U.S. must act now. 

CALL FOR AMERICAN INVOLVEMENT

America has a moral obligation to stand with Hong Kong. Hong Kong protesters are yelling on the streets, raising signs in protest and fighting for their freedom. They are calling for help. The U.S. cannot be passive when people are arrested and tortured because their values do not align with those who govern them. Passivity is not an option when a 22-year-old activist is forced into a minivan and detained for fighting for his own rights and for the rights of Hong Kong. 

If America chooses to ignore the cries of people that have faced oppression by a government that does not value its people, America will turn its back on fighting for freedom. America’s diplomatic assistance would allow Hong Kong to further their universal suffrage, accountability for police brutality and the release of those arrested during the prolonged protests. Lam may have done “too little, too late,” but America has the opportunity to do much for the people of Hong Kong at a time that will significantly impact their freedom.