Politics

Hong Kong is at a Cross-Roads: Presidents Trump and Xi Must Act to Avert Violence

hong kong

The trajectory of events in Hong Kong is not positive. Nor is the backdrop. What was delicate, non-violent and potentially negotiable is becoming fraught, fragile and perilous. Three overarching facts define the backdrop, strongly suggesting specific actions by President Trump. The good news is that there is time to avert a profound calamity; bad news is time grows short.

Understanding the backdrop or context is essential.  First, Hong Kong’s integration back into Communist China in 1997, following British rule, has always been an act of cognitive dissonance, a promise of relative freedom and capitalism by an oppressive, unrepentant and ideologically unconvinced Communist behemoth.  

The slight-of-hand has been challenged on several occasions, not least in August 2014, when China tried to limit democracy in Hong Kong by allowing citizens to vote for a chief executive of the “semiautonomous territory” – but insisted the communist-dominated electoral committee would control who ran for the office. 

Protestors, not ready to give up self-rule so easily, occupied a portion of Hong Kong for two months, in what came to be known at the Umbrella Movement.   Unfortunately, the non-violent stand-off produced little in the way of concessions by the Communists.  The current chief executive was chosen by the communist-dominated committee, and that is what looks to be the future – barring a change.

Second, five years later, China is run by what Iran might call their own “supreme leader.”  China’s President Xi Jinping is objectively unrivaled, unchecked, and constitutionally unaccountable.  As the Wall Street Journal laconically summarized on August 31, Xi rules without legal or political guardrails.  “He has repealed a constitutional limit of two terms as president, allowing him to remain in office indefinitely.”

More, “he has replaced almost all top military and security officials with people loyal to him.”  To this add overt, regressive and objectively oppressive treatment of human rights advocates, even as he persecutes Christians, Muslims and other minorities.  “Human rights lawyers have been sentenced to long jail terms,” and “much stricter controls have been placed on internet use in mainland China.”

In one sense, these rolling offenses – along with heightened surveillance of the population, intensive invasion of privacy, a rogue criminal justice system, and aggressive international security and trade moves – are not new.  In another, they are entirely new, since they are being pressed internally, and on Hong Kong with new vigor by a peerless communist monarch. 

Third, Xi and mainland China are becoming more aggressive – deliberately stroking fear in Hong Kong, even as protestors struggle to remain peaceful.  Credible reports of violent communist infiltrators attacking movement leaders, including with bats and “meat cleavers” are being corroborated.  Military equipment is being pre-positioned, creating shadows of Tiananmen Square’s horrific crackdown.  Across the border from Hong Kong, the “military police” have conducted exercises as a “show of force.” 

And now, in recent days, the Chinese Government has begun arresting peaceful protest movement leaders.  These activities, taken together, hardly leave room for applause.  Instead, they point in the wrong direction.  

While Communist China has no soul, or interest in preserving souls – or even in preserving the freedoms that allow a soul to prosper – events are quickly taking on a life of their own.  To date, the protestors have been non-violent, but rumblings suggest that may not continue if attacked, arrested and summarily suppressed.  China has offered face to the world of restraint, but this too seems to be at risk.  

Finally, the potential exists for a complete breakdown of communications between those who want Hong Kong’s basic right to self-rule preserved and those communist leaders – including Xi – who appear determined to end or further restrict that right.  

The battle is joined, in a way that strangely mirrors some of the most violent and significant battles for freedom of the past hundred years.  If not Tiananmen Square yet, and not a perfect replay of Poland seeking freedom from the Soviet Union or various communist-oppressed post-Soviet Republics straining in their Soviet harness, Hong Kong appears to be on an increasingly desperate trajectory.

As the leader of one of Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy groups noted: “This is the situation we are in: absolutely no back channel and total distrust between the two sides.”  That is an ominous assessment.

So, what will happen, what can be done, when and how will the slide toward open conflict stop?  In short, President Xi and his mainland communist machinery will want to avoid an outright confrontation, which would become a massacre, before October.  That is when Communist leaders are scheduled to mark the 70th anniversary of the Communist Revolution. 

That said, no obvious stop will prevent this confrontation, unless one side blinks, which seems – at present – unlikely.  What can be done in the next 30 days to stop the confrontation?  Several things, and they fall to President Trump, the US Congress and US allies. 

First, the President can and should be making back channel calls to US allies around the world – to line up clear and early opposition to a crackdown by China on Hong Kong.  This is what Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, and likely both Bill Clinton and George W Bush would have done.  This is the time.  Not only would it likely give China pause, it would again show artful US leadership.

Second, President Trump should send back channel signals – clear by private – that as the Chinese economy falters, he will ice any potential trade agreement if there is a crackdown.  Since China sells five times as much to the US as we do to them, and we need little of anything that they make, his threat is and should be real.

Third, President Trump should privately note that he has asked his defense and commerce team to frame significant economic sanctions – and they will bite – if a crackdown occurs.  He will not delay, dilute or diplomatically demur if there is a crackdown that impair human rights in Hong Kong in any way.

Fourth and finally, he should publicly ask China to act responsibly, and to listen to the protestors in person, accommodate their reasonable requests for continuity of individual liberty, honoring British and international expectations which accompanied the British return of Hong Kong to China.  He should add that, based on Hong Kong’s special status, providing concessions would be viewed internationally as an act of leadership, and might win him other concessions on the global stage. 

This is a critical moment, and events in Hong Kong are reaching a crisis tempo.  The trajectory is not positive.  On the other hand, there is time to turn it positive.  Doing so would not only benefit the people of Hong Kong and offer an example to the world of how tense events are civilly resolved.  It could showcase President Trump’s mastery of diplomacy, credit President Xi with understanding the global context, and open the door to that long-sought economic deal.


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Bob L.
3 years ago

Chairman Xi isn’t going to let Hong Kong set a standard to inspire other of his subjects to try (again) to gain on the main land.
Yes, I called him Chairman because he is now as much the dictator as Mao was since he’s been granted live time power.

Great Britain messed up in turning Hong Kong over to Red China instead of to the legitimate Chinese government, the Republic of China, in exile in Taiwan.

Peter
3 years ago

President Trump should not be involved in this fracas at all. America should only be promoting Independence through self-reliance, self-sufficiency, and self-policing.. So much is lost in translation there.. Sometimes they get along and sometimes, no? Well, they have to figure it all out for themselves. I smell speculation, corruption, and patronizing ingratiation on the part of the pro-democracy protesters. more “fair-weather allies” like all the rest.. I’m not buying it. I hope the President keeps his hands clean.

Bill Hicks
3 years ago

Well written. Thoughtful examination of the problem and potential solutions.

Tim
3 years ago

Xi is not going to give any concessions. He is going to continue to bully his way and take more and more. No one stopped Hitler leading to WWII. If the world doesn’t stop him here we are looking at WWIII.

Richard G Slate
3 years ago

President Trump needs to get allot tougher with the Chinese Jinping regarding human rights and oppression. He has ruthlessly jailed Christians and had there churches burned down. He is a ruthless dictator

johnH
3 years ago

China is Communist country & part of the doctrine is based on hate & fear. Read history of communism into Russia, China, & Cuba to understand how they operate

Edgar
3 years ago

This is a well thought out post. I believe the suggestions herein are sound and to the point. Praying for our President and the people of Hong Kong.

Roy Hearn
3 years ago

All that is necessary, for evil to triumph
Is that good men do nothing.

Janette
3 years ago
Reply to  Roy Hearn

Roy your quote. I remember hearing this long time ago. whose quote is this?
i was just thinking about that quote trying to remember the exact words.
It is a good quote. However one needs the Wisdom and understanding
from the Lord of creation to make the right decisions. If we seek his
advise he will make it happen. There is lots of wisdom with God in
his word and He encourages us to ask for that wisdom.

Morbious
3 years ago

In the greatest betrayal in modern times, the swamp decided to ship our manufacturing there. The shady promise was that we would thus build a chinese middle class and viola, they would demand a bill of rights. Look at nearly every one of our national politicians in the last 25 yrs and itsthe same story. This morbid choir sang the praises of ‘free trade’, using that as an inducement to rinos and neo cons. No one seemed to worry that we were building up a monstrous regime. Few were the voices of caution. After all, you could buy a blender for thirty bucks. Gosh, isnt that worth empowering an existential threat? Maybe not, but affordable i phones sure were. Any port in a storm. We’re going to be very very lucky if we avoid reaping the whirlwind over our ridiculous policies. Wait! They send us cheap fentanyl. Hurray. All those folks in flyover country who now compete for the three pizza delivery jobs available can zone out and forget whats happened to their city. All the while, the very slime devils who made these deals fight Trump with all their might as he tries to undo some of the mess.

Ed LaPinskas
3 years ago

I’m going back to square one here – Why Nixon wanted to start trade relations with communists is something that never made sense to me. Same issue goes with taking us off the gold standard. Nix pulled me out of Viet Nam ( wounded on last op ) but no logic in these 2 major issues.

Linda M
3 years ago
Reply to  Ed LaPinskas

Agreeing with the points you have made and that have made us slaves to China for all practical purposes.

Wayne D Peterkin
3 years ago

Many of us thought that was foolish and against the hope of freedom for the residents of Hong Kong to ever turn over sovereignty to China back in the 1990s. We are reaping what was sown then, and it will not get better as long as China and now Hong Cong is hostage to a brutal dictatorship. And to think we have socialists right here at home trying to implement the same type of dictatorship. I say that because that’s where the socialism promoted by Sanders, Warren, and others leads. It does not end well.

Ann
3 years ago

So many European countries are now having big problems (Sweden and Denmark to name a few). They are paying 65%+ on taxes and it’s not working out for the people in these countries.

Tad
3 years ago

No, it doesn’t “fall to President Trump, the US Congress and US allies”. We need to stay out of this. We can either have a trade war with China or we can get involved in this, but to do both would be the beginning of a foundation for war with China. They don’t think with Western brains. War, to them, is power, win or lose. It puts them on the world stage.

PaulE
3 years ago
Reply to  Tad

All quite true Tad. This is NOT an issue where President Trump or the United States bears any responsibility for the actions of China and its communist party leadership. Of course President Trump as already done “back channel” talks with all the western leaders and the response from the European leaders has been “Not interested if we are going to offend China.” Kist look at the official responses from the G7 leaders to see where they all line up on this matter. They have already picked the side they are all going to stand behind.

As to Asia, Japan and South Korea both side with us for the purpose of targeted economic and diplomatic sanctions against China, but they are NOT going to interfere militarily in the internal conflict between Hong Kong and China. Australia and likely New Zealand will also stand with the United States regarding any sanctions against China when China finally unleashes their military on the people of Hong Kong. For the author to pretend that President Trump hasn’t already done a lot of work to get ally support against China is utter nonsense. Same for the ridiculous notion that the United States bears any responsibility for China’s President Xi, who is a hard-line communist, acting exactly how ALL hard-line communist leaders act when they face any internal opposition to their authoritarian rule. At some point socialist / communist leaders all make the same calculation that crushing the vocal opposition is more important that what a bunch of largely feckless and spineless European leaders think about them at official state dinners. At the end of the day, most European leaders will tolerate just about anything, if it means they continue to benefit financially from the status quo.

johnH
3 years ago
Reply to  Tad

I hope the US stays out of this. The wheels started turning when British turned over in 1997. One must realize the dangers of protesting on other countries (which can be brutal). Protestors in USA have too much freedom, I mean what does breaking out windows in business have to do with peaceful protest.

tony willIiams
3 years ago

Looking at the ‘progress’ Xi is making toward the restriction and abolishments of freemen’s rights I am reminded of the other nations which have succumbed to socialism, communism, and totalitarian rule.
Sadly the works being done in Hong Kong are reminding me too much of the government of the state of California. I live here with less freedom of speech, more surveillance, being denied services I have been forced to pay for through taxes, and the state trying to force our sitting President to bow to his wishes or he will not be allowed on the ballot the subjects of california will be given.

Ann
3 years ago
Reply to  tony willIiams

tony, that doesn’t sound very good.

Linda M
3 years ago
Reply to  tony willIiams

hard to believe, isn’t it

Brenda Blunt
3 years ago

This is what will happen in the USA if liberals get their way. If China insists on going after Hong Kong, they should suffer economic repercussions along with other constraints. Companies might to reconsider doing no more business with China and do all of their manufacturing in the USA.

Ann
3 years ago
Reply to  Brenda Blunt

Not a bad idea, Brenda.

Peter
3 years ago
Reply to  Brenda Blunt

.

Sockgirl
3 years ago

Good luck on trying to make Xi accountable to anyone or anything. I think the only thing that would turn his head would be if we sent in troops, which, we all know, will never happen for many, many reasons. Unfortunately, the protesters, no matter how brave, have no real military support and are, sadly, going to be overcome by Chinese military forces. Xi cannot allow Hong Kong to be free and China not. I fear much bloodshed and sorrow lie ahead.

Ann
3 years ago
Reply to  Sockgirl

Unfortunately, you are correct.

Linda M
3 years ago
Reply to  Sockgirl

The reason that we should all support our LOCAL police.

Rhesa Cook
3 years ago

People think Trump is not smart but leaders look to him for advise. He is very smart and knows how to deal with people & get his points across

johnH
3 years ago
Reply to  Rhesa Cook

He has too big an ego & is a bully to many. Look at how many people have either left or been fired in his administration. He says he likes chaos, but he should use his people & not try to micromanage them. Some real good people have left his admin & are sorely needed now. One person cannot know everything such as more than the generals

Bruce Curran
3 years ago

Trump should let the world know of planned reaction if Hong Kong erupts into problems…and then follow thru without delay. Plan as outlined above should defuse the issue for awhile, however a long term solution will be hard to achieve!

johnH
3 years ago
Reply to  Bruce Curran

No, I hope that Trump does not draw a line in the sand on this one.

Paul W
3 years ago

Excellent article, Mr. Charles. Let’s hope Xi is as reasonable as we hope that he is. I’m not so sure, but his reasonability is about the only chance of this ending well.

Tony
3 years ago

Xi is progressively more desperate, essentially like the dems in America. Rational thought becomes a lot more difficult during the chaos created by the desperate. Hopefully, the free world will see our advantage here.

Gary A Garvin
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony

agreed

Max
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony

Like the democrats, Xi has no one near that will tell him the truth. The press parrots the party line and that is good enough for him.

Tom
3 years ago

Typical communist, 2 steps forward ,one step back. They just go on breaking agreements as the biggest bully in the region and no one has the power to step up to them!

Frank S.
3 years ago

It sounds like we are expecting two practitioners of Realpolitik to act as liberals/idealists, in the diplomatic/geopolitic sense. That would require both Xi and Trump to find a Win/Win solution. That is not a likely scenario in this case. But clearly Xi is the one under the gun here. He can not afford to appear weak to his Communist Party, nor can he repeat another “Tiananmen Square” with the world/social media watching. Decisions, decisions. I am very glad I am not in his shoes.

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