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FOR THE WEEK OF AUG. 19, 2019

Weeks of massive, violent protests in Hong Kong test its relationship with China

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Huge street demonstrations have escalated this summer in Hong Kong, a global financial hub that is a semi-autonomous region of China. The original focus was a proposal by the regional government to let local authorities send arrested dissidents and others to mainland China. Opponents fear the bill would place Hong Kong residents and visitors under that Communist government's jurisdiction, undermining citizens' rights in a special administrative region with its own political and economic systems. Protesters now are pressing for greater democracy and an investigation of police brutality against them.

Rallies began last spring, became larger in June and then turned violent as hundreds of thousands repeatedly marched through the capital. Demonstrators also took over the busy international airport for three days this month, closing it. Riot police have used tear gas and rubber bullets against unruly crowds. The Chinese government in Beijing, eager to end the protests that draw global attention, calls the protesters "criminal terrorists" and "street thugs who want Hong Kong to 'go to hell,'" as a state-run newspaper put it last week under this headline: "Hong Kong violence reveals hidden agenda fueled by evil intentions." Mainland authorities also claim the disruptions stem from the "black hand" of foreign interference, particularly from the United States.

China gained control over Hong Kong from Britain in 1997, pledging autonomy for a modern, thriving city that represents capitalism and freedom in Asia. Gradually, China has been whittling down those liberties. "The protests are a political groundswell, a reflection of genuine popular anger and commitment to democracy," says a Washington Post editorial (see video below). An Australian scholar is among those worried about a bloody crackdown. "The chances of armed intervention from Beijing, once unthinkable, are rising by the day," Richard McGregory wrote last week in a New York Times guest column. "The state media has broadcast ominous footage of its anti-riot police, who fall under the command of the People's Liberation Army, marshaled on the Hong Kong border."

U.S. editorial says: "China's leaders should turn back before it is too late." – The Washington Post, Aug. 12

Hong Kong student says: "The protesters of tomorrow will fight harder. . . unless and until the youth of today are convinced that they have a future. That is why it is a mistake to wait out the storm, as the current administration seems intent on doing." – Ronald Chiu, University of Hong Kong law student, writing Aug. 13 in The South China Morning Post

Presidential candidate says: "The brave protesters in Hong Kong are demanding the rights and freedoms promised to them. The U.S. should be leading the free world to rally support behind them and, with one voice, defend our shared democratic ideals and the desire for liberty that beats in every heart." – Joe Biden, Aug. 13 tweet

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2019
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