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Looking at Hong Kong on America’s Fourth of July

July 3, 2017
Plain English Version

A ceremony at Golden Bauhinia Square in Hong Kong to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Britain’s handover of the city to China. Credit Information Services Department, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

It was 241 years ago that the thirteen colonies declared their “independence” from Great Britain. Twenty years ago, Great Britain “handed” Hong Kong over to China.

In a recent speech, President Xi Jinping of China made some things clear. He warned Hong Kong about resisting control by his government. He said Hong Kong is a “plural society” with different views. But he also said if the differences get too great, it will not be good for Hong Kong.

That was the gentle part of his speech. He went on to say he would not allow ”infiltration and sabotage.” By that, he means protests and dissent. Observers say it was a threat to a pass a law called Article 23.

Article 23 says that sedition and subversion are crimes. In other words, do not challenge the central government in China.

Hong Kong is a great city. It is a center of commerce. It is an East-West Gateway. Like most large cities, it has some big problems. Housing costs are high. The education system is poor. It is not always clear when a protest is only about local problems. That is because local problems may call for a political solution.

The Chinese government in Beijing controls the elections. It picks the candidates. It handpicked the new chief executive of Hong Kong.

China controls the elections. It picks the candidates. Beijing handpicked the new chief executive of Hong Kong.

The United States looks good in comparison. President Trump has declared verbal war on the free press. He accuses it of “fake news.” He uses Twitter to insult and demean reporters. He also created a group to see if American elections are honest. He talks about “witch hunts” targeting him about his relationship with Russia.

There are limits to what he can do to muzzle dissent. In fact, the harder he tries, the less he succeeds. America’s free press is growing because he attacks it. American also has fifty states. The Constitution gives them important powers to resist the federal government. And of course, the First Amendment assures freedom of speech.

America’s Fourth of July is a celebration of these freedoms. In contrast, the people of Hong Kong fear the worst as they try to act like free people.

Resource: The New York Times July 1, 2017

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