Op-Ed: Another Tienanmen Square in the making?


Colonialism has existed in some form since the beginning of what could now be called the state. One nation conquers another, and occupies that nation until the occupier gets tired of holding on to that possession. In most cases, the occupier figures out that the cultural differences between the occupied territory and the occupying power are incongruent.


The United States is no exception.  The U.S. holds the following territories: Puerto Rican, Virgin Islands (U.S.), American Samao, Guam and Northern Mariana Islands.  In some circles, mainly the few remaining communist-socialist states, the U.S. is still viewed as “imperialistic.” The U.S. held on to the Philippines until 1946 when the United States recognized independence for the island nation.


Although some of our enemies may consider us an imperialistic (some would also argue, opportunistic) power, that label really fails to hold water. Since the beginning of modern history, only England and Spain really seem to fit the mold of imperialism.


England held on to Hong Kong from 1841 until 1997 when the 99-year lease between China and England ended. During that period, Hong Kong grew as a massive world economic power, and for all intents and purposes, although Hong Kong Island “belonged” to China, Hong Kong functioned as an independent democracy. 

The official language of Hong Kong was English, and the population became westernized as would be expected under British rule, including the freedom of speech and the right to assemble.


Under the original terms of the agreement between China and England after the turn over in 1997, China was supposed to allow Hong Kong to remain as an autonomous region notwithstanding the fact that the new Hong Kong was now under communist China rule.


Those of us who pay attention to these mundane things wondered even back in 1997 what would become of Hong Kong. Some of us were correct in our beliefs that China would never allow Hong Kong to be democratized with the freedoms that the Hong Kong people had grown to enjoy for more than 150 years. Doing so would mean that the communist leaders in Beijing (the now antiquated notion of a communist Politburo) would feel threatened by an enlightened people that don’t want to ever fall into the grips of a government that has no regard for human rights.


Demonstrations and protests have been in the news lately because thankfully the very large student populations as well as other segments of the population have refused to accept the Chinese government’s proposition of elections. China had told the residents of Hong Kong that elections would return to the region in 2017. What China failed to tell the people of Hong Kong was that the candidates would be vetted and hand-picked by China’s notoriously corrupt system of “electing” officials. 

These so-called candidates are elite members of the communist party and they’re nothing more than pawns and cronies of the Chinese government. 


The student-led protests are a stark reminder of June 4, 1989 during the massacre of another student-led protest in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. CNN was the last news outlet with a live camera that broadcast images to the rest of the world of tanks squaring off with students. Once the Chinese government pulled the plug on the last camera, we can only imagine the horror that befell the protesters. 


The official Chinese propaganda has always stated that a few students died as a result of their own hooligan behavior, but enough time has passed that a few of those people at the square on June 4, 1989 survived to tell the truth of what actually took place. Although we’ll never know the exact number of people who were killed by the Chinese army, most experts agree that the number is in the thousands.


It is illegal for the Chinese to discuss the events at Tiananmen Square. The Chinese government would like to forget that cowardly, despicable act, but the rest of the world hasn’t forgotten – and neither have the people of Hong Kong.


It will be interesting to see how the Chinese leaders will handle this even larger group of protesters. The genie has been let out of the bottle. The people of Hong Kong tasted democracy for 156 years. They are not willing to experiment with the failed socialist policies that have been the trademark of every communist regime. China has become an economic world power in its own right through its capitalistic policies, but China has a great deal to learn about human rights.  


In the new age of internet, cell phones, texting, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the Chinese government was successful in censoring Twitter and Instagram after the protests began.


If China decides to use its iron fist as it did at Tiananmen Square in 1989, the world will not look kindly upon what has decidedly become an even more repressive regime over the last 25 years. Vladimir Putin appears to have learned nothing since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1989. In  fact, he seems even more determined to return to the  Soviet repressive days.
The people of Hong Kong appear to be doing a very job teaching old dogs new tricks. Now the Chinese government must make a choice: Embrace reform or resort to their old tricks.


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