President Trump’s press conference Friday afternoon, in which he broke off relations with the World Health Organization (“WHO”), criticized mainland China on several points, and ultimately announced the removal of the special trade deal the US has with Hong Kong, sounded like he was beating a war drum to me.
Accusations flew over China. Words like “malfeasance” were used, describing Bejing’s handling of COVID-19 in it’s early stage. Trump also dredged up the espionage and theft of Intellectual Property, “ripping off” the US, taking US jobs, violating their agreement under the World Trade Organization (WTO), unlawfully claiming territory in the Pacific, breaking their word on Hong Kong’s autonomy, continually violating [their] promises to us, instigating a worldwide pandemic, and costing lives in America and around the world.
Bejing recently announced that they will be placing their National Security apparatus — one of the most terrifying surveillance systems in the world — within the borders of Hong Kong. Previously, there have been many protests in Hong Kong — in large part because its citizens had protection from extradition to mainland China (such as if suspected to be anti-Communist). If extradited to the mainland, citizens lose all protections afforded by Hong Kong’s laws and are placed completely at the mercy of the Chinese Communist Party.
Currently, Hong Kong enjoys freedom of speech and of the press, democratic elections, equality before the law, and freedom of association, assembly and demonstration. With Bejing’s announcement to bring new national security laws into Hong Kong — without Hong Kong having a chance to vote on it — there is legitimate fear these rights would be quickly eroded.
If Trump signs the new legislation mentioned Friday, it will result in Hong Kong being punished due to Bejing’s actions — their favored trade status would be revoked.
So — why would Trump punish Hong Kong, currently exempted from the Chinese trade war tariffs?
There’s a scene in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 masterpiece “Full Metal Jacket”, in which a Private nicknamed “Gomer Pyle” is caught with a Jelly Doughnut hidden in his footlocker. The Drill Sergeant decides not to punish Private Pyle — but instead forces everyone else in the barracks to do push-ups, while Pyle must stand there and eat his jelly doughnut.
President Trump may have just made the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) out to be Gomer Pyle — in hopes that the citizens of Hong Kong (like the Privates doing push-ups) will push back even more in their efforts to keep their rights and autonomy from the CCP.
The goal of such collective punishment, of course, is to make the target (Gomer Pyle) realize that now all will be watching him, and attempting to enforce change, instead of just the Drill Sergeant. It’s about accountability. No doubt the goal is to foment even more anger in the protesters in Hong Kong — more reason to push back against the CCP leadership.
The people in Hong Kong have been re-ramping up protests already now that the virus is less of a danger, but this is now a much bigger concern for them. So far it doesn’t seem to be backfiring on Trump — in some sense, he’s not trying to punish the citizens of Hong Kong — rather, letting them realize that China is forcefully trying to take away their freedoms — and trusting that Hong Kong citizens will not stand for it, and will fight back to retain those freedoms.
The World Health Organization (WHO) would also be “punished” — losing all $400 million plus in funding from the US. The United States is by far the largest donor of the approximately $1.7B from 2019. It is questionable whether severing ties with the WHO was necessary, as it seems evident Trump’s beef is ultimately with China.
It’s important to understand Hong Kong’s relationship with mainland China to see the big picture: Hong Kong is almost like a separate country, though geographically it is within China’s borders. Until WWII, several countries and cities in the South Pacific were actually colonies — of France, the Dutch, America, and Britain. Part of the reason the US was against Japan in WWII was that Japan was attempting to take over these colonies and make them part of the Japanese Empire.
Hong Kong was previously a British colony. It was finally signed over to China in 1997 — with a 50-year provision that Hong Kong’s rights would be kept intact — a level of freedom and democracy distinct from Communist mainland. The Communist regime rules from Bejing — but Hong Kong is more like Britain or America in regards to rights and freedoms, although seeing Hong Kong police response to protests as of late may make you call that into question.
Just six months ago in November 2019, the US Senate unanimously passed the “Human Rights and Democracy Act”, a bill of rights in support of Hong Kong protesters. Bejing promised “strong countermeasures” if signed, and that “no one should underestimate China’s determination.”
Although Xi Jinping’s second term was due to end in 2023, this will not happen, as the Chinese constitution was changed in 2018 — removing term limits, allowing Jinping to rule indefinitely.
China somehow seems blind to the fact that it is fast losing trust with its neighbors; or else they are pressing forward because they simply don’t care. It will hit a point where Bejing will be seen as daring the rest of the world to do something about it. Well today, Trump did just that.
The US would have no problem forming a coalition against the CCP, as there’s already been outcry around the globe at China’s attempt to absorb Hong Kong. The UK, Australia and Canada were in alignment with Trump in opposing Bejing’s actions.
Trump’s actions on Friday may have seemed rash, but it is increasingly evident Bejing is aggressively moving forward, non-stop, with regard to both its economic, and politically strategic aspirations, in tune with its publicly announced goal of being the sole superpower on the planet.
China has launched rule by fear in Hong Kong
T HE PEOPLE of Hong Kong want two things: to choose how they are governed, and to be subject to the rule of law. The…
“US President Donald Trump signs Hong Kong human rights bills into law”, South China Morning Post, YouTube: