- - Monday, November 18, 2019

The Chinese government may have succeeded in ensuring that the protests wracking Hong Kong have not spread outwards onto the Mainland. But one thing is for certain: Many months into the anti-Beijing demonstrations that have riled the capitalist entrepot, Beijing has manifestly failed to pacify Hong Kong. Indeed, if nothing else, the protests against Communist rule appear only to be gaining in intensity, if not size.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In 1997, when the British handed Hong Kong back to Communist China, Beijing pledged to maintain, for 50 years, a system dubbed “one country two systems.” Yes, Hong Kong would technically be part of the People’s Republic of China. But it would be entitled to its own legal, political and economic systems. Put bluntly: Hong Kong would still be free, while the rest of China strained under the repressive rule of the Communists. It wasn’t exactly a fair deal for the more than a billion Chinese people not living in Hong Kong, but it was still an important carve-out: A small bit of Chinese territory where liberties and human rights were respected.

In fits and starts, Beijing has slowly eroded Hong Kong’s freedoms, stacking the city-state’s governing bodies with Communist loyalists, for instance, and even “disappearing” the occasional dissident. And then things came to a head earlier this year when a law was announced that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to Mainland China. This was a big no-no: China’s “justice” system is anything but — it’s kangaroo courts writ large. Hong Kong, by contrast, still maintains something of an open and fair judicial process.

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The extradition move kicked off the largest challenge to Beijing’s rule since 1989. About a million Hong Kongers took to the streets to protest the proposed rule — this in a city of only 7 million. And in the end, Beijing, and Hong Kong’s puppet ruler, Carrie Lam, relented. The extradition bill was shelved.

The protests have continued, however, and in the subsequent months have morphed into something more profound: An existential challenge to Beijing’s rule in Hong Kong. Today’s protesters don’t just want a law or two to be reversed or repealed. They want self determination. They want freedom, and realize in Beijing’s direction lies tyranny.

As The Washington Times goes to press, a group of protesters is now holed up on the campus of Polytechnic University in Hong Kong.

“Police officers on Monday cornered hundreds of student protesters who occupied a Hong Kong university, offering the demonstrators one way out: drop your weapons and surrender or be met with a hail of tear gas and rubber bullets,” The New York Times reported. “For days, the protesters have held the police off from entering the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, fortifying their holdout with homemade fire bombs, giant sling shots, bricks and bows and arrows.”

Hong Kong’s police forces are prepared for battle. “For days, protesters have fortified the campus to keep out the police. Now cornered by police determined to arrest them, they desperately tried to get out but faced a cordon of officers armed with tear gas and water cannons. Officers repelled one escape attempt Monday morning with tear gas, driving hundreds of protesters back onto the campus. Later, huge crowds of supporters advanced on foot toward the police from outside the cordon to try to disrupt the police operation,” the Associated Press added.

The People’s Liberation Army has been preparing for months to enter Hong Kong to put down the protests. So far it has failed to, but things do seem now to be moving into a scary and dangerous new phase. It would behoove the U.S. government — and hopefully, President Donald Trump himself — to demand that the Chinese allow Hong Kongers to express their democratic rights without fear of violence. The situation is fraught, and the United States must speak up. These are the most profound anti-Beijing protests, we repeat, since 1989. And the last thing we want is for them to end the way the 1989 protests did, too.

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