The movement has landed — in Hong Kong.
Not the Marines, but Matt Schlapp and his American Conservative Union.
Their message to Hong Kong’s anti-Beijing protestors: American conservatism has your backs.
Risking arrest and imprisonment by Hong Kong authorities who are way too friendly with Beijing, Mr. Schlapp made an impromptu, 1,800-mile Labor Day flight from Tokyo, leaving a Japanese Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) for the besieged streets of the former British colony.
On the plane with him Monday were Japanese Conservative Union Chairman Jay Aeba, Australia’s LibertyWorks Chairman Andrew Cooper, ACU Executive Director Daniel Schneider, and conservative China expert Gordon Chang.
On Wednesday, minutes after Mr. Schlapp and the other conservative leaders left the home of Hong Kong democracy champion Jimmy Lai, it was firebombed. So was Mr. Lai’s business. No one was hurt.
Since the democracy movement took to the streets of the Asian financial center in June, Communist China’s state media have called Mr. Lai a traitor.
Hong Kong police have clubbed, beaten and imprisoned democracy movement demonstrators, so Mr. Schlapp and his colleagues knew the risk they were taking in hitting the streets of Hong Kong.
“We have a long history of fighting communism,” Mr. Schlapp said before the bombing.
He called it “disheartening” to have to fight communism in, of all places, Hong Kong, a world-renowned island of freedom and capitalist prosperity. But he felt conservatism had to stand with the protestors in their struggle to stop “Beijing’s puppets in Hong Kong” from letting China renege on a promise to let Hong Kong keep its democracy for 50 years.
On setting down in Hong Kong, Mr. Schlapp and his fellow conservatives began inviting Hong Kong students and other protesters to “pop-up CPAC” sessions featuring local experts and many of the Tokyo CPAC speakers.
Fighting authoritarianism left and right, so to speak, is a big reason his ACU’s annual CPAC in Washington is the largest assemblage of activists anywhere. Despite — or maybe because — the left dominates the news and entertainment worlds, CPAC attracts presidents, presidential wannabes, lawmakers, occasional lawbreakers, governors, foreign leaders, secretaries of state, secretaries of the treasury and secretaries of everything else.
Initially skeptical Hongkongers, until now alone in their stand against Beijing, quickly warmed to Mr. Schlapp and his fellow conservatives, telling them they are the first Westerners to show up in person to back them. (Yes, Japan’s Mr. Aeba is not a Westerner, but the democracy demonstrators were out to show appreciation, not exactitude.)
That the American, Japanese and Australian conservative leaders took the risk and showed up together showed something else. The American conservative movement that William F. Buckley founded 55 years ago has become an international movement by spawning allied organizations with similar principles and goals in other nations.
“People all over the world who care about freedom are being inspired to fight for their rights,” Mr. Schneider said. “This is a bottom-up, demand-driven movement.”
“For a long time it was hard to define what constituted the conservative movement,” Mr. Schneider said. “It is now clear. Millions and millions of people are now unifying in an unprecedented way in opposition to authoritarianism.”
Mr. Chang sees in the Tokyo-Hong Kong events as “a coming together — an emerging international movement.”
It so happens that the day after the band of conservative leaders arrived from Tokyo, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam permanently withdrew a measure about extradition to China that at one point had sent 2 million Hongkongers into the streets in protest.
She undoubtedly responded to a signal from President (for Life) Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China, who wants Oct. 1 to be a relatively blemish-free 70th anniversary of Chinese Communism. Nor does he want to risk uncontainable escalation of the trade war with Washington.
The measure that Mr. Xi had Mrs. Lam push would have mandated that Hong Kong political suspects be sent to the Chinese mainland where the communist legal system could try them and declare them guilty as charged.
That would be going back on a promise made to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher when, in 1984, she signed over the British colony to China effective in 1997 at the end of the 99-year lease Britain had on Hong Kong. Part of the deal was the China would let Hong Kong keep its democracy for 50 years.
To be fair, a lot of conservatives thought China was so firmly embarked on the road to capitalism that surely the descendants of Mao Zedong would become Jeffersonians.
But Mr. Schlapp has stayed who he was: an American conservative leader.
Thank you, Matt.