Hong Kong’s Unrest Poses a Threat to China’s Legitimacy

An unintended consequence of the current unrest in Hong Kong has been to derail Xi Jinping’s proposal to use the “one country, two systems” formula to settle the Taiwan issue.

The Natinal Interest
Date: October 27, 2019  
By: Dennis P. Halpin

In December 2004, the Heritage Foundation’s Hong Kong office hosted a speech by Henry Hyde, Chairman of the then-named House International Relations Committee (now the Foreign Affairs Committee.)    Hyde, a veteran of World War II who fought in the battle for the Philippines, had an abiding personal interest in post-war political developments in Asia, including the challenges posed by a rising China. In his remarks, he saw political developments in Hong Kong as a key test as to whether Beijing would emerge as a responsible stakeholder or, alternatively, an authoritarian threat in the 21st Century.

Speaking of Hong Kong, he said: “Many years ago, those laboring in mines deep underground, faced the deadly problem of the buildup of fatal but undetectable gases.  To warn them of approaching danger, they would bring with them a small and fragile bird, imprisoned in a cage, which became known as the miners’ canary…Hong Kong is the miners’ canary.  Its vulnerability makes it an unmistakable indicator of the course of China’s historic transition and the impact it will soon have on us all. We must watch carefully.”

Hyde died in 2007.  Yet his words of caution remain relevant for Americans today.  These include President Trump who, according to a CNN report on October 4th, made another questionable promise on Hong Kong in one of his now-famous phone calls to global leaders:  “During a private phone call in June, President Donald Trump promised Chinese President Xi Jinping that the US would remain quiet on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong while trade talks continued.”  CNN further reported that the State Department told then-U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong, Kurt Tong, “to cancel a planned speech on the protests in Washington because the President had promised Xi no one from the administration would talk about the issue.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and NBA star LeBron James should also take heed.   Their concerns for human rights and the rule of law are blinded by what Chairman Hyde called in his 2004 speech “the fool’s gold of pure selfishness” – in this case, the glitter of Chinese gold.  Zuckerberg, seeking a breakthrough for Facebook in China after it was blocked in 2009, bought several copies of China strongman Xi Jinping’s book on governance in 2014, so that “he and (his) colleagues could learn about socialism with Chinese characteristics,” according to a December 9, 2014 article in the South China Morning Post.    [FULL  STORY]