Hong Kong as Front Line

Political News

Pro-democracy marchers in Hong Kong, July 1, 2020 (Tyrone Siu / Reuters)

Friday was a very bad day for Hong Kong. Jimmy Lai and other democrats were sentenced to prison. For a report in the New York Times, go here.

Some friends of Hong Kong — and of democracy in general — have formed the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong. I have done a Q&A podcast with two of them: Ellen Bork and Perry Link.

Ellen is a veteran China analyst and a contributing editor of American Purpose magazine. (As I note in the podcast, her father, the late Judge Bork, was a cherished friend of mine, and many others.) Perry Link is an eminent professor of Chinese and Chinese literature. He has always lent a hand to dissidents (which is why he is banned from China). With Andrew Nathan, he edited The Tiananmen Papers.

He also translated the memoirs of Fang Lizhi: The Most Wanted Man in China: My Journey from Scientist to Enemy of the State. Fang Lizhi (1936–2012) was a great astrophysicist-turned-dissident whom Professor Link provided critical aid in Beijing (before the American was banned from China, of course). In our podcast, Professor Link brings up another astrophysicist-turned-dissident: Cheng Yangyang, now at Yale.

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So: Why is the Chinese government cracking down on Hong Kong now? Was “one country, two systems,” for 50 years, always a pipe dream? What is the connection between Hong Kong and Taiwan? Do people on the mainland resent the people in Hong Kong and Taiwan, for their independence and freedom? What can the United States and the rest of the world do? What about the persecution of the Uyghurs? Is this a matter of communism or of nationalism — old-fashioned, fearsome Han Chinese nationalism? What about the 2022 Olympics in Beijing? Boycott?

These are some of the questions that Ellen Bork and Perry Link discuss. They do so with wisdom, care, experience, and heart. Again, our podcast is here.

Professor Link stresses the point that the Hong Kong crisis is “about” more than Hong Kong, or even China. Hong Kong, in fact, is the current battleground in the worldwide war between democracy and autocracy. Or, if you like, Hong Kong is the front line.

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