The people of Hong Kong are exercising a right Americans have known for 243 years. The right to petition the government for a redress of grievances without fear of reprisals is the right of every American. Americans see these rights as part of the natural or human rights granted to them, not by their government but by their “creator.”
“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The Founding Fathers believed that natural rights are inherent in all people as inalienable rights, which cannot be surrendered to any government under any circumstances.
Today, most western democracies adhere to the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Indeed, Hong Kong enjoyed these rights as a British Colony for the better part of 150 years.
Hong Kong still governs under its judicial system, with semi-sovereign borders and rights such as freedom of speech and assembly. The city still enjoys freedoms not seen in mainland China, but these freedoms are on the decline. While China may have exercised restraint during the protests for a possible compromise, clashes and threats by the Chinese government are frightening.
Hong Kong: Internal Chinese Matter?
The Chinese state media outlet Global Times reported on August 12 that Chinese troops were moving to the border city of Shenzhen in an apparent show of force to quell any protest. President Donald J. Trump tweeted that U.S. intelligence confirmed that Beijing is advancing troops toward Hong Kong.
Government officials in Beijing have called Hong Kong protestors “terrorists” and warned concerned democratic countries around the world that this is an internal matter. Marginalizing or dehumanizing a population by labeling them terrorists and claiming that a government crackdown is a domestic matter are code words for terrible things to come.
Marginalizing and Dehumanizing
In the spring of 1915, the American Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau, protested the persecution, deportation, and massacres of the Ottoman Armenian population to the interior minister of the Empire, Mehmet Talat. Claiming that the Armenians posed a serious security threat, Talat advised Ambassador Morgenthau to stay out of Ottoman internal affairs. The Woodrow Wilson administration and European countries heeded to that advice.
The result was the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians.
History repeated itself 18 years later, in 1933. Antisemitic laws and increased physical violence against Jews in Germany headlined the news in the United States. A great number of Americans protested, calling on the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration to oppose Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Roosevelt, however, considering Germany’s enormous debt still owed to American investors, was very cautious. He guided the policy away from any intervention in what saw as an internal affair of another country.
The result was the annihilation of 6 million-plus European Jews.
The human marginalization and sequestration are the typical modus operandi for historic atrocities and violence. Americans and citizens of every other country governed by democracy must stand with the people of Hong Kong. We must not repeat the human rights disasters of the past. There is no justification for suppressing protestors seeking life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. China and Hong Kong must focus on common interests, collaboration, and shared values instead of a competition centered on power.
Mr. President, I applaud your courage to stand against China to protect our financial interests, including our intellectual property. Will you stand with our Founders? Will you encourage and stand with other countries governed by democracy? Will you stand for human rights?
Please tell President Xi Jinping that the only solution in Hong Kong is a negotiated solution without any bloodshed.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.