According to a recent article in The Guardian, “Nearly every main voice of dissent in Hong Kong is now in jail or exile.” The latest chapter of Beijing’s grab for power saw “Hong Kong police charge 47 pro-democracy campaigners and politicians with conspiracy to commit subversion. All face life in prison if convicted.”
The protests, which began with hopes of a democratic rebuke to the autocratic regime of Xi Jinping, have seemingly come to an end, not with a bang but with a proverbial whimper. In the last year and a half, as the world’s eyes turned to COVID-19 and other troubles, the Chinese government all but crushed any dissidents and all but ended democracy in Hong Kong.
For a moment, it appeared as if 2019 might be a reboot of 1989, with the tide of freedom overwhelming attempts at dictatorship. News coverage told of hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people in Hong Kong rising up against a law, pushed through by the Beijing-controlled local government, that allowed Hong Kong citizens to be prosecuted under the mainland’s jurisdiction.
For months, the Communist leadership tried everything from coercion to concessions, to squash the protests, but the protests only intensified. By late summer 2019, the government withdrew the offending law, but the movement had, by then, become about much more than one law. It was now about preserving a free Hong Kong. Pro-democracy candidates all but swept Hong Kong’s local elections in November of 2019, and protestors flew British and American flags in an extra show of defiance.
But when the headlines from changed from protesters to a virus and the world economy ground to a halt, other nations and their governments turned inward. The country best positioned to apply pressure, the United States, was also dealing with its greatest domestic turmoil in generations and the most contentious Presidential election in recent memory.
Meanwhile, on China’s mainland, the overlords didn’t let this crisis go to waste. COVID provided all the excuse they needed to clamp down on crowds, protests, and news stories. Under new stringent national security laws, virtually any dissent to the regime’s dictates is now liable to draconian punishment. China’s promise to maintain a “one country two system” arrangement with Hong Kong was a surprisingly easy thing to discard for something enshrined in an international agreement.
Though we may be tempted to give up hope for the people of Hong Kong, many there haven’t. Hundreds continue to defy Beijing by publicly protesting the recent convictions. Though the United States is wavering on what to do, Australian, British, Japanese, and European governments have decided that it can no longer be business as usual with the “People’s Republic.”
Beijing knows that as long as the West remains divided and distracted, they’re free to extinguish Uighur culture and deny Hong Kong its liberty, but not because China is as strong as its leaders suggest. China’s economy is incredibly vulnerable and will only become more so as its population ages. Not to mention, the world is now fully aware of what it’s doing the Uyghur population.
Given that so much Christian activity in China flows through Hong Kong, we owe it to our brothers and sisters there to pray. In a real sense, an assault on Hong Kong is part of the larger war on Chinese Christianity. We should also insist that the fate of Hong Kong becomes a foreign policy priority. There can be no “business as usual” with this regime… not from the U.S. government and not from U.S. corporations.
As we make our appeals, let’s remember how Christians have fared throughout history when challenged by godless empires. The empires are long gone. Christians aren’t.