The West’s Silence on Hong Kong is DeafeningPosted: 09/2/2014 2:50 pm
Beijing’s decision to deny true democracy for Hong Kong may have been heart-breaking, but it wasn’t entirely unexpected. For months leading up to the decision of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on Sunday, Beijing has been saying that some form of a nominating committee would be in place, and that eligible candidates must “love the country”. It was an ominous sign, and now it’s played out as anticipated.
Hong Kong, already, somehow seems different. The police on every street corner yesterday made it feel like Tiananmen Square. We are left with depressing media coverage, the tears of democracy advocates, and the sobering realization that Hong Kong’s yearning for representative government is at a dead end.
But who can really blame Beijing? The Communist Party is simply looking out for itself, and was never going to allow open democracy on its own soil. It also has a point when it says the universal suffrage proposal for 2017 goes much farther than anything the city had under British colonial rule. But that’s cold comfort to a city that always believed it was ready to responsibly govern itself.
The most depressing fact, from this humble writer’s point of view, is the dead silence from the west. For the last century, western countries spoke out against injustice and promoted democracy abroad, often standing up to brutal dictatorships at great personal cost. Today, when one vibrant and mature society in a relatively undeveloped region sees its freedoms threatened, the west not only turns its back, it gets into bed with the aggressors.
The United States and United Kingdom, and companies from those two places, long ago sold their souls to Beijing. The UK has been silent on what’s happening in Hong Kong, despite the fact it’s a party to the Sino-British Joint Declaration and has some grounds to speak up. The United States has uttered not a word. British companies, notably HSBC and Standard Chartered, have pulled advertisements from Next Media’s Apple Daily under pressure from the Chinese government, proving they, too, know who their real masters are.
Even LinkedIn, a forward thinking, Silicon Valley social network, censors posts globally if China feels uncomfortable. The company’s PR head explained:
“It is difficult,” says LinkedIn’s Director of Communications Hani Durzy. “We are strongly in support of freedom of expression. But it was clear to us that to create value for our members in China and around the world, we would need to implement the Chinese government’s restrictions on content.”
No, LinkedIn doesn’t support freedom of expression. If it did it wouldn’t censor content. It’s really that black-and-white. America and the UK don’t support it much either, or they would speak up too.
We are entering a new, dark era where even the west, with its professed love of freedom of speech, cannot be counted on to defend those values. In what would once be unthinkable, today western companies have no problems justifying outright censorship and adherence to brutal, authoritarian governments while western leaders keep silent.
Hong Kong, as a result, has been abandoned. If rich, western, first-world countries are loathe to offend Beijing lest business opportunities dry up, what hope does Hong Kong have to resist?
Home page photo credit: Quartz