The Nanfang / Blog


The West’s Silence on Hong Kong is Deafening

Posted: 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

  • Metzenbaum

    I don’t see this as a western problem. The people of Hong Kong need to fight for their rights before anyone else takes up the cause. If the citizens of Hong Kong collectively let it happen then they get the government they deserve.

    • Commander Jameson

      Viva la revolution!

  • The master of none

    Only you care Cam because that’s your political angle and history .

  • 月亮龙
  • Pingback: Hao Hao Report

  • WilliamVague

    If the UK had any real interest promoting democracy in HK, they would have done so after WW2. The US and the UK have no problem with supporting brutal regimes which violate human rights– Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Israel, Egypt– and never have done.

  • Jake

    Funny….The same people who bitch and complain about the UK and U.S. involved in other countries affairs, now complain that they aren’t involved in this HK mess.

  • PBritt

    Neither the US nor the UK will get involved in the HK issue, mainly because it is a Chinese problem. We are not talking about a foreign country invading another or a regime persecuting it’s people. Hong Kong is a part of China, it is for China to decide the policies regarding their territory. All I ever hear is how the US is always getting involved in other countries business, and how they should stay out. But now that they are staying away people complain. And as Metzenbaum stated “If the citizens of Hong Kong collectively let it happen then they get the government they deserve.”

  • tpr007

    I don’t think THE USA or Britain should get involved in other countries unless there is a high level of physical harm or persecution of basic human rights occurring.

    However as a British expat living in China I feel an affinity worth Hong Kong and do think that in these situations Britain does have a responsibility to speak out because of its long history with hk and the fact that hk is very different to the rest of China because of Britain.

  • Clara

    China has been persecuting its people for a very long time. Womens Rights Without Fronteirs has shown us the plight of Chinese women and girls as women are tortured and their babies aborted and girls are trafficked from outside to be sold as brides for the boys in a society that has murdered it’s girl children because the girls can’t provide for their parents like the boys can. Where has the West been in all of this suffering?

  • Pu Li

    Is it likely that the USA and UK will let, say, Illinois and Essex go communist? Obviously not. Hong Kong is just another province of China and should be ruled from the capital.

Keep in Touch

What's happening this week in Shenzhen, Dongguan and Guangzhou? Sign up to be notified when we launch the This Week @ Nanfang newsletter.

sign up for our newsletter

Nanfang TV