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For more than a decade now many of us have banished to the back of our minds concerns about the rise of authoritarian China. I’m one of hundreds of millions of consumers in Europe – you may be one too – who buys the products produced by Chinese companies and overlooks the millions of people held in the regime’s camps and prisons. Never mind the gulag, check out my new i-phone.
The extraordinary events of recent days stand as a rebuke to all of us – consumers and western governments – who have appeased a terrible regime in a country in which human rights and property rights do not count when they run up against that architect of tyranny, censorship and social control – the Chinese Communist party.
The people of Hong Kong appear to have had enough of being pushed around. They have marched in their millions in recent days, protesting a new proposed extradition law proposed by the puppet administration in the former British territory. It would allow the Chinese to whisk anyone away into its “court” system.
Incredibly, on Saturday morning the Hong Kong executive retreated and suspended indefinitely the extradition bill. Protests are continuing and the campaigners want Carrie Lam, China’s surrogate boss of Hong Kong, to quit.
It is joyful to watch, yet there persists the sickening dread of what China has in store next. Has it backed down temporarily just to plot how to smash more heads, arrest more Hong Kongers and shut down opposition internally and externally, again? Presumably, so. It is a paranoid regime which only survives by coercion.
For now, the protesters in Hong Kong – led by activists forgoing formal leadership structures to evade state surveillance and capture – are keeping up the pressure. God speed to their efforts.
In the UK there has been very little political disquiet expressed. If the Tory leadership candidates have said anything meaningful backing the protesters, I’ve missed it.
Of course, President Trump takes a different view of China, for which he must be given no credit in Europe because… well, because. He’s American. He’s Trump. And because of… reasons. Yet his economic crackdown on China appears to be really having an impact.
In Britain, in classic high-hypocrisy style, there are protests against Trump, but none when the Chinese leadership comes to visit.
America is leading the way. It’s taking on a wicked regime that squashes freedom and bullies its way around the world. But the real heroes of this process are the protesters, fighting for freedom under the law.