Chinese Dissidents: Hong Kong and Ukraine Call for ‘Rebirth’ of U.S. Global Leadership

Without opposition, China may repeat Tiananmen Square massacre

Ten of thousands of people continue to stage a protest for democracy at Hong Kong government headquaters and financial hub area in Hong Kong
Ten of thousands of people continue to stage a protest for democracy at Hong Kong government headquaters and financial hub area in Hong Kong / AP
September 30, 2014

Leading Chinese dissidents are urging the Obama administration to apply more pressure on China regarding its actions toward Hong Kong, arguing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Tuesday that only stern warnings from Washington will deter violent aggression from Beijing.

Hong Kong police have arrested dozens of demonstrators in the past few days and used batons, pepper spray, and tear gas in an attempt to disperse mass protests.

Protesters, mostly students, were outraged by an electoral ruling from China’s legislature in August that ensured candidates for Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2017 would still have to be approved by Beijing. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Monday that the United States "supports universal suffrage in Hong Kong" and the "aspirations of the Hong Kong people."

Those statements were not sufficient, wrote Yang Jianli, Teng Biao, and Hu Jia, all former political prisoners in China. The United States must act as a beacon for freedom and democracy to prevent another Tiananmen Square, the brutal suppression of pro-democracy protests by China in 1989, they argued:

The United States and the international community share the responsibility to prevent another murderous attack on pro-democracy demonstrators. While the Tiananmen Square massacre surprised the world, this time the world is on notice. The Obama administration should press the Chinese government to honor its promise of democratic elections in Hong Kong. The White House also must more forcefully condemn the violence against demonstrators—the administration's response so far has been inadequate.

Two of the world's powerful autocracies, both rooted in the idea and practice of communist dictatorship, are bent on encroaching upon freedom and democracy on two different fronts: Ukraine and Hong Kong. Many strategic experts note that Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggressive posture toward Ukraine was strengthened by America's failure to act more decisively in Syria. And the U.S. failure to challenge Mr. Putin's seizure of Crimea helped embolden him to invade southeast Ukraine.

China has the potential to become an even more relentless, aggressive dictatorship than Russia. From their support for rogue regimes in Iran, North Korea and Syria to their military buildups and aggressive use of cyberwarfare and technology theft, Moscow and Beijing are playing for keeps and their corrosive impact should worry the free world.

Only a strong, unambiguous warning from the U.S. will cause either of those countries to carefully consider the costs of new violent acts of repression. Hong Kong and Ukraine are calling for the rebirth of American global leadership for freedom and democracy.

Published under: China