From the September-October 2017 issue of News & Letters
Over 22,000 people filled the streets in Hong Kong on Aug. 20 to protest the jail sentences given to student activists Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, and Alex Chow. They were charged with unlawful assembly during the massive Occupy Central demonstrations in 2014. The Hong Kong government nominally has autonomy until 2047. But prodded by Beijing it provoked the Aug. 20 demonstration with its efforts to make further protests—in Hong Kong and across China—unthinkable.
For three years it has escalated retribution against participants in popularly supported occupations—ended only by police repression. The final provocation came when the government overruled the activists’ previous punishment that included no jail time. Now there are not only jail sentences but also a five-year prohibition on standing for elections—ironically 50 years after the 1967 uprising in Hong Kong against British colonial rule.
At the same time, Chinese troops and road-building crews are pushing into Bhutan, using their interpretation of a 19th-century British colonial border with Tibet. China secured its borders by invading Tibet in 1950 and gaining strategic positions in the China-India War of 1962. China’s push threatens India’s land access to its own northeast provinces in the event of another war between the two capitalist powers.
A war that is already ongoing is China’s attacks on any possibility of Uyghur autonomy in the Chinese province of Xinjiang. What China has called a “war on terrorism” has been suppression of Muslim religious observances, controls on public use of the Uyghur language, and widespread jailings and massacres. Now China has extended control of its border all the way to Egypt, as can be seen by the July arrests of over 60 Uyghur students and exiles by Egyptian police at the urging of Beijing. Half of those swept up in the arrests were deported. From Hong Kong to Cairo there is no sanctuary for opposition.