CHENNAI, India, 19 August 2019
Protests by residents of Hong Kong against the Chinese government’s move to implement an Extradition Bill in Hong Kong have been going on for about 10 weeks now.
The Chinese government bowed down to pressure from the protesters by suspending implementation of the controversial law, but not withdrawing it, and so the Hong Kong protesters are not satisfied. They have extended their demands by insisting on several other requirements, which are unlikely to be accepted by the Chinese government. However, the Hong Kong protesters seem to be determined.
With the blocking of the Hong Kong airport by the protesters resulting in suspension of several flights, the protests have assumed serious proportions. It is not clear as to how the Chinese government proposes to deal with the ongoing crisis in Hong Kong. It is reported that a large number of Chinese troops have been deployed at the Hong Kong border. Probably the troops are kept ready and are well-equipped to suppress the protesters with violence. At this stage, one is not sure how the situation will shape up.
However, it is a fact that this is not the first time that the totalitarian regime in Beijing has faced massive protests from the people demanding political freedom, liberty, and rights for freedom of speech.
While several smaller protests were reported to have taken place in the past, they have been put down ruthlessly by the Chinese government. One of the past protests was at Tiananmen Square, which was reported all over the world media. The Government of China put down the protest in an arrogant and violent way. A large number of protesters were reported to have been murdered, or wiped out from the world in secret cells. In the end the Chinese government “won” and the protest was “successfully suppressed”.
The Uyghurs, an Islamic group living in the Xinjiang region (East Turkestan) in the country’s northwest. have been demanding religious freedom to practice Islamic law. The government of China has been dealing with them ruthlessly, and is reported to have demolished several mosques and arrested many Uyghurs.
Unlike the protest at Tiananmen Square which received worldwide adverse publicity, the Chinese government has so far successfully ensured that its aggressive actions against Uyghur and Tibetan protesters have been screened well away from the world media. No one outside China seems to have full view of the extent of suppression and violence practiced by the government of China to put down the protesters.
In the 1950s, China entered the nearby Tibet region and occupied it forcibly. The respected Dalai Lama and his followers and disciples had to escape to neighbouring country India to protect themselves from the atrocities of Chinese armed forces. Many Tibetans who protested against Chinese aggression were reported to have been massacred, suppressed, and silenced by the Chinese army. Ever since this period Tibet has been under brutal Chinese occupation, with an enforced iron curtain to prevent the outside world from knowing what is happening there. No outsiders are allowed to enter Tibet to see the conditions for themselves.
In 1962, the Chinese army entered Indian territory; war took place and the well-armed Chinese army virtually won the war. China continues to occupy large areas of Indian land that was captured after the war.
Now, China claims that the Indian province Arunachal Pradesh belongs to it.
China has successively brought Pakistan under its effective control by giving huge loans and launching economic corridor projects in Pakistan. Several valuable assets of Pakistan, including mines and ports, are now owned and operated by Chinese companies. Pakistan already appears to have become an extended territory of China for all practical purposes. It appears that China will never give up its vice-like grip over weak and helpless Pakistan.
During the last 70 years, the Chinese government has been adopting an aggressive posture with regard to several issues in dealing with the neighbouring and nearby countries. It appears that China is under the impression that it can view world opinion about its aggressive dealings with contempt, and that world opinion is impotent.
And it appears that China’s view of world opinion has been proved to be correct to some extent, as most countries have ignored the atrocities committed by China in Tibet and in its violent suppression of protest in Tiananmen Square. With China gaining strength in its economy and military power, most of the the countries want to have trade with China and are taking precautions to ensure that they will not displease the Chinese government in any way.
In such circumstances, the protest by the Hong Kong residents against the Chinese government, which now appear to be taking the shape of independent Hong Kong movement, is a serious challenge that China now faces.
Unlike in the past, China has now become vulnerable to world opinion and trade trends, as its economy has greater exposure to the world market and export is vital for the Chinese economy to survive.
The question is whether China can suppress the protest in Hong Kong by massacring protesters the way that it has in Tibet, East Turkestan, and other places inside China.
It is obvious that China is now lacking in ideas as to how to handle the protesters in Hong Kong. Perhaps China is slowly realising that a totalitarian regime with ruthless suppression of mass protests has its limits.
The question is whether such realisation will increase among the Communist leaders in China — whether the Chinese government will mend its ways to gain more acceptability among the world community as a civilized government that respects human freedoms and the concept of individual liberty.
The aggression by China in Tibet remains as a standing monument to China’s unethical ways and brutal methods for achieving its objectives.
The Hong Kong protests will serve their purpose if the Chinese government realises that it has to undo its past mistakes by restoring the position of Tibet as an independent country, giving up its claims on Indian territory, and recognizing and respecting the aspirations of Hong Kong residents for freedom and liberty — even if it would mean that Hong Kong has to be assured of its full autonomous status for all time to come.
About the author
NS Venkataraman is a chemical engineer as well as a social activist in Chennai, India. He is the founder trustee of Nandini Voice for the Deprived, a Chennai-based not-for-profit organisation serving the cause of the deprived and down-trodden, and working for probity in public life.
More articles by NS Venkataraman on Tibet Sun.