Right now, there is some social upheaval in Hong Kong and though the news coverage is dense, I don’t feel that how we arrived at the current situation has been thoroughly explained. I’m a bit of a history buff and I know a little bit so with that I started digging and it’s an interesting and tragic story.
Hong Kong is an island off the mainland coast of China. In the mid 1800’s the Qing-dynasty tried to crack down on an opium epidemic that was sweeping through China. Opium poppies had been introduced to china as a medicine in the 7th century and in the 17th century, it became popular to mix opium with tobacco and smoke it. Much of the opium was imported into China by the British… shocker. The First Opium War started in 1839 and in 1842, the war concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Nanking. This treaty gave chunks of China coast land and trading freedoms to Britain if they would just stop dumping Opium on the country. For a while, this worked… a little.
In 1853, a civil war between the ruling dynasty and a rival Emperor in Nanking kicked off. A new imperial commissioner was appointed in Canton and this commissioner was ticked that Opium was still freely flowing into the country. He hated this and the British who brought it in as well as any other foreigners in the country. Properties were burned and ships were seized. This impacted French interests as well as British and in the Second Opium War broke out in 1856 but this time, the British brought the French to the party. By 1858 another treaty was signed which forced the Chinese to pay reparations for the expenses of the war and more land / ports for trading, and traders and missionary travelers rights in China.
For over 150 years, the British ruled Hong Kong and with the ending of the treaty in 1997, the UK turned the control of their ports including Hong Kong back over to China with the caveat that they retain some of their autonomy. The people of Hong Kong, some of whom had fled the communist party during the rise of communism in China, have gotten used to certain rights and privileges that a more liberal, financially flush, and free society enjoys…. Like the ability to have more than two children without having to worry about forced abortions and government sanctioned class-ism and abject poverty and freedom of speech. So here we are. China has decided to begin to exercise its lawful right to reclaim this hunk of land that, up to now, has been a productive economic center and bastion of freedom on their doorstep. They’ve started the flexing of their authority by instituting extradition authority. The inhabitants want to retain their autonomy and don’t want to be subject to China’s communist party rules and have started protests that have blown up with the chinese police using force.
“Legally right” doesn’t amount to “morally right” in my opinion. Just because you CAN do a thing, doesn’t always mean that you should. This is not a lesson Communism can teach a people and it’s a lesson China historically knew, but has forgotten.