Land of the Free

The New York Times may say that America is the land of “land grabs, enslavement, rape and genocide,” but oppressed people around the world know better. Earlier today in Hong Kong, demonstrators marched to the American embassy, waving American flags and calling on President Trump to support them in their fight for the freedoms that were promised when China reclaimed possession of the territory:

Sunday’s crowd waved US flags and chanted pleas for the US to “liberate” Hong Kong from China.

They are asking the US to pass a proposed “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act”… The law would require the US to certify Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy on an annual basis to justify its special trade status. It could also expose Chinese officials to US sanctions if they were found responsible for suppressing Hong Kong’s freedoms.

More from the London Times:

Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched to the US consulate in Hong Kong yesterday appealing for help from President Trump in their campaign against the increasingly heavy hand of Beijing.

The marchers waved American flags and chanted “Fight for freedom! Stand with Hong Kong!” as they presented a petition to consulate staff.

Protesters have also carried signs saying “Make Hong Kong great again.” More on the legal background:

Protesters urged the US Congress to quickly pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act when it reconvenes this week. The draft law, introduced in June, would force an annual review of Hong Kong’s privileged trading status, and would freeze the assets and block travel to the US of those judged to be “suppressing basic freedoms” in Hong Kong. At present, the US treats Hong Kong as a separate trading territory from China so, for example, firms can import advanced American technology that is barred to those in the mainland.

This special trade status depends on Hong Kong remaining “sufficiently autonomous” from China — a condition protesters say Beijing has breached with increasing interference in the territory’s affairs.

Should the U.S. get involved? As a long-time neocon, I am sympathetic to pleas for help from freedom fighters around the world. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act seems like a reasonable measure, consistent with the other concerns the administration has about trade with China. The administration is engaged in discussions with the Chinese across a broad range of issues, and the long-promised independence for Hong Kong can be added to the agenda, if that hasn’t happened already. Such actions are compatible, I think, with President Trump’s “America first” philosophy. We have an interest in retaining Hong Kong as a trading partner, and no one is talking about sending in American troops.

One of the Obama administration’s many low moments was when it failed to support, even rhetorically, pro-Western demonstrators in Iran who sought American help in their campaign to rid their country of the mullahs. But then, as we later learned, Obama was on the side of the mullahs. I am pretty sure Trump is not on the side of the Red Chinese.