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Hong Kong Elections Might Be Postponed. What Is China So Afraid Of?

The Honorable Newt Gingrich
 

Anyone watching mainstream news this week might not know that a major bipartisan effort is moving through Congress. That joint Democrat-Republican project is aimed at protecting freedom and democracy while holding totalitarianism at bay.

That’s because the national media networks have a disciplined, intentionally myopic focus on the completely partisan effort in the House of Representatives to attack, smear, and impeach the President of the United States.

According to the mainstream networks, the impeachment inquiry hearings are the only newsworthy events happening in Washington DC.

Yet, on Tuesday, the US Senate unanimously passed legislation to help secure and protect the rights and freedoms for the people of Hong Kong – who are right now battling against the oppression of the totalitarian Chinese Communist Party.

Currently, Hong Kong enjoys special economic treatment from the United States, which has allowed it to grow into the economic powerhouse it is today – an island of capitalism and prosperity in the sea of Communist China. The people of Hong Kong have long benefited from these special rules, and so has mainland China.

The Senate bill would put in place a mechanism to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for eroding freedoms in Hong Kong – which is meant to operate with a high degree of autonomy from the mainland. The bill would require the US Secretary of State to ensure the Chinese Communist Party is not encroaching on Hong Kong’s autonomy as a prerequisite for continuing its special economic status. It would also enable the President to sanction or place travel restrictions on individuals who have violated human rights in Hong Kong.

This bill would represent a significant incentive for the Chinese Communist Party to back off it’s growing effort to absorb and control Hong Kong. There is a companion bill which has already passed the House. I hope both chambers can quickly work out their differences and get a final bill to the President’s desk as soon as possible.

This effort could be a major step in slowing the aggressive totalitarianism coming out of the Chinese Communist Party – and preserving the key freedoms enshrined in Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

Congress should move quickly, because the violence in Hong Kong is only getting worse. Recent violence ramped up after the death of a Hong Kong University of Science and Technology student this month.Beginning last week, protestors occupied Hong Kong Polytechnic University which resulted in police firing tear gas and rubber bullets and protestors launching petrol bombs and bows and arrows. Following days of violence and arrests, few students now remain inside of the campus which the police have destroyed.

One of the pillars that these protestors are demanding is democracy. (Hong Kong is currently a partial democracy.) On November 24, the district council elections are set to take place which will give Hong Kong citizens the opportunity to select more than 400 members for 18 district councils across the territory. Last week, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said, “As of today, we still very much hope to hold this election and will do our utmost to make sure the elections are held as scheduled.”

However, other officials are not so sure that the elections will continue as planned. The District Council Ordinance gives Carrie Lam the ability to delay or adjourn polls and voting if there is a likelihood it will be affected by riots, open violence, or public health and safety dangers. The Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, the People‘s Daily wrote that “Only by supporting the police force to decisively put down the riots can [Hong Kong] return to peace and hold fair elections, to help Hong Kong start again.” A government official warned, “The situation over the past weekend has obviously reduced the chance of holding the election as scheduled, and I’m very worried and anxious about this.”

But is violence what the government and Chinese Communist Party officials actually fear? Or are they afraid of the true opinion and will of the Hong Kong people?

For example, Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s approval rating has dropped to its lowest level. Additionally, an October survey asked respondents to rank their trust in the Hong Kong government and the police on a scale of 0-10; 49 percent of respondents gave the government a score of 0 as did 52 percent of respondents when asked about their trust in the police.

Moreover, almost 400,000 people have registered to vote this past year, which is the highest number since at least 2003. Many of these new voters are in the 18-35-year old range and their votes could increase support for pro-democracy candidates.

In the last district council election, there were more than 60 pro-establishment candidates who were unopposed and won. Now, these elections won’t be so easy, since in almost every single district, there will be a pro-democracy candidate taking on a pro-establishment opponent.

If the Hong Kong government was really confident in the path and actions it has recently taken, and if Beijing is really convinced that the pre-protest status quo is what the people of Hong Kong want to return to, there would be no hesitation whatsoever in holding a free and fair election this weekend. The people of Hong Kong have a right to have their voices heard, and after the recent passage of the Hong Kong bill, they can be sure that the United States is listening.

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