Hong Kong Splainer. Spoiler Alert: They're Better Than Us

We need to talk about Hong Kong. Not just because the Couch Potato in Chief is finally tweeting about it. But because the comparison between our complacent moaning and the courage of the Hong Kong residents who are out there in the streets ready to fuck shit up is ... well, it's not flattering.

This mook has no bloody idea what those protests are about. Don't be this mook.

So, what are those protests about anyway, smartass?

Back in 1997, when the territory was handed over from the United Kingdom, China was nothing like the economic powerhouse it is today. Hong Kong's economy was one fifth as large as China's, and up to half of Chinese imports and exports flowed through the city's port. More importantly, Hong Kong, with its robust legal system and strong trading ties to the West, functioned as a channel to build Chinese-Western financial relationships.

To reassure businesses that they could still count on smooth governance in Hong Kong, all parties agreed there would be a Chinese firewall of sorts (sorry, not sorry), segregating the territory's laws from the greater Chinese legal system. As part of this separation, Hong Kong's constitution did not allow for the extradition of its citizens or residents to Chinese law enforcement -- meaning that Hong Kong could continue to conduct business as usual without looking over its shoulder in fear of the Chinese Communist Party. But now China would like that law repealed, and that's what that these massive protests are about today.

Hundreds of thousands of people are in the streets protesting an extradition law?

Yep. In February 2018, Hong Kong resident Chan Tong-kai murdered his girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing on a trip to Taiwan. When he returned home, he used her bank card to withdraw money, for which he was jailed. But because there's no law allowing him to be extradited to Taiwan, he can't be tried for the murder when he gets out of jail on the money laundering charge. So Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam insisted that the territory must close the "loophole" that forbids extradition of HK's residents to face justice in greater China.

Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

Well, no, it doesn't. Lam was handpicked by the Chinese Communist Party, and no one in the territory is remotely fooled by her concern for poor Poon Hiu-wing. This is a naked attempt by Xi Jinping's government to impose its own legal system on Hong Kong and allow China to extradite the territory's residents at will.

Which is why the territory's residents have filled the streets to protest the merging of their independent legal system with China's party-controlled law enforcement apparatus since early June.


On June 9, as many as two million people turned out to protest. To which Carrie Lam tearfully responded that she could not possibly reconsider the hated extradition law.

I'm a mother, too. If I let him have his way every time my son acted like that, such as when he didn't want to study, things might be okay between us in the short term. But if I indulge his wayward behavior, he might regret it when he grows up.

Strangely, this seems not to have mollified the crowds, who remained in the streets, demanding Lam's resignation as clashes with police grew ever more violent.

Oh, that seems bad, right?

Really, really bad. Because China's an economic superpower now (well, arguably), and it's not nearly so dependent on Hong Kong any more.

Looks like Xi Jinping is about ready to put Chinese tanks on the streets to bring Hong Kong to heel, just in time for the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. And for the past three months as this tsunami was brewing, the leader of the strongest democracy on earth said NOTHING. Well, he said a lot of stupid shit about Robert Mueller, Nancy Pelosi, congressional Democrats, and right now he appears to be RTing James O'Keefe. But as for the democratic protestors, on August 1, he called them "rioters."

Something is probably happening with Hong Kong, because when you look at, you know, what's going on, they've had riots for a long period of time. And I don't know what China's attitude is. Somebody said that at some point they're going to want to stop that. But that's between Hong Kong and that's between China, because Hong Kong is a part of China. They'll have to deal with that themselves. They don't need advice.

So how does this end?

No clue. If we had to guess, badly. Here's the scene at the Hong Kong airport today, where all passenger flights are canceled for a second day running.

And the White House position is what now?

Don't worry, everyone should just be calm and safe. And China should really mean it this time when they promise to buy all our agricultural products so that Donald Trump can climb down from this idiotic trade war he bluffed us into. That's what's important.

Well, glad we got that sorted.

Is this because he got so much flak for saying he hoped it will "all work out" this morning? Who the hell knows. America's being governed by a spiteful orange hairball, and the "Leader of the Free World" spot is vacant. We will never recover from this.

Well, that's depressing!

Yeah, it is. Why do you think we put off writing about it for so long? Maybe Dom can get you some NiceTimes stuff on the extremely polite protestors for tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

[Economist / NYT]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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