Shaquille O’Neal reminded many people of his deserved status as a sports hero this week. Speaking about the Houston Rockets General Manager who voiced support of the Hong Kong protesters, he said, “Daryl Morey was right. Whenever you see something wrong going on anywhere in the world, you should have the right to say ‘That’s not right’ and that’s what he did.”
Defense of basic liberties throughout the world is not a surprising position for the former basketball star; he’s taken police training and been sworn in as a police reservist in California, Georgia, Arizona and Florida counties.
His defense of those liberties is not matched by the American President. The South China Morning Post reports that the Senate is attempting to push through the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was already passed by the House. The bill was introduced by a Republican and passed by a Democrat-led House, and supports Hong Kong’s continued semi-independence. The only reason it is facing any significant opposition in the Senate is because President Trump is pushing back against it, which follows in tone from his tweet congratulating China on 70 years of communist oppression.
That tweet was sent in early October, months after the Hong Kong protests had become internationally recognized.
What should also be recognized is that the Hong Kong freedom movement has no way out of the mess they’re in.
As of yesterday, Hong Kong has officially pulled the extradition bill which touched off the protests. In theory, the protesters have won, and they can and should stand down. Unfortunately, this remains a city wholly controlled by China, which affords it a measure of freedom only because of the large amount of money it brings to the communist nation.
That money is being threatened by the continued protests. Businesses have been relocating away from Hong Kong, and more are considering the same. Bloomberg places the percentage of businesses looking at shifting to Singapore at 23%. Even half of them leaving would be a damaging blow to the value China places on the city; all of them would likely be intolerable, and trigger a long-threatened crackdown.
On the other hand, China has a long history of crushing dissidents, most famously in Tienanmen Square in 1989. As the bill at the heart of the uprising was about China deporting people to the mainland in order to take advantage of looser rules on abuse of criminal suspects, any protesters have valid concerns that they will be harshly retaliated against when the spotlight fades. Leadership of the protests can reasonably expect a death sentence to be quietly placed upon them.
There is one way to alleviate these concerns. The international community, led by the United States (as the strongest, most visible voice for world freedom with a significant presence in Southeast Asia) can make it clear that we will support the protesters against any eventual retaliation, and that we will continue to watch over them.
The retreat in Syria undermined that option. Having demonstrated that the United States is not a trustworthy ally, and even more importantly that we will knowingly abandon pro-freedom groups who are living peacefully when violent oppressors take action to slaughter them en masse, the Hong Kong protesters have no reason whatsoever to end the protests while Donald Trump is in office… and to look askance at any other President who may succeed him.
By abandoning the cause of freedom, the United States President has made the world, and the United States, less safe.