China must hold itself back from military intervention in H.K. turmoil

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe Chinese government should recognize that such high-handed methods as denouncing residents’ protests as “acts of terrorism” and intimidating them by force cannot resolve the turmoil in Hong Kong.

More than two months have passed since a series of large-scale demonstrations started in Hong Kong in protest of the government-proposed bill to revise an ordinance on fugitive criminals, which would allow extradition of suspects from Hong Kong to mainland China. Protests became radical, at one point causing the Hong Kong International Airport to suspend its operations. There is no sign of the chaos settling down.

It is a matter of concern that the Chinese government has hinted at the possibility of using force to crack down on protests. Armed police units, which are in charge of maintaining public order in mainland China, have been mobilized on a large scale to Shenzhen in Guangdong Province, located adjacent to Hong Kong, and have conducted training to subdue protests.

High-level autonomy has been guaranteed for Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” arrangement. The Hong Kong Basic Law, which is equivalent to a constitution, allows mobilization of armed police and Chinese garrisons stationed in Hong Kong only if such incidents as an uncontrollable disturbance occur. Obviously, the current situation in Hong Kong does not reach that level.

Beijing has expressed a view that the protests represent a “harbinger of terrorism.” If this is a strategic move by China to justify a crackdown on protesters, it cannot be overlooked.

China will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its modern founding on Oct. 1. Beijing seems to be cautious about the possibility that the chaos in Hong Kong will dampen the festive mood and lead to the lowering of prestige for President Xi Jinping’s administration.

Peaceful solution vital

The international community needs to encourage China to move toward easing tensions in Hong Kong.

U.S. President Donald Trump called for China to resolve the Hong Kong unrest humanely, saying President Xi should meet in person with the leader of the demonstrators. In a move to check China, Trump expressed a view that an incident similar to the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown by force on a pro-democracy movement cannot be allowed to happen again.

If the turmoil develops to the point of causing many casualties, the United States and many other countries will most certainly criticize China and apply pressure. This will deal a great blow to the Chinese economy, which has already been slowing down.

Maximum self-restraint is called for on the part of the Chinese government. It is imperative for Beijing to study measures together with the Hong Kong government to resolve the turmoil peacefully while taking into consideration the public opinion of Hong Kongers and concerns held by the international community.

Protesters’ demands are not limited to the total withdrawal of the revision bill. Their demands have expanded to the extent that they seek to hold police responsible for committing violence against demonstrators and call for reforms of an election system under which only pro-China candidates are given the chance to be elected as chief executive of Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, where there is no election system that can fully reflect the public opinion, demonstration is one of a limited list of choices available for expressing the popular will. Demonstrators, for their part, should refrain from radical behavior that would have an adverse effect on citizens’ lives and economic activities, thereby losing support for their movement.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 24, 2019)Speech


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