Perhaps as a way of blowing off the steam and stress of 2003 Iraq, in 2004 I set out to teach English in China. Specifically, I taught English at Nantou Middle School in Shenzhen, China, which rests just across the river from Hong Kong. Months into my foreign venture outside of the uniform, I was struck with a terrible stomach pain. So much so, that in the dead of night I bartered with Chinese cab drivers to take me to a hospital. I arrived at a “hospital” where the doctors told me in broken English that I had appendicitis and an operation must be done immediately. I looked around at the blood and the walls and told them, “no thanks, I’m going to Hong Kong.” They told me that I would die if I didn’t have immediate surgery to which I replied, “Then I will die on the way to Hong Kong.” I called a friend and we made it to Hong Kong where I found out that I had some sort of strange virus. Turns out, I don’t even have my appendix anymore as they took it out during a surgery I had when I was a baby. I guess China was going to take it out again. I weep for what is about to happen to the people of Hong Kong. They are you, me, and every American. We should weep for our fellow kind.
The Price of Liberty
Three days in a Hong Kong hospital and my total bill was $500. The reality of that is a separate truth for a separate article. However, apart from those few days and an eventual flight out of the Hong Kong airport now occupied by protesters, I have no personal special connection to the people of Hong Kong.
Brief history lesson, the British Empire took over Hong Kong in 1841 during the first Opium War. No time to explain that, but think the movie Boys in the Hood with Jackie Chan as the star. In 1898, the UK signed a 99-year lease on the island. Apart from the 4 years that the Japanese ran the place in the 1940’s, it has grown up under the notion and tradition of western Democracy. In 1997, the region reverted back to Chinese rule after guaranteeing the preservation of such liberties. Less than 10 years after running over their own citizens in Tienanmen Square, I’m not sure how the Chinese pulled off that promise without cracking up. Fast forward to today and we Americans should weep for our fellow freedom loving mankind in Hong Kong.
It Could be you. It could be me.
Imagine living in the sprawling American Midwest your entire life only to find out Thomas Jefferson forgot to have the Louisiana Purchase properly notarized and you’re all French now. What would it be like to have lived your entire life in Alaska with guaranteed liberties afforded us by the Constitution only to find out that you are now part of the Russian Federation. History lessons aside, I only know the one life that I have been given and that has been with American liberty at my side every single day. You’re damn right that I would care nothing about the legal technicalities when a foreign nation came to take away the freedoms I have known since birth. This is what the people of Hong Kong are facing today and why we should weep for them.
When I taught English in Shenzhen, I was warned not to even dare mention Tienanmen Square. The rebellious part of me as a United States Marine told myself that I would find a way to work it in subtly for freedom’s sake. That was until the first week there when I watched three of four Chinese policemen mercilessly beat an elderly beggar on the street while the crowds walked around trying to act like they didn’t notice. That’s when I thought…
I love the Chinese people and they want freedom. I know for a fact they do. They just have no means of getting it. I’m not going to turn this into a sidebar about the 2nd Amendment, but history is pretty consistent as to what happens to unarmed rebels. China currently has a social credit system that restricts movement based on social compliance. They have nearly a million Chinese Muslims locked in genuine concentration camps. I loved my time in China and the Chinese people, but China is the most frightening place on planet Earth for freedom loving people today for the fact of sheer scale of authoritarian rule. For that, I again weep for the wonderful freedom loving people of Hong Kong.
One Shot at Freedom
I’ve said it before, but I think that people groups in history get one shot at freedom. If you blow it, its gone for generations. So it is with Russia who will likely never escape the authoritarianism of Putin. So it was for the Chinese students at Tienanmen and so it could be for us. The people of Hong Kong have their shot. I don’t know the answer or how they can stand, but I know that once Chinese troops cross from Shenzhen, if they depart with your freedoms in tow, you will never get them back. This much, I sadly know for sure.
John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock and I assume his lesser known brother Herbie Hancock risked it all for their one shot. The freedom loving people of Hong Kong risk no less. They have only known freedom and little by little China has encroached. If the Chinese tanks cross the Shenzhen River, there is no going back. Consider it the Asian Rubicon. For that reason, I weep for my fellow freedom loving men and women of Hong Kong. Again, not going to turn this into a 2A article, because all Americans should weep for you in unison. I’m just saying though. I’m just saying.
You too have been gifted by your creator certain inalienable rights. Among these are the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. How terribly unfortunate the Chinese mainland has come to take them. Godspeed my fellow kind. Godspeed. Patrick Henry said “give me liberty or give me death.” I am in no position to hypocritically tell you which to choose from afar. I’m just thankful that a noble and yet flawed generation of American founders choose liberty on my behalf. Godspeed Hong Kong. Godspeed.