The unfortunate truth that far too few people want to acknowledge is that Hong Kong is part of China. The People’s Republic of China. The five stars have flown over the territory for over twenty years and even though Beijing didn’t really keep their end of the bargain, the physical fact is that Hong Kong is under the legal and political authority of China. This is as true and as obvious as saying that Taiwan is its own country.
Neither of these should be controversial statements but they are and so we pretend that otherwise rational people who pretend otherwise aren’t either delusional or knowingly lying to us about these things.
China’s thin skin and thinly veiled imperial ambitions prevent anyone from actively saying that Taiwan is a country. State-sponsored blowhards in the Global Times or China Daily wax their aggreived patriotism for clicks on Chinese social media, and now western social media as well, angrily demanding that Delta recognize Taiwan as a part of China or Disney to include the Nine-Dash-Line and the world rightfully understands them as sycophantic rants from and for a one-party state. Taiwan is a country, it’s silly to pretend otherwise. But some of us do.
So, for almost two years now, western politicians have been covering themselves in self-righteous delusions of their own regarding Hong Kong and pretending that Hong Kong doesn’t belong to China. Whatever underhanded shenanigans the Chinese authorities did to undermine and confront the Hong Kong protesters – like siccing local gangsters on them or beating random people or torturing prisoners – they had the legal authority to do it. That was the entire point of the protests: they wanted their free city to not do what it was legally obligated to do, bow to the Chinese. And China can do whatever the hell it wants with its own citizens, they’ve been very clear on that.
Yes, China was supposed to respect the 2047 timeline set down in the handover treaty with the British. They were under no actual legal requirement to do so. And it’s difficult to see how any objective observer would expect the party of Mao and of Xi, the party of oppressive censorship and religious crackdowns and aggression against its neighbors and of persistent mendacity in all realms, to not lie about their intentions and move faster than they had said they would. Beijing lied and did to Hong Kong what they said they wouldn’t; this should shock nobody who was paying attention.
Hong Kongers rejected that. And good for them for doing do. Their courage was inspiring and history should note the moral cowardice of western leaders in not doing more to confront China. But the protests failed. They were doomed and destined to fail. Even if the movement hadn’t spiraled out of control and become unfashionably violent, they had zero chance of forcing Beijing’s hand absent a serious intervention by outside forces. Which was obviously never going to happen given the tepid reaction from the world to Hong Kong’s plight.
Hong Kong is part of China. It has been since 1997. This year China made damn sure everyone knew it and offered legal mechanisms to prove it through the National Security Law. Hong Kong is part of China.
Republican US Senator Ted Cruz is one of those who has dedicated a lot of time to criticizing the Chinese government. “The Chinese Communist government, I believe, is terrified of the protesters in the streets in Hong Kong,” he said in 2019 of the ongoing and increasingly violent Hong Kong protests, “A protester has power that makes the dictatorship tremble.”
Senator Cruz sponsored legislation saying that China “forced over one million Uighurs into concentration camps and engaged in ethnic cleansing, including horrific forced abortions and sterilizations.” Cruz referred to Beijing as an “authoritarian regime that covered up the coronavirus pandemic and endangered millions of lives worldwide.” China responded by placing sanctions on him.
For the last two years, Ted Cruz has been agitating against Beijing’s response to the protests in Hong Kong. From theatrics to memes to literal Acts of Congress, the Texas senator has demanded that the US do more for the people in Hong Kong. This is why, when Senator Cruz last week publicly opposed a bill to grant Hong Kong residents with special refugee status, it made some scratch their heads.
Just remember: he never really cared about Hong Kong in the first place, and probably never believed what he was saying. It was transparent posturing, little different than the silly propaganda offered by Chinese officials – just as obnoxious, unhelpful, and politically motivated.
His stated justification for opposing the bill was a fear of Chinese spies. The Hong Kong People’s Freedom and Choice Act, the senator said, “would be used by the Chinese communists to send even more Chinese spies into the United States.”
He isn’t actually wrong. China does spend billions on espionage and Chinese agents are constantly being discovered infiltrating western universities, corporations, and governments.
The Chinese consulate in San Francisco is right now harboring a Chinese scientist who had worked at Stanford and stands accused of lying about her connections the Chinese military and the CCP. Axios reported this year how Chinese agents penetrated the offices or political campaigns of multiple California politicians. PBS explains how Silicon Valley has been a magnet for Chinese spies for years. A New York City police officer was arrested this year, accused of spying for China since 2012. Chinese spies are suspected of running operations through dating apps like Tinder. Longtime and powerful California Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein had a Chinese spy in her office for an unbelievable twenty years.
He still should have voted for the bill. Hong Kongers have been asking for freedom and the US, some might say predictably, didn’t live up to its word. The decent thing to do would have been to allow them in. Yes, China would definitely have used the opportunity to send more spies. Let them. We survived the actual Cold War, against a far more determined adversary. It’s a sign of the weakness of their system that they have to send spies. It undermines China far more than it undermines America. Every time we catch one of their agents the world sees even more clearly exactly why China is not to be trusted.
Thomas Brown is a history teacher and freelance writer. He runs The Swamp and is featured in Grunge, Quillette, Spiked, The Bipartisan Press, Human Events, among others. Follow him at his Medium page and argue with him on Twitter. He also has a book you should buy.
If you like the content you find in The Swamp please consider making a donation. The Swamp-rat team works hard to bring you new perspectives and original analysis which is only possible through the denial of our loved ones and your generous support. You can click here to donate via Paypal or credit card. Thanks for enjoying The Swamp and for your support!
STORY TIPS (are confidential): email@example.com