Lost by many during the pandemic have been China’s moves to squelch dissent in Hong Kong.
In 2019, Hong Kong’s opposition to mainland China’s rule swelled. Other countries joined in support of Hong Kong. China cracked down.
There are no more street protests. According to a March 10, 2021, New York Times article by David Leonhardt, “There’s extensive self-censorship. Virtually every prominent pro-democracy activist is in exile, in jail, awaiting trial or has disappeared from public life.”
What’s the tension? Hong Kong is capitalist and China is socialist. Hong Kong has been politically free while mainland China has not been. In the meantime, people in Hong Kong now have the expectation that their city will become another outpost of the mainland.
Put differently, the oppression is causing a loss of hope. People in Hong Kong believe there is little they can do to change the situation.
Freedom is a precious commodity. It can be gained. And it can be easily lost.
In our country, we have to be careful of those who seek to “cancel” or suppress free speech. Any time we go down a road where we seek to silence those with whom we disagree, the road to oppression is not far away.
And as we learn from the Hong Kong example, while China has sought to suppress free speech, it cannot quell the thoughts of freedom that exist in the heart of the people. Eventually, some brave souls may once again be willing to take the risk to express their true thoughts once again. For now though, the changes in Hong Kong’s are a sobering development.
How Much Do We Value Freedom?
I’m concerned for us in the United States of America. I fear that we will not truly value freedom, and free expression in particular, until after we have traded it away for other, lesser things.
In 1860, Frederick Douglass said it simply: “Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist.”
Can our free society last for long if we do not allow people to express their opinions and then not be shamed or intimidated into self-censorship? As Douglass said, freedom of speech is the “great moral renovator of society and government.”
What is your ideal vision for our nation? Liberty and justice for all?
Do we value freedom enough to allow for dissenting voices to be heard and fairly considered as we shape the future?
Photo by Manson Yim on Unsplash
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Published April 16, 2021
Topics: Culture Commentary