The passion for democracy and political freedom is something familiar to all Americans, but not all countries award their citizens the same privileges.
One case that has blown up across the internet in the past few months is that of a growing number of Chinese citizens in Hong Kong. They are upset with their government and the way it treats them politically. They may be unsatisfied with the current state of affairs in their country, but they are not allowed to criticize or organize against their authoritarian government for fear of violence. Their demands their government consist of a withdrawal of an extradition bill, and a higher chance for Chinese citizens to participate in policymaking. Of course, they also demand with amnesty for arrested protesters detained for expressing their concerns, and an investigation into police brutality in Hong Kong. It is common for Americans to believe in freedom of speech as an inherent right, but we must consider this notion as a requirement for all, especially those unsatisfied with their rulers.
If a population is concerned with the way their government operates, they should have a right to express themselves without the threat of extreme violence and neglect. Recently, Hong Kong police have resorted to lethal means in fighting protesters, even shooting some of them. Many accounts of Hong Kong police brutality have gone viral, depicting the injury of protestors. Hong Kong police also detained medical professionals who assist in the event of tear gas exposure or bodily damage by the police force. To deny anyone of speaking their mind and violently forcing them into a way of thinking is a violation of human decency. Disallowing one to think for oneself diminishes one’s ability to determine and express how they wish to be governed by a state. The same principles were touted as revolutionary and progressive at the time of the Enlightenment and should be taken just as seriously today by all governments.
The essence of authoritarianism is the control of actions or ideas that might threaten the power of the current regime. This fear of revolution can lead to many human rights violations and violence directed at destroying any opposition. Hong Kong’s government seems not to mind using violence against the protestors, as police consistently beat and detain many of those who are speaking out.
However, it is only fair to the governed to allow open discussion and reasonable dialogue. Freedom of thought and new political ideas are essential when the government, as shown in Hong Kong, is massively against the public in allowing change based on their input. If the public believes change needs to happen in their country, they should have the right to express those beliefs as part of the community, just the same as the elite.
Unequal distribution of power exists in any society, even in the United States and especially in a communist country like China. Those in power sit at the top and determine the path of the nation. Being fair to all and not coercing anyone to have to submit to the authority of another through violence is just as a matter of how we treat each other as human beings. For the Hongkongers who are protesting, they want what is fair as citizens — to have a say in their government. While also requesting the ability to hold those in power accountable for their actions through voting power. If their words are neglected and punished, as they have been in recent months, the rulers find it easier to take advantage of their citizens.
Moreover, the government leaders grow even more powerful. This growth in the power of a small elite in China is at the cost of the well being of regular Chinese citizens. They are denied rights to speech and are forced to comply with whatever the government wishes. If Hong Kong silences the protestors, nothing stands between the greedy few and the mistreatment of the unprivileged many.
To Hong Kong protestors, democracy is the only way to solve political corruption in their government and the mistreatment of Chinese citizens. Authoritarian policies, such as the exclusion of most citizens in political participation, is among the many grievances of Hong Kong protestors. Corrupt politicians using their power for immoral gains can only be kept in check if the citizens can vote them out and hold them accountable. Continual mistreatment and silencing of the people deserve blowback. Furthermore, the Chinese government should be held responsible by individuals who only wish to have input on the way their leaders govern them.