Because Hong Kong is over 8,000 miles from Harrisonburg, it is easy to overlook the protests and turmoil there. Hong Kong was a colony of England until 1997, except for a brief period of being under Japan’s control. That’s when Hong Kong was returned to the governance of China. Deng Xiaoping, came up the catchphrase of the moment: “One country, two systems.”
It was agreed that Hong Kong would continue to have its own languages, its own currency, legal and legislative system. Citizens of Hong Kong have individual rights that are different and more open than the citizens of Communist China. With all these differences, Hong Kong returned to China in 1997.
The “One country, two systems” agreement was to be enforced for 50 years, until 2047. In February, a bill allowing extradition of criminals from Hong Kong to stand trial in Communist China was proposed in the Hong Kong legislature. While this bill was in response to a murder in Taiwan, citizens of Hong Kong saw the bill for what it was — a chance for Communist China to tighten the screws and gain control over Hong Kong’s independent judiciary.
What was Communist China trying to do? A look at how China absorbed the country of Tibet in 1959 gives some insight. The former head of Tibet, the Dalai Lama said this:
“The ultimate Chinese aim with regard to Tibet, … seems to attempt the extermination of religion and culture and even the absorption of the Tibetan race...Besides the civilian and military personnel already in Tibet, 5 million Chinese settlers have arrived in eastern and north-eastern Tso, in addition to which four million Chinese settlers are planned to be sent to …Central Tibet. Many Tibetans have been deported, thereby resulting in the complete absorption of these Tibetans as a race, which is being undertaken by the Chinese.” 
In 1959, the young Dalai Lama and many of his supporters were driven out of Tibet. Ethnic Han Chinese moved in and the communist government took an active role in erasing the Tibetan culture and people.
In 2003, the Chinese introduced a sedition act making it easy to ban speech and assembly in Hong Kong. In 2014, the Chinese tried to assert control over political candidates with only officially approved candidates allowed to run for office. Both times, protests erupted, and the new rules were not enacted.
In his book, Eat the Rich, P.J. O’Rourke visits Hong Kong just before the turnover in 1997. He is amazed by the success of Hong Kong:
“Hong Kong has no minimum wage, no unemployment benefits, no national health program…the unemployment rate is below 3 percent.
“Hong Kong has endured repeated refugee influxes. They have no forests, mines, or oil wells, no large-scale agriculture…Hong Kong even has to import water.”
What is the secret? Freedom! After World War II the British administrator to Hong Kong helped establish a system where government left people alone. They established unbiased courts, promoted fair contract enforcement and laws that applied to everyone. They established national defense and an effective police force. The bureaucracy was known to be efficient.
The result? The world’s freest, fastest growing economy snuggled up against the world’s most repressive dictatorship. With these kinds of neighbors, conflict was bound to happen.
There are over 7 million people living in Hong Kong. In June, almost 2 million people took to the streets to protest the encroachment of communist rule on the tiny island. The people of Hong Kong can see what is coming.
Communist China keeps 10,000 army troops in and around Hong Kong. More could be moved in quickly. Students from mainland China who attend university in Hong Kong are embracing freedom and liberty. Some have joined the protestors. This has caught the attention of the leaders of the Communist Party.
You see, the real natural resource in Hong Kong is the people. Their affinity for freedom and free-market capitalism, along with a system that allows the creative energy of 7 million people to be unleashed, is the cause of Hong Kong’s remarkable success.
In his book, P.J. O’Rourke has a simple solution — offer the citizens of Hong Kong immediate citizenship in the United States. Of course, we could ask our Pacific Rim neighbors to help out. Perhaps we could accept 4 million refugees from Hong Kong and ask the Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians to pick up the balance.
Imagine the message sent by freedom loving people to the world’s most repressive communist regime. When given the chance, the world’s most creative and energetic economy pulls up stakes and heads for America.Imagine what this economic engine could do in the United States. This is a solution worth pursuing.
Douglas Wright is a dentist who lives and works in Rockingham County.