By now, most people are somewhat aware of the situation in Hong Kong. The citizens of Hong Kong are rising up and fighting back against an overbearing Chinese government. Their dream is of a Hong Kong that is completely independent and free from China. The Chinese government denies its people certain unalienable rights: free speech, free press, and fair elections. The citizens are no longer letting tyranny walk over them.
The American Misconception of Hong Kong
Recently, a video surfaced of an American woman arguing with protestors in Hong Kong:
A white woman ripping off posters that Hong Kong protesters put in Prince Edward district, saying that “safety is more important than freedom”. Bet she never has to worry to choose either one. ??
— The Asian Feminist (@theasianfmnst) September 22, 2019
The woman attacked the protestors for valuing freedom more than safety by tearing down their posters. The woman called this fight for freedom a “waste of time,” while praising the Chinese government for putting safety over freedom. According to her, the protestors shouldn’t stand up to tyranny and instead return to college life.
The supposed “safety” entails government control over the media, restricted access to the internet for citizens, and no right to bear arms. “Safety” is having tear gas thrown at you while you protest these atrocities in the streets. This is not security, this is tyranny. Ben Franklin said, “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”
There is minority support for the Hong Kong movement in the U.S., however, this woman represents a worrying view that many Americans share. American citizens do not appreciate the freedoms that they have; instead, they take them for granted and demand they be taken away.
The woman called these protestors violent and demanded they stand down to the overbearing government. The founding fathers would be joining the protesters in the streets of Hong Kong and likely demanding United States support. Not all nations were built on the same ideals that James Madison envisioned when writing the Constitution. Much like Americans, all people should be able to live in peace and liberty. There’s a reason the protestors are flying the American flag.
Granted, not all cultures are the same and America cannot force its notions onto other nations, but Americans should show support for movements like those in Hong Kong. An alliance among citizens is waiting to be born when support is exhibited for similar causes.
Empire of Liberty
In 1780, amidst the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson first used the phrase “Empire of Liberty” in a letter to George Rogers Clark.
“We shall divert through our own Country a branch of commerce which the European States have thought worthy of the most important struggles and sacrifices, and in the event of peace [ending the American Revolution]…we shall form to the American union a barrier against the dangerous extension of the British Province of Canada and add to the Empire of Liberty an extensive and fertile Country thereby converting dangerous Enemies into valuable friends.”
Years later, he similarly mentioned an Empire of Liberty in a letter to James Madison:
“We should then have only to include the North [Canada] in our confederacy…and we should have such an empire for liberty as she has never surveyed since the creation: & I am persuaded no constitution was ever before so well calculated as ours for extensive empire & self government.”
Jefferson wanted America to be the beacon of freedom in a new age: one based on enlightened values. To Jefferson, America should lead by example to show that a nation putting its emphasis on liberty would be prosperous and strong. Thus, he supported nearly any means necessary to obtain freedom. He was a firm supporter of revolutions across the world.
Jefferson’s “Empire of Liberty” is a theme seen throughout American history, especially by the Founding Fathers. This, perhaps, was most pronounced in the famous Monroe Doctrine, in which America declared neutrality to European affairs. The founders did not want to interfere with the liberty of those abroad. In addition, James Monroe demanded that European powers no longer colonize the west, stating that Latin America was free and independent.
The portion of Americans who do not support the Revolution must figure out if they ultimately agree with the foundational ideas of America. All Americans should be eager to have Hong Kong join the Empire of Liberty.