After thirteen straight weeks of protests and civil unrest, the situation in Hong Kong has finally turned violent. On Aug. 31st, Hong Kong Police allegedly shot twice into the air to halt the advance of demonstrators deemed to be “serious threats to their lives.” On the same night, protestors used Molotov Cocktails to burn police barricades, lending credibility to the concern of the officers. As tensions continue to increase and China refuse to budge on their crackdown of Hong Kong, a question lingers:
Who’ll blink first?
There’s a general rule of thumb to follow when observing most civil protests. They either end when they succeed, crumble over a long stretch of time, or implode in dramatic brutality. The American Revolution, Occupy Wall Street, and Tiananmen Square all come to mind. By all measures, Hong Kong is going down a similar road to Tiananmen Square. But not only because Hong Kong is dealing with the same regime that committed that atrocity.
The American flags waves by protestors, the ever-increasing violence, and the expanding confidence of protestors suggest the days of talking are done. Given that the demonstrators of Hong Kong are armed, China will have a real mess on their hands if they attempt swift and ferocious methods to quell the rioting.
While the Chinese military could easily overcome Hong Kong’s activists, it wouldn’t be without a fight that will be broadcast around the globe. For now, China sits and waits, hoping for a gradual decrease in tension.
The International Response
The reason China has been able to push this far is due to the inaction of the free world. As a result of the passivity of countries like the U.S. and U.K., as well as the relative silence of NATO, China – much like Russia in Crimea – Chinese officials feel safe to steamroll Hong Kong’s functional independence without serious repercussions.
The worrying thing is, they’re probably right. NATO has been unfit for the purpose for some time, and there’s no sign thus far from the Trump or Johnson administrations are interested in intervening in Hong Kong.
This outcome leaves the geopolitical structure of democracy in a state of purgatory. If communist and totalitarian regimes can annex democratic states unabetted, we have a serious problem. Defiant as the Hong Kong people may be, they can’t overpower China, or beat them in a war of attrition. Sooner or later Hong Kong will fall, violently or otherwise.
While military intervention is undesirable for all sides, diplomacy done right has prevented many catastrophes. Were western governments forthright and confident in their ideas, they’d do more than leave Hong Kong alone in the darkness.