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Caseythoughts This week's 'Thoughts' are being written further in advance than usual, and in the fast-moving world that could occasionally spell trouble as events move and change colors. Even if things slip quickly downhill between this writing and its online publication, I must get these thoughts 'out' and hope for the best, even as I feel their 'worst'.

Hong Kong became a part of the British Empire as a result of the 'Opium Wars', almost forgotten,and a treaty which made it one of the jewels of the British Crown in the late 19th and most of the 20th century. Although it was a part of the Chinese 'empire', it became an international marketplace and a haven of imperfect Western 'freedom' for most of the 20th century. It was a bastion of democratic ideals when Mao took over China at gunpoint after World War II, and the people of Hong Kong enjoyed capitalism and democratic ideals after communism surrounded it. The question "Who lost China?" in the fifties did not apply to Hong Kong.

It was not, and is not now, a utopia. Its limited geography and location made it a difficult place for the lower and middle classes to survive with high rents and exorbitant land prices, and its political placement in the dragon's mouth made it into what some would call a 'Berlin of the East', where pleasure, backroom politics and tension-filled money exchange all combined to make it a unique place in the world's politics and economy. But, it could still be argued that even after the British gave it up in 1997 by treaty, it was still 'free'.

Well, Britain did 'give it up', but Hong Kong did not give up its place in the democratic and capitalistic world of the 21st century. The treaty described 'One China, Two Systems' where the trillion dollar economy could and would thrive even as a part of the Chinese communist empire, as long as the world recognized it as a 'province of Chinese People's Republic'. All a part of the intriguing version of Chinese capitalism with a picture of Mao on the yuan, its currency.

But, underneath it all, the residents of Hong Kong became restless, and nervous. This restlessness has broken out into the streets, the latest example being a mass demonstration of tens of thousands sitting quietly and peacefully in protest at Hong Kong's airport, including thousands of civil servants, pilots, teachers and other professionals, hardly a 'bunch of rabble-rousers' and troublemakers'. These demonstrations began in June when the executive leadership of the province (hand-picked by Beijing) put forward a bill that, essentially, would allow troublemakers arrested in Hong Kong to be extradited to the mainland, thus abrogating their rights under international treaty and English Common Law which is protected in Hong Kong. What Beijing thought would be a 'small matter' has become another matter entirely, and has become a 'cause celebre', viewed as a threat to Beijing's authoritarian rule.

Clashes in the streets of Hong Kong (hardly covered in the American press/media) have now escalated to a huge general strike as I write. International flights have been cancelled, embassies are warning of travel to Hong Kong, investors and multi-national corporations are nervous and Beijing is possibly using 'fifth columnists' to foment counter demonstrations which are turning bloody. Beijing is calling for an end to the 'disruption of domestic tranquility' and a quelling of the 'riotous impulses' of the troublemakers. In other words, if things don't calm down (and there is no sign of that happening) the People's Liberation Army (with a practically unseen, but potent, force in Hong Kong of about 10,000 riot trained troops) is just itching to go in and put an end in what is, essentially, a potential replay of the freedom movement seen in Tienanmen Square in 1989. Remember the paper mache statue of 'Freedom' imitating our own Statue of Liberty in that infamous uprising? Do you remember the photo of the hero standing in front of the tanks emblazoned with the star of communism painted on their turrets, raising his hand in defiance? Do we imagine the muted cries of tens of thousands of those demonstrators who were crushed by those same tanks in the middle of the night, and whose memory lives on in today's Hong Kong?

So, that far away (as far away as Saigon, Da Nang and Hue ever were) why should America care? Well, first, something that was only reported in the Financial Times of 3 August, to quote: "...Mr. Trump said on Thursday that the 'riots' had gone on for a 'long time' and China would have to 'deal with that themselves' " In other words, he's mimicking communist and totalitarian rhetoric that demonstrations of popular will, whether in Moscow, Hanoi, Beijing or other non-democratic nations are 'internal affairs'. Read: None of our business, especially if it would interfere with business.

Then, in the Wall Street Journal of 3 August, it was revealed that the White House has laid down strict guidance for officials in any public utterances on the Hong Kong situation. Quoted one unnamed official in Washington: "It was made clear down the chain that we need to be 'measured' on Hong Kong." The source said the instructions came 'from the top' and were a direct reference to ongoing trade talks with the Chinese government. Read: 'Don't rock the boat. It's their affair, not ours, especially if it comes to trade talks'.

I'm sickened and horrified by this. Yes, it is China's affair, but it's the world's affair, too. Again, remember that lone soul, that hero standing in front of the tank in Tienanmen Square. He was not just halting the tank in a quixotic gesture, he was beckoning to the world to take notice, freedom is threatened here. Democratic ideals in the hearts of tens of thousands of Chinese in Beijing were crushed and ran like streams of blood in the gutters of Tienanmen Square, and the statue was destroyed as well, but not the ideals and hopes.

So, this is the background of the Hong Kong demonstrations. The anger and frustration is the same, and escalating daily. Hong Kong is still the banner of freedom, the representative city of the 'One China, Two Systems', even as its financial foundations have gradually diminished in China's rush to the number two spot in the world's economies.

And Trump, in the rush to 'make a tremendous deal' (and in his apparent idealizing of the world's strongmen) will relegate the thousands of middle class demonstrators in Hong Kong an 'internal affair', giving Beijing a green light to the People's Liberation Army to potentially recreate the horror of Tienanmen Square.

So, what exactly am I saying? As a combat veteran, I'm not going to jump on a tank, grab a flag and an M-16 and yell "Go get 'em", or to echo the fifties, 'The only good commie is a dead commie.' No, I've learned my lesson about the futility of combat, but even more importantly, I can face the fact that today's America is not very militarily or idealistically, capable, at this moment in time and history, to do anything of a military character other than fight proxy wars and limited excursions to far-away insurgencies which rarely even make it to page eight of what's left of America's newspapers. But to hear words of 'appeasement' resound from the White House is a horror, a sad, sad horror.

Ronald Reagan, running against Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination for president in 1976, was asked in North Carolina about his 'feelings' about the end of the VietNam war. He didn't wring his hands in abject misery, or kowtow to defeatists by saying "We shouldn't have been there". No, Mr. Reagan said, simply and profoundly, "It was a noble cause". That said volumes about him, and our 'cause' as Americans. You see, I think that America is not just a name, or a place, it is a 'cause'. And without a 'noble cause', we are just another bunch of flag wavers. We, as America, have had a cause for over two hundred years, and in that quest have frequently made mistakes and blunders on a grand scale, but we also saved the world a couple of times in the twentieth century in the pursuit and firm belief in that 'noble cause'.

Simply, it was a cause of liberty, and freedom. The people of Hong Kong want their freedom and liberty, and look to us as a beacon of hope, and trust us to hold that beacon high, stretching across the Pacific and around the world, as millions wish simply to be 'free'. We stumble in that quest, sometimes, but without a sense of our 'cause' we cannot be, or raise high, that beacon.

Our fellow travelers in Hong Kong, as well as the protesters in Moscow, Tehran, Hanoi, and so many other countries around the globe continue to see us a the one hope for freedom, self-determination, and, in simple declaration "...Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness".

The people of Hong Kong look to us not for military help (for the reality is that those inalienable rights cannot be won by weapons, but by deeply held beliefs) but for us to speak out and tell Beijing: "No deal. Stay out of Hong Kong as you promised, or we will decide that we don't need your steel exports, your aluminum exports, your iphones, your plastic Disney toys, your computer knock-offs. We need nothing from you, Beijing. You need us, and our way of life is still a dream to your teeming billion citizens. We're not making any deals while you threaten Hong Kong, Taiwan and the independent nations in The South China Sea. Back off, allow Hong Kong to remain free, or we take our ball and go home."

As I write this, I read in the Financial Times of a group of masked demonstrators waving American flags and singing the Star Spangled Banner. Can you believe that? Brings a tear to my eye. They are calling our attention to a bill that is struggling to stay alive in our American Congress called The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, that would require Beijing to respect the territory's civic freedoms or risk having its special trading status revoked. This bill is sitting in Congress right now, and deserves a letter writing campaign by us to our representatives and senators, if they're not too busy feathering their own nests. Hong Kong needs strong words from our American bully pulpit. We understand that we are allowing freedom to slip through the fingers of humankind, and Hong Kong looks to our shores for the flame which must be held high. I fear it will be extinguished in the throes of a 'fantastic deal'. Sounds like appeasement may find a new home in the 21st century unless we speak out, now, for liberty. It seems to me it is our noble cause, and we dare not fail. The whole world is, indeed, watching.

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