By Sean King
In the United States, it is common knowledge that hypocrites are running rampant. Just yesterday, my mom was explaining all the negative effects of coffee, then she poured herself a cup. That same day, my parents decided to keep my phone outside my room at night to “reduce radiation exposure,” but then they fell asleep reading the news on their computers. Unfortunately, I believe a darker, more serious side of hypocrisy lurks in America: we are quick to criticize serious problems with other nations, but are loath to do the same at home. A perfect example is America’s attitude toward the HongKong protests.
Dating back to the construction of the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s when the Chinese were treated as little more than pawns in a chess game, anti-Chinese sentiments have long existed in the United States. McCarthyism, a campaign aimed at spreading fear of Chinese communists in the United States buliding up to and during the Cold War era, blended with often propagated “Red Scare” to instill an undeserving fear of ordinary Chinese people. These views have been expressed by enough people that it has become something of American culture to naturally fear China as a country. This fear has revealed itself in the almost-blind support of the Hong Kong protests by many people in the United States, but do they really know what the Hong Kong protesters are worried about?
These protests are rooted in a fear of a new, proposed Chinese extradition agreement with Hong Kong, but they represent a larger problem that has plagued Hong Kong. As part of a 100-year deal with the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom gave Hong Kong to China in 1999, but Hong Kong was supposed to maintain political independence from China for 50 years before it was fully adopted. Despite this, the Chinese have attempted to accelerate this process with slow but relentless influences into Hong Kong. For example, rich business elites in Hong Kong have long held positions of great political power while maintaining strong ties with China. When the new extradition bill was being voted on, the people of Hong Kong expressed concerns about their representation in a government that favored rich Chinese elites. These eventually spilled over into the large scale protests that we see today.
This poses the question: while much of the United States blindly supports Hong Kong in its fight against China, would they support similar conflicts here? Many Americans do not realize that the protests are being waged over unfair wealth interests in the Chinese government, akin to our own here. Consistently, big energy companies, like ExxonMobil Marathon Petroleum, donate to politicians to persuade them to support a specific agenda of climate change denial. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in 2016 alone, the oil and gas industries spent a collective $110 million on lobbying to Congress. Yet, these same Americans that discount and dismiss this exorbitant political spending also hypocritically support Hong Kong protests over wealthy people unfairly holding office. In an increased era of accountability and demanded transparency, such protests in the United States seem inevitable, but I fear they would not garner too much traction. I imagine people of Hong Kong would support them. Will you?