Hong Kong demonstrations are the fuse, and many in the Beijing dictatorship – those who know the history of revolutions – are understandably afraid. Many would remember October 1956, for instance.
The 1956 Hungarian Revolution against Soviet-imposed communist oppression began with university students drawing up a 10-point list of reasonable demands for freedoms. They were soon fired on by the secret police, on orders of a frightened political class: that started the violent revolution.
A month later I watched from my suburban side street as Moscow sent in the tanks to overrun the now much-enlarged ranks of students and adult freedom fighters, exploding the illusion for those who imagined that Soviet Communism was a benign system managing equality and fairness.
From modest demands, such as the demand by Hong Kong’s voters for the withdrawal of the hated and feared extradition bill that triggered the protests, a popular movement like that soon gathers up those who until a million-strong shows up on the streets, are either afraid or too lazy to show themselves.
Once such a crowd gathers and gains momentum, it’s a fight for justice and the demands quickly escalate. After nine weeks of protests, Hong Kong is now hungry for results.
Soon, they will want not just guarantees of free and fair elections without a Beijing puppet at the helm, they will want the whole basket of freedoms: they will demand a divorce from the mainland. And what will China do then? Tanks? Like the ones that rumbled through Tiananmen Square?
The lesson for Beijing should be to shut up, remove Chief Executive Carrie Lam and let Hong Kong hold free elections. The alternative is a one-way street to not only political disaster but to a potential massacre. That, of course, would ruin China as a member of the international community. Sanctions would quickly be imposed, they would be embarrassed at home… and perhaps the fuse that is Hong Kong now would find its payload in a domestic upheaval. And that is what Beijing fears the most.
I once read an observation about dictatorships that resonated with me: dictatorships are not as secure as we think, and the people are more powerful than they think.
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