First, they came for the Tibetans, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Tibetan.
Then they came for the Christians, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a committed Christian.
Then they came for Falun Gong, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a member of Falun Gong….’
Then they came for Hong Kong – and I did not speak out because I wasn’t in Hong Kong.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
May I be forgiven for adapting the immortal, heroic words of Pastor Martin Niemoller to sheet home the essence of Australia’s stand against the Chinese government’s actions in Hong Kong.
The ‘two governments’ concept has been trampled on and Australia can be proud of the stand taken by the Morrison Government in pushing back against Beijing. The dragon surely blinked as a small, usually somewhat dozy koala nation stood up and pee-ed in protest (as koalas are wont to do.)
Australia’s action has been carefully observed and silently approved of in our region.
Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, all watch and wait.
If Australia can put – however tenuously- our trade relationship with China, our massive tourism and international student industry into jeopardy by taking a stand against what is happening in Hong Kong, there is, the neighbours conclude, reason for hope and optimism.
Not too much, of course, because at crunch time, when push comes to shove, each nation’s leader will act in the interest of his or her own nation.
The action taken by the Morrison government stands as a reminder that our nation, at least, will not ‘tremble and obey’ as the old command of the Chinese emperors mandated. This does not mean we need to end trade relationships that have taken a generation or two to build, it means that we have drawn the line in the sand and that Australian values will not be crushed by China’s so-called ‘wolf diplomacy’ or threats to end trade ties.
It is useful to remember that even President-for-life Xi had to endure the turbulent years of the Cultural revolution.
A story told to your correspondent some years ago when she worked in Hong Kong was that Xi himself was singled out for punishment by Mao’s Red Guard; his father arrested and his mother sent to a hard labour brigade leaving the teenager to fend for himself until he managed to find sponsorship from one of his father’s old comrades in arms.
Hong Kong citizens will not go down without a fight and many, even those in the position of being able to do so, will not want to relocate their lives and businesses unless under the direst threats. These are the people that created Asia’s most vibrant and successful cities, freeport and financial hub and they did it under the old colonial label of British Crown Colony.
On the last but one evening I spent in Hong Kong, I leaned over my balcony, hearing the sound of excited children, a marching song, as small boys in uniform trundled past — the local Scouts group, all neatly dressed and marching in formation, led by an elderly, but still erect and immaculately uniformed Scout Pack leader. Those decades of stable British administration had left some traces, after all.
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