April 28, 2020
At the 2019 height of the Hong Kong protests, we shared the now beloved video of a protester giving President Donald Trump this advice: “Donald Trump, don't trust China! China is asshole!"
This week, I interviewed that man, Paladin Cheng ( 鄭實 ) to get an update on how the fight for independence in Hong Kong is going in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This interview is being partially paraphrased to handle the language barrier.
Born in Hong Kong 38 years ago, Cheng is a native, and this movement is as personal as it gets. He was 7 years old when the Chinese tanks rolled through Tiananmen Square in 1989 and 15 during the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China in 1997. He has seen the growth of the Communist Party’s control his entire life and these protests mark a landmark moment for him: a moment where “the CPC has taken away their mask and shown their world that they are shameless and cruel.”
To recap, this ongoing protest movement exploded in size and fervor in the summer of 2019, when the Chinese government pressed for a new extradition bill that would send alleged criminals from Hong Kong in to the mainland for trial. The protestors see this as a direct assault on the “One country, two systems” policy that maintains Hong Kong’s self-governance.
There were intense stand-offs as protestors took to the streets and disrupted public proceedings on the bill. On Sunday, June 9, 2019, over one million people flooded the streets and marched in protest of the bill, making them one of the largest public protests in human history.
That protest has not ended, however it has been stalled in the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Cheng, Here’s how the pro-Beijing forces are exploiting the COVID-19 emergency to silence and squash the pro-independence movement
Today, the protest is still maturing, and growing. Though the threat of Beijing is large, Cheng feels they have the massive, though quieted support of the people. “Even as I waved the Hong Kong Independence flag in the protests in 2019, some people would buy me water, give me thumbs up, and whisper ‘I support you.’”
I asked how the rest of the world can help the fight for freedom in Hong Kong. What the movement needs now, according to Cheng, is the backing of the international community. The people of Hong Kong are spirited, fighting for their lives and their freedom against the government of the largest nation on Earth.
“Understand that Hong Kong is just not a part of China, Hong Kong is being colonized by China.”
When I asked if that means military intervention is okay or necessary, he said “It is a contradiction between keeping human rights and being ruled by the CPC. [...] If we are left to be a Colony, we only have two choices: to be a slave or to be a corpse.”