Determined pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have been flooding the streets in the name of freedom and liberty from the Chinese regime. In an incredible orchestration of hope and courage, protesters were seen waving American flags while singing the U.S. National Anthem; proving that America is still the universal symbol of freedom.
Unfortunately, we live in an era where showing love for our country is taboo, where history is attempted to be erased, and America is blamed for the world’s sins. We can look to the protesters in Hong Kong as a reminder that showing love for our country is not only warranted but merited, that history will never be forgotten, and that America has saved more souls from tyranny than any other nation in the world.
Large scale public protests are nothing new to Hong Kong. Citizens have been fighting for a fully sovereign government since the time of British rule. To understand why we see protesters waving American flags for the sake of their own freedom across the globe, we have to understand the history of their dominion.
Hong Kong has a long and complicated history, dating back to its birth and cession to Britain in 1842. In 1898, along with 235 islands, Hong Kong was leased to Britain for 99 years. It was an international focal point of trade, and an influx of immigrants from mainland China allowed the colony to become a major manufacturing hub. In 1997 the lease ended, and Hong Kong was once again in Chinese control under the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems,’ which promised the city continued autonomy.
A separate system rule did not even brush the surface of sovereignty as the Chinese government continued to encroach on Hong Kong’s liberty. The most recent blow to the territory’s self-rule that sparked recent protests was the extradition bill. This bill would allow fugitives in Hong Kong to be extradited to the mainland, where there is a great risk of not receiving a fair trial. The extradition bill is seen by protesters as one more step removed from Hong Kong having an autonomous government.
What protesters are fighting for in Hong Kong is what we’ve known all our lives. Hong Kong’s self-proclaimed goals of retaining a capitalist system, free trade, freedom of speech, an independent judiciary, and a high capacity of autonomy are all gifts we enjoy in the United States yet have political debates on whether we want to keep them. We take for granted the fact that young men signed their own death sentences when writing their names on the Declaration of Independence in the summer of 1776. As Patrick Henry famously said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” The Revolutionary War was fought by small colonies against the greatest empire on the planet, to say it was never supposed to be won is an understatement.
Not only did the Americans conquer the impossible and achieve the power of governance, they abdicated that power to the people, an idea so radical that the world had never seen it before. Our founders, like the generations before them, only knew a life where monarchs, oligarchs, and dictators ruled nations and empires. Representation, voting, and having a hand in the laws that govern you were nothing but a mere fantasy.
That fantasy became a reality and ever since then America has paved the way for nations to follow suit. Emancipating those in bondage, lifting up those in abject poverty, and spreading the values of liberty and democracy have become the American creed for 243 years running. Yes, we have fallen short. Yes, we have made mistakes. However, the light of freedom that the United States shines on every corner of the earth does not dim from our dark moments. For it only shines brighter through our atonement and determination to be better. No matter what statues we take down, what monuments we abolish, what buildings we rename, or what murals we paint over, our history will prevail. The drive to break the chains of authoritarian rule is in our blood.
Hong Kong has never seen liberty or complete self-governance, and since 1776, we’ve seen nothing but. In modern America, we cannot fathom what it’s like to live under a regime that is not our own, and we cannot fathom the sheer will it takes to fight against that regime. Our country is in existence because the mere chance of obtaining liberty was worth dying for. That’s why Hong Kong protesters raised up and waved the American flag. That’s why Hong Kong protesters sang the United States National Anthem. They know what America stands for – unwavering liberty, unfettered freedom, and the unrelenting self-determination to fight for a better life for your fellow countrymen.
Seeing red, white, and blue waving in the air while the melody of our nation’s anthem echoes amidst the commotion of protest halfway around the world should be a reminder. A reminder that America is and will remain the steadfast symbol of strength for the weak, freedom for the oppressed, and victory for the disparaged. We are a nation to be proud of and revered. We are the nation that created a movement of liberation that will never die.
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