Toward a Hong Kong Declaration of Justice and Rights

Freedom is gained or lost with every generation. But sometimes there are key moments. A small series of events that have a huge impact on the trajectory of the world. Hong Kong, right now, is having one of those moments.

Hong Kong has a great history of freedom, prosperity, and bravery. A history that China has been working hard to destroy for the past 20 years. Hong Kongers have resisted the tyrannical Chinese oppression. This came to worldwide attention in 2014 with the Umbrella Movement against China interfering in and corrupting Hong Kong elections.

A tyrannical system has two options when encountering resistance: increase oppression, or adapt. China has chosen again and again to increase oppression in Hong Kong. In 2019 they pushed a law taking away Hong Kong courts, so that people from Hong Kong would be taken to mainland China for so-called trials. Millions of people in Hong Kong marched in the streets against these clear violations of basic rights. China feigned adapting to the situation, and then in 2020 passed a law eliminating the rights of people in Hong Kong, and beyond.

Hong Kongers have made five explicit demands during their protests, the United States and the United Kingdom have enacted sanctions against China and its agents in Hong Kong, the citizens have engaged a yellow economy to support the freedom movement, and boycotted doing business with mainland China. And all of that must continue. But, as China escalates their violent and oppressive measures, something more must rise from the people of Hong Kong.

Freedom is a rare and precious thing, but when the people at all levels of a strong society come together to fight for it, it can be won, even against great odds. It has been done before. And it has been done against the Communists before.

Hong Kong must draw upon this history, and its own. Hong Kong has five great documents supporting individual rights to pull from, and China is violating all of them: the Hong Kong Letters Patent, the Hong Kong Royal Instructions, the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the Hong Kong Basic Law, and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Just rule is derived from the consent of the people to protect individuals' rights to life, liberty, property, assembly, jury, etc. The police and military are guardians of these rights. This has all been reversed by China. These are the same rights that the American colonists lost, and the same ones that they gained back, and then enshrined in the American Bill of Rights: the right to free speech, to free press, to freedom of religion, the right to petition the government for grievances, the right to trial by jury, the stopping of unlawful seizure and detainment, and the quartering of troops, and cruel and unusual punishments.

It's the same pattern in history. Tensions had escalated for years. Many resolutions, resolves, and bills were passed on both sides. Eventually, the American colonists formed their own Congress, and then the Continental Association in 1774 to boycott British goods. They had their financial assets seized, they were cut off from trading with other countries, and they were forced to swear oaths of allegiance or be killed or imprisoned.

John Dickinson and Thomas Jefferson wrote "The Declaration of Causes and Necessity for Taking Up Arms" in 1775. Here's one line, "It has also been resolved in Parliament, that Colonists charged with committing certain Offences, shall be transported to England to be tried." That sounds just like the 2019 Chinese extradition bill.

From "The Fairfax County Resolves" by George Washington and George Mason to "The Declaration of Independence" by Thomas Jefferson, the pattern is the same. Able leaders step forward, voluntarily risking everything for the transcendent value of liberty, they help organize people at all levels of society, they document and list their grievances, they declare their rights, and then they set about defending them.

In "The Power of the Powerless", Vaclav Havel states, "I have also mentioned how irrelevant trying to calculate the risks in this regard are, for an essential feature of independent initiatives is that they are always, initially at least, an all or nothing gamble."

The present for Hong Kong holds turbulence; the future, possibility.


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