The Quick Take
A quick look at the headlines this week 👀🏃🏻♀️
- Hong Kong: Last Sunday, in Hong Kong, about one million people came together to protest a proposed extradition law that would send individuals in the semiautonomous Chinese territory to mainland China. Follow-up protests have continued all week.
- Mexico: Trump backed down from his threats to impose tariffs on Mexico, if the country didn’t step up the fight against migrants. He says it’s a victory. Sure, okay. What he doesn’t tell you is that most of his GOP colleagues in the Senate would have abandoned him on this fight.
- Botswana: Botswana scrapped gay sex laws in big victory for LGBTQ rights in Africa.
- Brexit: The nominations for the next PM are in. Let the politicking begin! Send in your thoughts on who will be the next UK PM — and enter to win a t-shirt and tote bag!
- North Korea: Kim Jong Un sent Trump a letter, reigniting their bromance. Trump said it was a “beautiful letter.” You really gotta wonder about this guy.
- Denmark: In elections last week, the Social Democrats came out on top, catapulting Mette Frederiksen, 41 into the premiership. She’ll be the country’s youngest leader — and NOT the first woman. (That was Helle Thorning-Schmidt.)
- Albania: The country’s president has canceled coming municipal elections, citing the need to reduce political tensions in the country.
- Japan in Iran: Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, went to Tehran, in an effort to reduce tensions between Iran and the U.S. Yeah, we’re scratching our heads on this one too.
- Gulf of Oman: Two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman, a vital thoroughfare for much of the world’s oil products. Yes, oil prices shot up.
- Guatemala: Guatemalans go to the polls on Sunday to vote in a general election.
One country, two systems?
Protests have gripped Hong Kong this week. On Sunday, a million people came out in a peaceful demonstration. During the week, several thousands clashed with police using tear gas and riot gear. At issue is a proposed extradition law that would send individuals in the semiautonomous Chinese territory to mainland China. Why? On the surface, it has to do with autonomy. Specifically, Hong Kong’s. Dig deeper: It is also about weakening multilateralism, if not U.S. soft power. Hear me out….
Let’s understand what’s happening in Hong Kong and why people are upset about a proposed extradition law. Until June 30, 1997, the British ruled Hong Kong; Hong Kong was a British colony. Yeah, that wasn’t cool. The Brits knew that and had engaged with the Chinese on handing over the territory back in the 1980s. They signed an agreement to do so in 1984. That agreement stipulated that Hong Kong would have autonomy; that it wouldn’t be subject to Chinese laws or China’s justice system. Hence, the term, “one country, two systems.” That would stay in place until 2047. See the problem?
China’s rulers in Beijing have tested that policy, not only with this latest extradition proposal, but with a number of reforms introduced in 2014. Hong Kongers rose up back then as well, for what was known as the “Umbrella Movement.” For about 80 days, hundreds protested Beijing’s stand that it (the Chinese Communist Party) screen candidates running for office in Hong Kong. Hong Kongers said, “Hey, that’s political interference, we won’t have any of that. We’ll fight for our freedom, thank you very much.” The Chinese Communist Party responded with pepper spray. The umbrellas were used to deflect that.
Fast forward to today, as Hong Kong’s legislature prepares to vote on a law that would make it possible to extradite someone from Hong Kong to mainland China. Those Hong Kongers who came out to protest are concerned that this would strengthen Beijing’s grip over their lives, eroding the “one country, two systems” principle. And they’re probably right.
(Here’s where we get to weakening multilateralism and eroding U.S. soft power.) As Trump launches trade wars with key partners, including China, distances traditional allies such as the EU and NATO, and calls for “America First,” China has rightly concluded that the once superpower that spoke up about human rights and the liberal world order is nowhere to be found. Washington will make the requisite statements calling for China to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy. But even before Trump took office, the U.S. struggled to lead. It was under Obama’s watch that Russia seized Crimea — and no one blinked. And how many redlines were crossed on Syria?
Sure, China has grown in economic and, thereby, political power. It can challenge the global status quo, including international agreements. But it would be less inclined to do so if the United States felt compelled to stand up for the human rights that it used to pay lip service to — and still worked with its allies and through multilateral institutions such as the U.N.
Foreign Affairs looks at this topic in their June/August 2019 issue, so definitely check that out. It’s a point that FPI Fellow Nanjala Nyabola makes about why violence has ripped apart the uprising that brought down Omar al-Bashir.
Hong Kong protests
- After Hong Kong’s extradition bill is passed, what next? The large-scale protests are not enough to force the government to backtrack on the amended legislation, which would allow the transfer of fugitives from Hong Kong to mainland China, Taiwan, Macau and other jurisdictions with which the city has no extradition deal. Tammy Tam. (South China Morning Post)
- Hong Kong’s extradition law threatens our democratic spirit, says Denise Ho. But it’s also awakening it. (Washington Post)
- Those protests in Hong Kong – they’re about autonomy. Grace Tsoi talks about it with Tanzena Vega. (The Takeaway)
- What’s behind the protests in Hong Kong? Vanessa Lide breaks it down. (Monkey Cage)
- Amid extradition protests, a cry: ‘Hong Kongers save Hong Kongers!’ Alice Su reports. (LA Times)
About those tariffs….
Trump had threatened to impose tariffs on Mexico, if Mexico didn’t step up the fight against migrants. Before that could even come to pass, he called it off, declaring that Mexico had complied to his wishes. The reality is that many GOP senators, including ones who share a border with Mexico weren’t too happy with leveling tariffs on their southern neighbor. Tariffs may hurt Mexico, but they will surely also hurt Texas, Arizona, and others who trade heavily with Mexico.
- Mexico is militarizing troops to help stem northern refugee flows, in return for President Trump’s suspension of tariffs on Mexican goods, says Mary Anastasia O’Grady. (WSJ)
- Why won’t Andrés Manuel López Obrador, aka AMLO, stand up to Trump? Both are stuck in the 20th century, says Cristina Antelo. (The Hill)
- Kasia Malinowska explains how the U.S. drug war is pushing many women in Latin America to the brink of destitution. (Project Syndicate)
- What’s driving so many Honduran women to the U.S. border? The reality is worse than you’ve heard, writes Jill Filipovic. (Politico)