Six months ago I had a dream about Hong Kong. The city of my birth appeared in great disorder. A dust blanket covered the cityscape as people shuffled through war-torn streets in panic, searching for family, or planning an escape. From above, vivid aerial views of Hong Kong showed indomitable skyscrapers, scattered among them, armies of people drowning in disarray. Six months later, I worry if I had predicted the future.
Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong – endearingly dubbed the Umbrella Revolution for protestors’ pragmatic use of umbrellas as a defense against police violence – hit home tremendously. Free, democratic governance is a value that runs deep in Hong Kong society, and the threat of removing it is not taken lightly, as demonstrated by the ongoing civil disobedience in the dense city of 7 million.
As the number of protesters thins and the reality of stalemate nears, “business as usual” brings no relief to the ever-increasing threat of Beijing control since Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997. Like a broken record, Beijing’s blatant and brutal practices to maintain “control” of its people and eliminate “threats” to its values play over and over again. It occurred to me that Beijing reminded me a great deal of a documentary I recently watched.
The documentary Bully portrays powerful stories illustrating the often-permanent damage of bullying on children. My childhood memories of being bullied, though difficult, made me particularly curious to understand bullies, and undoubtedly make October’s National Stop Bullying Month personally relevant.
By definition, bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others. Bullies use their power to control or harm others, and their harmful behaviors are often repeated. Bullying comes in many forms, certainly among children, but also between children and adults, among adults, and in Beijing’s case, between a government and the people it seeks to control. Here are 5 ways Beijing bullies its people:
Beijing’s ambiguous authority over Taiwan poses a great threat to the Communist Party of China (CPC), in particular because of Taiwan’s repeated interest to declare independence. As the quiet rebellion continues with no clear move from either party, Chinese politicians are beginning to worry. To strongly discourage Taiwanese independence, Chinese officials planted and aimed 1,600 missiles directly at Taiwan, in a loud, unspoken declaration of threat and power.
For more than 60 years of Chinese control, the once-independent kingdom of Tibet suffers palpable tensions with Beijing. Tibet’s declaration of independence in 1912 was ignored when the CPC planted troops in the region in 1950 and in effect arranged for Tibet to cede sovereignty to China, against their wishes. Tibetans’ wish for independence motivates further insecurity in Beijing, where the government repeatedly denies Tibet’s desire for autonomy. Instead, the Chinese government intentionally encourages Han Chinese businesses and people to live in Tibet, resulting in multiple accusations of “cultural genocide” and religious repression. Justifications for the exploitation of Tibetan land and people is the hope “to even out inequality and tap into natural resources to support growth back east in the Han Chinese heartland.”
A discipline born out of the qigong practice of slow movements, meditation and a peaceful moral philosophy, Falun Gong suffers unimaginable acts of torture and abuse in China. A group with no history of violence or terrorist activities, Falun Gong is listed as the number one most active cult in China. In reality, it has become one of the biggest critics of the CPC. In attempts to quiet the growing Falun Gong supporters, the CPC effectively arrest, detain, and coerce Falun Gong members into labor camps. Worse, members have been reported to be tortured through organ harvesting, electrical burns, and beatings. Falun Gong practitioners join many other groups of artists, intellectuals, and reformists as ideological threats to Beijing control.
Uighur Muslim Minority.
A lesser known conflict between the largest minority group in the Xinjiang province and the CPC continues to boil – with nearly 92% of the Chinese population belonging to the Han ethnic group, it’s not surprising that we don’t hear much of the Uighur Muslim minority of China. Similar to Tibet, the autonomous region of Xinjiang frequently sees imprisonment as a means to suppress the Uighur community’s vocal resistance against religious and cultural suppression by Beijing. Recently, a Chinese court sentenced an Uighur academic to life in prison after the CPC accused Ilham Tohti of promoting separatism for his effort to gain respect for Uighur and Xinjiang’s regional autonomy laws.
In a familiar attempt to gradually move Hong Kong toward its socialistic ideals, the CPC introduced the highly controversial “national education” to “teach” patriotism. Since 1997, Hong Kong has been operating as a “Special Administrative Region” (SAR) under China. The democratic city’s freedom to vocalize resentment toward Beijing influence in their education system successfully deterred implementation. Two years later, protests erupted this month in the busiest Hong Kong neighborhoods in direct opposition of Beijing’s attempt to eliminate universal suffrage. During the protests, Beijing was accused of hiring thugs who violently harassed peaceful protesters and sexually harassed women.
Not soon after the Hong Kong protests gained global attention and support, Beijing warned Hong Kong of “unimaginable consequences” should protests continue. Just 25 years after the painful Tiananmen Square Massacre, we are again reminded of who we are up against – a forceful bully, threatened by ideological deviation, driven toward a “unified China,” by any means necessary.
During the writing of this piece, I met a young man, a student at University of Maryland, College Park, who is leading the Ride to Freedom effort in the Washington, DC area. Ride to Freedom is a global effort to save children who are persecuted for practicing Falun Gong in China. On July 1, 2015, young people will gather in Los Angeles and commit to a cross-country bike ride to Washington, DC. Those who are not able to participate in the ride are encouraged to log their personal bike time in solidarity with and in support of Ride to Freedom riders.