Last week we saw two violent events in support of an authoritarian government in two major, once-proud cities, Hong Kong and Washington D.C.
Participants in both relied on force to achieve their objectives and, while one was successful and the other failed, both will have significant results for the participants and for their fellow citizens.
In Hong Kong, the government relied on the city’s national security law as imposed by Beijing last June to arrest a large number of pro-democracy advocates and one American rights lawyer. The new law contravenes the treaty signed by Great Britain and China promising one government but two systems for 50 years after the colony was returned to China in 1997.
The mass arrest of demonstrators in Hong Kong is clear evidence that the treaty is no longer respected by China. It follows on the heels of other repressive measures taken by the Chinese government, including the detention of more than one million Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, an unrelenting assault upon non-government-sanctioned religion and, particularly in Hong Kong, attacks on the press and other media.
It is clear that Beijing will no longer countenance any deviation of public expression from Chinese Communist Party orthodoxy.
What this means to the residents of Hong Kong is that they will now live under the same conditions as mainland China. And it also most likely means a long-term decline in its economic importance in Asia.
The rule of law will continue to decrease in importance and the role of the Communist Party will increase. The Chinese government shows no hesitation in using whatever force is needed to secure their objectives so Hong Kong dissidents are justifiably fearful. Now, those subject to the CCP have no real alternatives to compliance.
In Washington last Wednesday, the action taken by the far-right supporters of Donald Trump of storming the Capitol building was an attempt to overturn the election of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States of America.
Some of the MAGA insurgents may feel genuine fear of a Democratic administration, but the relentless repetition by Trump and his acolytes of the false claim that widespread election fraud had stolen the victory from him was the dominant motivation.
(Note that, as president, Trump cannot be charged with any federal crime he may have committed, and if he can obtain another four-year term, many possible pending indictments would be rendered useless under the statute of limitations. Hence, Trump’s desperate effort to overthrow the electoral result by any means available.)
All this does not, however, explain the rabid loyalty to Trump shown by the majority of the Republican members of Congress.
Few have dared to raise their voice in opposition to Trump. The explanation is similar to what generates support for Xi Jinping in China — fear.
In the case of members of the Republicans, it is fear that Trump will take vengeance for disloyal behaviour and perhaps run opponents against them in the next electoral cycle, thereby ending their political careers.
Unlike the demonstrators in China, these presidential lapdogs have career alternatives, but they dread losing the perks of being a member of Congress: a very generous pension plan, gold-plated health-care insurance and free parking at Reagan airport. Their self-interest seems to trump (pun intended) their sworn duty to the Constitution and their country.
Take particular note of the names of a few members of the Senate, Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Roger Marshall of Kansas. They continue to support Trump though Marshall seems to wavering a bit. Cruz and Hawley do so in the hope that, when they run for the Republican nomination in 2024, the base that supports Trump will support them. Three other senators also cling to Trump.
Once-reputable senators have sold their souls in the hope of furthering their political ambitions. Along with more than 100 members of the House of Representatives, these political cowards continue to support Trump’s bogus allegations of electoral fraud and are likely to bring about the death of the GOP.
David Bond is a retired bank economist who lives in Kelowna.