The mass protests in Hong Kong against China’s pressure provide a reminder of the importance of human freedoms and courage. On June 16, an estimated 2 million people peacefully protested a proposal regarding extradition of criminal suspects. In response, Beijing has backed off.
A brutal murder in Taiwan provided the proposal’s pretext, but the real agenda is to facilitate Beijing control of Hong Kong. The British colony became a “semiautonomous administrative region” of China in 1997.
China has tried various methods to suppress unwanted criticism from Hong Kong. This includes kidnapping troublesome individuals.
In November 2016, China intervened in the territory to ban two young legislators from serving. Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching had demonstrated independence and inserted “Hong Kong Nation” into their oaths of office. Demonstrations and police confrontations followed.
In 1992, Deng Xiaoping opened China’s economy to private investment and market development with the declaration of “People’s Socialism.” In the years since, tensions have developed as authorities strive to promote commerce yet control people.
Big Brother in Beijing constantly enforces an ever-changing official list of banned language. The regime blocks websites that discuss the Dalai Lama, the Falun Gong religious movement and the violent suppression in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
In late 2010, government censors placed severe restrictions on any online searches for the English term “freedom.” Google that year withdrew search services from China and moved them to the relatively more free Hong Kong.
Last December, Google development of Project Dragonfly, a censorship service in China, generated tremendous criticism. That project was terminated, according to the company.
Cisco Systems cooperated with Beijing on the “Great Firewall” censorship system. Microsoft in 2011 agreed with Baidu, the main China search provider, to implement censorship.
By contrast, in 2012, the renowned National Palace Museum in Taiwan collaborated with Google to display works online, providing public access to one of the world’s great art collections. This museum joined 150 others around the world in participating in this education.
This has political as well as aesthetic significance. The National Palace Museum was established in 1925 in Beijing’s Forbidden City, comprised of the art collection of the imperial family. That collection, along with precious books and artifacts, was removed to escape the invasion by Japan and reached Taiwan in 1948.
Today there is significant economic cooperation between mainland China and Taiwan. Transportation accords in 2008 included direct shipping, expansion of weekly passenger flights from 36 to 108 and new cargo flights up to a maximum of 60 per month. The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) facilitates this process, which has survived Taiwan’s governing party changes and China’s continuing dictatorship.
Projection worldwide of beautiful images from the National Palace Museum is a skillful way to foster collaboration and openness. Appreciation of great art opens doors to other forms of cooperation.
That virtual presence symbolizes the degree to which the internet and other media foster rich communication of all kinds. In entertainment industries, the TV Emmys have risen in influence to rival the movie industry’s Academy Awards. Producing programs no longer requires the enormous capital infrastructure of the old-fashioned movie studios.
For decades after China’s successful communist revolution, harsh regimentation characterized that country. Today, electronic media are censored and restricted, but not completely.
Today, time favors freedom. China’s government persists in trying to censor and control. However, global commercial and political tides are moving in the opposite direction.
Arthur I. Cyr is a Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College and author of “After the Cold War.”