Flemming: What Hong Kong can teach Vermont

By David Flemming

Just like every angsty adolescent American in the 2000s, I really loved the alternative/pop bands. All those memories came rushing back to me when I watched the video “Hong Kong Defensive War 2019,” with background music played by My Chemical Romance: “Welcome To The Black Parade.”

The first few sad piano notes sound and you hear a Hong Kong man say, “I am willing to die for this.” “Why?” the interviewer asks. “Because this is our home,” is his curt response. The video then becomes a ballad of epic proportions with dozens of five-second clips from around the city.


First, what led to the protests. A few months ago, an extradition bill was introduced in Hong Kong’s government. The bill would have given Hong Kong officials the authority to deport individuals suspected of crimes in other countries to those countries, including China. Given Hong Kong’s subservient position to China, it could have been pressured into extraditing individuals China wanted to imprison for political reasons. Thankfully the extradition bill died. Since then, Hong Kong citizens have used the bill as a rallying point to demand a more democratic government free from Chinese meddling.

Hong Kong has for years tried to establish a land of opportunity smack in the middle of a land that cracks down on any and all perceived political resistance. It has achieved scores of economic freedom greater than the US. Despite minimal natural resources, Hong Kong’s minimal tax burden and openness to trade has allowed it to become every developing country’s dream. But politically, it is still far below what many Western countries have had for decades.

The video is a masterpiece in editing, showing the overwhelming police force challenging the protesters in the first two minutes, and then showing the lightly-protected protesters challenging the state’s well-armed enforcers. It is not for the squeamish: several shots of injured, bleeding protesters are shown.

Some journalists seem puzzled that Hong Kong citizens are willing to put so much on the line to defend some individuals that many would see as criminals, and who may very well deserve imprisonment. But these citizens understand that once another country like China gains control over the least reputable members of its society, it will gain control over the other members soon enough. They also know that even prisoners deserve some rights, and there is evidence China is guilty of organ harvesting from prisoners.

It may seem at times like Vermont is lost to a progressive elite. But, relatively speaking, our freedom is still better preserved than in Hong Kong. Civil debate is still viewed by the majority of Vermonters as the superior mechanism for social change. Violence is frowned upon.

In Hong Kong, some of the protesters, some of the children, are being shot at by police. It takes a great deal of courage to resist the urge to fight back, and some protesters may view violence as their last resort. Only very rarely in the course of human history have people been able to change their society without violence. Let us be grateful for that freedom, and let us exercise that freedom to the utmost.

David Flemming is a policy analyst for the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Alan Mak