Magazine July 27, 2020, Issue

The Week

(Roman Genn)

We’d open this issue with a really funny joke if it hadn’t already been canceled.

The people in Seattle who want to abolish the police succeeded in doing so, if only for a few blocks occupied by a left-wing militia in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. That turned into a festival of violence and abuse, including shootings — and murder — of children. And so the police were called in to restore order. Here endeth the lesson.

 Trump gave a Fourth of July speech at Mount Rushmore that extolled the Founders, and it got panned in the press. Even though the president celebrated the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and talked of how they informed Abraham Lincoln and the Union effort in the Civil War — he cited the repulse of Pickett’s charge and quoted the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” — the media depicted the speech as some sort of neo-Confederate battle cry. The New York Times called it “dark and divisive.” A Washington Post news report said it crystallized Trump’s defense of “white domination.” None of this was remotely true. Trump did have excoriating words for the woke Left, calling it a “far-left fascism” that seeks to overthrow the American Revolution, a charge that is broadly true (even if “fascism,” one of the most overused swear words in American politics, is best avoided). Trump is obviously a deeply flawed messenger; two days after the speech he was foolishly attacking NASCAR for banning the Confederate flag. But his message at Mount Rushmore was unassailable, even if it was, indeed, assailed in the most ridiculous terms.

As if to prove Trump’s point at Mount Rushmore, Illinois senator Tammy Duckworth, in an interview with CNN, called for a “national dialogue” on whether to remove statues of George Washington, slave owner. Let us begin the dialogue, then, with Richard Allen, born a slave in 1760, freed by his own efforts 20 years later, founder of Philadelphia’s first black Episcopal church. When he learned in December 1799 that Washington had freed all his slaves in his will, Allen had this to say to his congregation: “Unbiased by the popular opinion of the state in which [he lived], he dared to do his duty and wipe off the only stain with which man could ever reproach him. . . . Deeds like these are not common. He did not ‘let his right hand know what his left hand did’ — but He ‘who sees in secret’ will openly reward such acts of beneficence. The name of Washington will live when the sculptured marble and the statue of bronze shall be crumbled into dust.”

Another target for the woke iconoclasts is the Emancipation Memorial, which has stood about a mile south of Capitol Hill since 1876. To the offended, its sins are mostly aesthetic: It appears to depict a slave kneeling before Lincoln. But it is more accurately a depiction — and celebration — of the moment of emancipation: Lincoln holds a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation in his hand; the chains on the slave are broken; and he is in the act of rising up to freedom. At least two additional facts argue in the statue’s favor. First, its funding, starting with the first dollar, entirely from the earnings of freed slaves. Second, its 1876 dedication speech by abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass, which reckoned with the complications of American history better than any of those seeking to tear down the statue have done. A great hubbub about the statue in late June brought out anti-statue activists, but also locals to its defense, some of whom were — to the intersectional consternation of activists — black, such as D.C. tour guide Don Folden. For now, the statue is standing. Let us hope that it remains so.

Princeton University took the name of Woodrow Wilson off its school of public and international affairs. The university also took his name off one of its residential colleges. This is a thorough purging. Wilson was not only president of the United States; he was also president of Princeton (and governor of New Jersey). His name has been scrubbed because of his racism. Understandable. But his epochal impact on international affairs and his historic association with the institution tilt against this erasure. John F. Kennedy’s name is secure on the school of government at Harvard . . . for now.

In 1987, Niel Golightly was a 29-year-old Navy pilot who thought that putting women in combat roles was a bad idea. In 2020, he is a former senior executive at Boeing who has just been forced to resign for having voiced that opinion in 1987. Corporate America is busily reproducing the informant culture of East Germany, with results that are both embarrassing and destructive. That Boeing would go along with this shameful spectacle ought to shake the confidence of both the government and its investors.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when General Gordon Granger promulgated the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, Texas. Lincoln had issued it on January 1, 1863, freeing the slaves of the Confederacy. But they would not reap the benefits until the Union army defeated their masters; Texas did not fall until almost two months after Appomattox. Now there is a push to make Juneteenth a national holiday. We are skeptical. Juneteenth was not the end of slavery in the U.S. — that came December 6, 1865, when the 13th Amendment was ratified (thus freeing slaves in the last loyal slave states). Two freedom festivals in midsummer will tend to compete, and create a fissure, Juneteenth for blacks, the Fourth for everyone else. This would be a double dead end. The document the Fourth celebrates says that “all men are created equal.” That means all men, and is addressed to all men. Whenever there is backsliding, go to the text. Happy Fourth, always and forever.

The coronavirus hasn’t gone away. As the Northeast, the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. for months, has seen steep, persistent declines in confirmed cases, other parts of the country have seen spikes. A month or so ago, most of the increased cases were a function of increased testing. Now, states including Florida, Texas, and Arizona have seen worrying increases in their positivity rates — the percentage of tests that are positive — in a sign of accelerating community spread. They’ve reacted, reasonably enough, by tapping the brakes on reopening and doing more to encourage the wearing of masks. The good news is that in none of these places have we yet seen a spike in deaths commensurate with the spike in cases. It could be that the younger cohort of people getting the virus keeps fatalities from ever catching up. Regardless, none of this means that reopening is a failure. The promise of reopening wasn’t that there would be no spike in cases, but rather that we could begin a necessary return to normal life while managing new outbreaks and having plans in place to keep hospitals from getting overwhelmed. This is what Florida, Texas, and Arizona are trying to do, and we should all be rooting for their success.

Is he evolving? Just taking an occasional walk on the wild side? Whatever the explanation, Chief Justice John Roberts has aligned with the Supreme Court’s four-justice liberal bloc to preserve one of the Obama administration’s legacy “achievements.” Writing for the 5–4 majority, Roberts invalidated President Trump’s rescission of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program, in which, by nothing more than executive edict, President Obama granted immunity from deportation, work authorizations, and other benefits — the kind the Constitution says may be granted only by congressional legislation — to illegal aliens who were brought to the United States as children. These, essentially, are the so-called Dreamers, to whom Congress has repeatedly declined to grant such relief, spurring Obama’s imperious decree after his many previous concessions that he lacked such authority. Roberts concluded that Trump failed to comply with Administrative Procedure Act technicalities. He might have a point if Obama had complied with the APA in imposing DACA, but he didn’t. The sympathetic Dreamers are politically popular, a factor that disturbingly weighs on the chief justice, whose institution is insulated from politics precisely so it can fearlessly uphold our constitutional order. A quaint notion.

In June Medical Services v. Russo, five Supreme Court justices struck down a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to maintain admitting privileges at local hospitals. Roberts is one of the five justices who do not believe that admitting-privileges laws conflict with the Constitution; in 2016 he opined that a similar Texas law should be upheld. According to his concurrence in June Medical, he still agrees with that reasoning but believes that the force of precedent now requires the law to be nullified. It is impossible to credit Roberts’s claim that respect for precedent dictated his decision; he has been perfectly willing to overrule precedents in the past. The pro-life movement knows that what the Supreme Court has kept saying about our nation’s fundamental law is a slander. This latest decision should not cause it to slacken for a moment.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a charitable order of Catholic nuns that was still seeking relief from the contraceptive mandate of Obamacare. Despite a recent Trump-administration regulation expanding conscience protections, progressive state governments had kept trying to require the Little Sisters to subsidize birth control and abortion-inducing drugs in employees’ health insurance. The ruling in favor of these nuns and the administration’s policy is a welcome one, and a victory for all those who favor robust First Amendment protections.

The Blaine amendments have been judged and found wanting. In Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Supreme Court found that Montana had violated the First Amendment by abolishing a scholarship tax credit because the program was used to help students attend schools with a religious character. The Blaine amendments, which can be found in state constitutions from sea to shining sea, are a legacy of anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant sentiment in the Know-Nothing era, deployed to prevent public-education funds from being used to educate the public in institutions of which progressives disapproved, especially Catholic parochial schools. Teachers’ unions and other opponents of parental choice in education have long leaned on the Blaine legacy to prevent the creation of scholarship programs or other instruments of choice that would force sclerotic and underperforming government schools to compete with private schools, the majority of which have a religious affiliation. The Espinoza decision was fairly straightforward — the state cannot deny a public benefit on the grounds of religious character — though that did not stop Justice Ginsburg and other progressive activists on the Court from trying to find an angle. It took a century and a half, but the Court has finally rejected this legacy. The Espinoza decision is a victory for religious believers, schoolchildren, poor and working-class parents, and the rule of law. It is a loss only for bigots, militant secularists, and the teachers’ unions. The scandal is that four members of the Court would have gone the other way.

President Trump loves crowds. Naturally — crowds at his rallies love him, and he has a gift for stoking and entertaining them. COVID now crimps this form of campaigning. His first post-pandemic rally in Tulsa fell flat when many who might otherwise have attended chose the better part of valor and stayed home. The Mount Rushmore rally was better, because it was outside. The RNC at Trump’s behest moved the glamour portions of the GOP convention from Charlotte, N.C., to Jacksonville, Fla., because the Tarheel State required masks and social distancing at indoor events. But now Jacksonville is requiring masks too, as Florida sees a surge in cases. Successful leaders play to their strengths. But they also understand when circumstances require them to improvise. The virus is an obdurate presence in American life, much larger and deadlier than a ploy by hostile local officials. Trump’s inclination is to wish it away — which, if he persists in it, will only help usher him away.

John Bolton’s new book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, has caused the tempest its author no doubt hoped to create. Bolton, who has written for NR, is a man of integrity and principle. Yet his book raises questions of seemliness, by revealing confidences of an administration he served so soon after leaving it, and for such a fat advance. (On the other hand, authors will cheer anyone who manages to pry $2 million from a publisher.) President Trump and his supporters naturally loathe the book, which portrays him as lazy, vain, impulsive, ignorant, and more worried about his own interests than the nation’s. While this is not a surprising indictment — Trump critics have been making it for years — Bolton adds a mass of detail, as well as a gimlet-eye view of how government works. It will long be consulted by historians of this era.

The latest Trump foreign-policy controversy involves intelligence that the Russians were offering bounties to the Taliban to kill Americans. The information was reportedly in the president’s daily briefing book but the administration insists that he was never told about it directly. If true, this is rank incompetence deriving from the very top — everyone knows that the president bristles at negative information about Russia, and surely this played into any decision to keep the information from him. But the president must be apprised of such explosive intelligence, which sounds credible, even if there are dissenters within the intelligence community about its reliability. The head of Central Command, General Frank McKenzie, says there is no evidence that Russian bounties resulted in the deaths of Americans. Still, this is a sorry episode. Trump isn’t a Russian agent; he is thin-skinned and unreasonable, which distorted the government’s handling of a matter of the utmost importance.

“If the activists aren’t happy with me, they’re not happy with me — so be it.” So said Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.) to our Jay Nordlinger in a 2005 interview. The “activists” were never happy with Engel. First elected to the House in 1988, and currently the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he is pretty much the last of the JFK Democrats, or Cold War liberals. “I have always felt strongly about America’s role in the world,” Engel told Nordlinger. “We, as a country, aren’t perfect. We’re all human, we all make mistakes. But I think our vision — what we want to share, what can be taken from our experience — is overwhelmingly positive. I don’t agree with the Blame America crowd.” Engel opposed dictatorships whether they were red or black, and that included Cuba’s. He has now been defeated by a radical, Jamaal Bowman, in a Democratic primary. Crushed in a landslide, actually. Engel is out of time (in more than one sense). But, as respecters of much that is past, we salute him.

The leaders of our present cultural riot like to think of themselves as plucky little upstarts taking on the machine. In practice, they stand in precisely the opposite position. To understand this, one need only look at the ongoing advertising boycott of Facebook, which, organized under the “#StopHateForProfit” umbrella, has now attracted the support of almost a thousand giant corporations. The campaign’s stated objection is that Facebook isn’t doing enough to shut down “hate speech,” which, in practice, seems to be defined as anything that contravenes the political preferences of the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League, that favors the Trump administration over its critics, or that irritates the denizens of the C-suites of America. How far the downtrodden have come! Once upon a time, radicals had to meet in secret, lest the authorities crack down on them. Nowadays, they issue blue-chip-backed ultimatums in public and promise their donors that, when this is all over, some guy in Iowa who says the things that they dislike won’t be allowed to post anymore.

Federal law gives the president incredibly broad authority to restrict immigration he deems “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” Thus did it fall to Donald Trump to decide whether the COVID-19 pandemic has changed America’s immigration needs, and he concluded that, yes, it has: His new proclamation restricts many types of legal immigration through the end of the year. This is the right decision. An economy suffering double-digit unemployment — which the Congressional Budget Office sees continuing through the end of 2020 — is hardly crying out for more labor, and the order sensibly exempts many categories of immigrants, including all the immigrants who are already in the country, as well as workers who are critical to the food supply, researching or treating the virus, or otherwise vital to the national interest. One can debate the appropriate boundaries of these exceptions, of course, but the order is far more flexible and limited than its critics would have us think. And if Congress doesn’t like Trump’s decision, it is free to change the law at any time.

The House voted along party lines to grant statehood to Washington, D.C. Democrats pretended this was a historic moment, but it was in reality a symbolic expression of raw partisanship. As the Justice Department has repeatedly concluded, D.C. statehood requires amending the Constitution. And contrary to the argument enshrined on the district’s license plates, the push for statehood is a straightforward attempt to gain two more senators and a reliably Democratic constituency. Recent events suggest another problem, one James Madison foresaw in Federalist No. 43. Without federal control of the capital, Madison worried, “the public authority might be insulted and its proceedings interrupted with impunity.” The recent civil unrest in Washington raises the worrisome specter of future presidents’ being held captive to the wishes of a Columbia state government. Thankfully, such a possibility is as distant as the capital’s prospects for statehood.

In February, President Trump asked John Rood to resign as undersecretary of defense for policy. The department had certified to Congress that Ukraine had made sufficient strides against corruption to merit receipt of military aid. Rood was involved in that certification. He had also warned the administration against the withholding of aid from Ukraine. Trump’s new nominee for the relevant position is Anthony J. Tata, a retired brigadier general who became a Fox News commentator and bounced around in various post-military jobs. His confirmation is in doubt, as he called President Obama a “Muslim” who “normalized Islam for America.” When a tweeter said, “Obama was not a terrorist sympathizer,” Tata replied, “No he was just a terrorist leader.” A new nominee is in order. Is Rood still available?

The “radios” are jewels in the American crown, doing much good at relatively little expense. These include Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty (which are combined); the Middle East Broadcasting Networks; and Radio Free Asia. Michael Pack has now assumed control of the U.S. Agency for Global Media. He immediately broomed the heads of the radios, as is his prerogative. The broomees include Trump appointees: Jamie Fly at RFE/RL and Alberto Fernandez at MBN. Fernandez is an interesting case: A Cuban American, he became a top Arabist in the Foreign Service, and can argue with the best of them on Arab television. The work of our radios is mainly unsung. Millions of people around the world rely on the radios, as they are unable to obtain trustworthy news in their own countries. May the new leaders be as good as the old.

On Sunday, June 28, the Mississippi legislature voted to retire the state flag. Two days later, Governor Tate Reeves signed the bill. On July 1, in a ceremony at the state capitol in Jackson, the flag was officially retired. Its design, introduced in 1894, featured as its canton the familiar X, or saltire cross, of the Confederate battle flag. For many southerners, the Blood-Stained Banner long signified regional pride. For others, northerners and southerners alike, the flag was stained as well by its indelible association with the enslavement of African Americans and with treason against the United States. South Carolina finally removed the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol after a white supremacist killed nine people at a black church in Charleston five years ago. Mississippians will vote on the design of their new flag in November. The enacting legislation stipulates that it will include the motto “In God We Trust.” Reeves spoke of “a new emblem for all Mississippi,” adding that “this is not a political moment to me but a solemn occasion.”

Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite and sidekick of Jeffrey Epstein, has been arrested in New Hampshire. Epstein was the financier and sex offender who killed himself in prison last summer. (Some people doubt that his death was a suicide.) Maxwell has been charged with, among other things, the sexual trafficking of underage girls. Many powerful men have run in Epstein and Maxwell’s circles: including the 42nd president, Clinton, and the 45th, Trump. It is important to know the truth about what happened in Epstein’s sub-world. We hope that the arrest and prosecution of Ghislaine Maxwell will clear up mysteries.

In mid June, President Trump signed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, paving the way for sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for the internment of more than a million of that ethnic minority. When the first reports of concentration camps in Xinjiang Province emerged in early 2017, little was known about the Chinese government’s detention program. A recent report by the Associated Press leaves no doubt: The Chinese Communist Party is carrying out an ethnic genocide. Authorities routinely force sterilization, contraception, and abortions on minority women, raiding homes in search of hidden children and arresting parents of families deemed too large. So draconian are the measures that birth rates in Xinjiang fell by 24 percent last year alone. Against the backdrop of Beijing’s coronavirus cover-up and its increasing authoritarianism in Hong Kong and belligerence in the South China Sea, new revelations about the Uighur genocide underscore Beijing’s fundamental criminality. Sanctions against Chinese officials are a step in the right direction, but only if paired with a holistic strategy to combat Chinese malfeasance across the board.

Some years ago, Boris Johnson wrote a (bad) biography of Winston Churchill in which he hinted that he was cut from somewhat similar cloth, a message that he amped up around the time of Brexit, when, as Britain’s prime minister, he not only occasionally attempted to sound like Churchill but even tried to walk like him. Johnson has, however, moved on. Both he and his Iago, Michael Gove, are now talking up FDR in a way dismaying to anyone with an accurate grasp of American history and appalling to those last few Tories still clinging to the hope that their party might again be a party of small government. Amid the devastation caused by the coronavirus lockdown, and with the economic disruption that will accompany the final stage of the break with the EU just a few months away, priming the pump is understandable. But Johnson’s talk of a “Rooseveltian” approach promises a more permanent reorientation of Tory policy. This can be explained by the need to hang on to the blue-collar voters the Conservatives won over in the 2019 election, but explained only in part: There has also been a genuine ideological shift at the top of the Tory Party, and not to the right. In life, Mrs. Thatcher was famously “not for turning,” but there is now, probably, some movement in her grave.

Russians have just been co-opted in an event that lasted seven days and has been described as a “plebiscite,” although “jamboree” is a more suitable word. It’s partying all the way, with a background of military parades commemorating victory in World War II, vouchers for shoppers, and clowns to entertain them while shopping — and, oh yeah, a speech from Putin and warnings from underlings not to make the wrong choice (which only a tiny minority did). The plebiscite packaged together a bunch of issues, including, hidden in the small print, a change in the constitution that grants Putin, now 67, the power to stay president until 2036. Fun and games, eh?

Pity the Little Mermaid. She lives happily ever after in the tale told by Hans Christian Andersen, but her 107 years as a bronze statue on a rock at the waterside on the Langelinie Promenade in Copenhagen have been a different story. Artist-activists beheaded her in 1964. (Don’t ask.) She received a new pate but then 20 years later lost her right arm, sawn off by vandals. She got a new arm. Another decapitation attempt, unsuccessful, was followed by another that succeeded. This time, the head was found and reattached. Five years later, someone set off explosives to knock her off her rock. Rescuers used a crane to pull her from the sea and return her to her familiar perch. At least six times over the past century she’s been doused with paint. Now someone has painted graffiti, in English, on her pedestal. “Racist fish,” it reads. She meets no trolls in the fairy tale, but it appears that they have caught up with her in real life.

In the political storm that has swept over the nation since the death of George Floyd, long-standing controversies over the use of American Indian motifs in professional sports have been revived. Is the name of the Cleveland Indians intrinsically racist? Of the Atlanta Braves? The name of the Washington Redskins is especially hard on modern ears. Historians speculate that the term “redskin” originated with American Indians who coined it to refer to themselves collectively, in pan-tribal terms, when negotiating with European settlers. John Thorn, MLB’s official historian, notes that the football team moved to Washington from Boston, home of the Braves and the Red Sox, and that “Redskins” may have been chosen for its clever echo of both baseball clubs. No matter: Facing pressure from corporate sponsors, the team has all but conceded that, counter to its iconic fight song, the braves will no longer be on the warpath or fighting for old D.C. Meanwhile, the Indians’ front office has announced that it is engaging with “our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.” It would be ironic if, to honor American Indians, we banned the name while celebrating teams named after Americans of European ancestry. Go Cowboys?

Major League Baseball is scheduled to begin a shortened, 60-game season on July 23. No fans will be in the stands to generate noise and ambience. To compensate, several clubs plan to pipe in prerecorded crowd noise and to fill some of the seats with cardboard cutouts of celebrities and random faces. Thirty-one players have tested positive for the coronavirus. Ryan Zimmerman, David Price, and several other players have decided to sit the season out. Umpire Joe West, 67, says he’ll work, explaining that he thinks the threat from COVID is exaggerated. (“If Joe West thinks something is safe, it is probably not,” quipped a wit on Twitter.) Lost in the cascade of anomalies that mark the 2020 season, such as it is, is the news that, after holding out nearly half a century, the National League has now joined the American League in adopting the designated-hitter rule. Traditionalists object, but The Show goes on. Play ball! Be careful. Good luck.

Carl Reiner’s fingerprints are all over post-war American comedy, on both the small and the large screen. Over the decades he worked as a writer, sidekick, or director with almost everybody — Sid Caesar, Mel Brooks, Dick Van Dyke, Steve Martin. Probably his most memorable bit was his partnership with Brooks in the sketch, many times repeated and expanded, “The 2,000-Year-Old Man.” Brooks was the ancient man, marveling over Saran Wrap, recalling how men first discovered the existence of women. Reiner, interviewing him, was the perfect interlocutor: sleek, affable, posing questions that were alternately naïve and wickedly sharp. Reiner said of Brooks’s answers that you got the best out of a comedic genius when his back was against the wall. Or, we might add, when you artlessly and effortlessly maneuvered him there. Dead at 98, R.I.P.

Li Zhensheng, like hundreds of millions in Mao’s China, saw the Cultural Revolution up close. Unlike most people, he also documented the experience. At the start of his career as a photographer for a local paper in northeastern China, he wore a red armband to gain access to events. Li’s doubts mounted as the ugly nature of the moment became clearer. Eventually he himself was sentenced to hard labor for “counterrevolutionary activities.” All told, upward of a million died. As China later reckoned with these events, Li displayed his photos in Beijing. He eventually ended up in Queens, where he recently died, age 79. As Xi Jinping tightens his grip on power, we hope other brave people document the ongoing human-rights and political atrocities of which he is the main architect. R.I.P.

Born in a backwater in Wales, Owen Harries built a spectacular international role for himself. In 1955 he moved to Australia, where his lectures on foreign policy and the crucial importance of defeating Communism introduced him to the corridors of power. Serving as adviser to Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, he helped strengthen Australia’s position in the world. As Australian ambassador to UNESCO, he exposed that institution’s moral and political corruption, so much that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher took note. In collaboration with Irving Kristol, he founded and edited The National Interest. As genial as he was combative, he and his wife Dorothy always spoke to each other in Welsh. Died aged 90. R.I.P.

HONG KONG
Beijing’s Putsch

Chairman Xi has now implemented a sweeping national-security measure aimed at destroying the democracy movement in Hong Kong. Hundreds of democrats were arrested in just a few hours after it passed. The affront to human dignity must be called what it is: an aggressive Communist advance against free people. China’s actions sit in line with the Red Army rampaging into Hungary in 1956, the Communist assault on South Vietnam, or the crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968. We must say this not only as a matter of justice, but in order to keep the flame of liberty burning in the hearts of Hong Kongers and their friends.

The new national-security act is a grave violation of the terms of the 1997 Sino–British Joint Declaration, which guaranteed Hong Kong’s judicial and political semi-independence from Beijing until 2047 and made the “one nation, two systems” settlement part of Hong Kong Basic Law.

The new national-security act sets itself against “terrorism,” by which the Chinese Communist Party means Hong Kong’s democracy movement. This protest movement in Hong Kong has reemerged to confront every challenge to Hong Kong’s Basic Law since 2003. It has proved astonishingly disciplined and calm, and has been able to draw nearly a third of Hong Kong’s residents into the streets for its largest demonstrations. Despite violent provocations from anti-riot police subordinated by the Chinese Communist Party and Beijing-backed criminal gangs, the movement has been conspicuously peaceful; its leaders issued apologies when tensions ran hot enough that a few protesters engaged in direct hand-to-hand fighting with police.

That peacefulness was strategic and reveals Beijing’s “anti-terror” justification for the brazen lie that it is. The law is deliberately and maddeningly vague on what constitutes a terrorist organization, though it specifies the destruction of a vehicle as one terrorist act. It would punish “terrorists” of this sort with a minimum sentence of ten years and a maximum of life imprisonment. The law prohibits “collusion” with foreign governments or institutions, a measure that will be used to put international freedom organizations in the bind of not knowing whether their actions help or harm their peers in Hong Kong. The law applies to everyone — not just Hong Kongers. In the first hours after its passage, a man was arrested under the law for waving an independence flag.

Enforcement of the statute is given to a National Security Committee, headed by Hong Kong’s chief executive. This committee is exempt from judicial review and oversight. The introduction of a political law-enforcement body is a savage transgression against Hong Kong’s common-law tradition, the very thing that made Hong Kong a desirable destination for business and investment, which in turn made it so attractive as a Chinese possession.

In some ways, this assault on freedom is more difficult to address because it implicates Hong Kong’s Western peers in freedom.

Because the new law formally involves the breaking of treaty agreements with the United Kingdom, we are happy to see the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson speak out for the rights of so many who were born the queen’s subjects and whose passion for freedom is shaped by that inheritance. Johnson’s government is uniquely positioned to lead the moral case against this tyranny. And the decision to open a path to citizenship in the U.K. for millions of Hong Kongers is both just and generous.

The United States also has a special obligation to stand up for Hong Kong. America has made Beijing richer and more powerful than it otherwise would have been, because it opened trade relations in the hope that treating China like a non-Communist nation would make it one. In the case of Hong Kong, China has demonstrated how its growing commercial power sets the cause of free trade against that of political freedom. The NBA’s suppression of criticism of China in the United States is just a foretaste of what is to come if Beijing is allowed to play this game for long.

America and its allies have a moral duty to pressure Beijing to withdraw this law, and a compelling interest in doing so. American corporations that make such a show of their support for protests in the United States should stand up for political freedom in the East. If Beijing will not relent, the intrusion of its commercial arms, such as Huawei, into the West must be even more energetically resisted and reversed.

The time for illusions is over.

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In This Issue

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We know where to watch in the next few weeks but have no real idea what we will be watching. Yet pundits, the media, and the Left seem giddy that their polls show a Trump slump, as if they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from 2016. But in truth, the news cycle over the next three months may well favor ... Read More

What or Who Decides This Election?

We know where to watch in the next few weeks but have no real idea what we will be watching. Yet pundits, the media, and the Left seem giddy that their polls show a Trump slump, as if they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from 2016. But in truth, the news cycle over the next three months may well favor ... Read More
U.S.

Our Summer of Cultural Suicide

Cultural suicide used to be a popular diagnosis of why things suddenly just quit. Historians such as Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee cited social cannibalism to explain why once-successful states, institutions, and cultures simply died off. Their common explanation was that the arrogance of success ... Read More
U.S.

Our Summer of Cultural Suicide

Cultural suicide used to be a popular diagnosis of why things suddenly just quit. Historians such as Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee cited social cannibalism to explain why once-successful states, institutions, and cultures simply died off. Their common explanation was that the arrogance of success ... Read More