Chinese officials and state media were in high dudgeon Monday about minor acts of vandalism following the latest mass demonstration in Hong Kong. Protesters who threw eggs at China’s liaison office and splashed ink on the state emblem “trample on the rule of law,” roared a front-page editorial in the People’s Daily.
Yet Beijing had little to say about the genuinely shocking incident that followed: an assault by an organized group of men on people returning from the demonstration. Journalists, an opposition legislator and bystanders were among at least 45 people savagely beaten with wooden canes and metal rods by thugs dressed in white — apparently to distinguish themselves from black-clad protesters. Police were slow to respond and took no action against the vigilantes.
The high-voltage rhetoric and ugly violence were signs that the regime of Xi Jinping is shedding restraints in its response to the mass movement that has emerged in Hong Kong this summer to defend the city’s autonomy and demand greater freedoms. It means that, more than ever, Hong Kong’s people need the support of established democracies.
Unfortunately, President Trump on Monday sided with the dictatorship. Asked to react to Sunday’s events, the president explicitly endorsed the Xi regime’s behavior. “I think President Xi has reacted very responsibly,” he told reporters. “He’s allowed [the protests] to go on for a long time.”
In essence, Mr. Trump all but offered Mr. Xi an invitation to crack down on a movement that is fighting for liberal values such as free speech and the rule of law. [Continue reading…]