The “summer romance” with Kawhi Leonard is officially over. Toronto and rest of the country can now go back to reality and get on with vacation plans. But while the NBA was bustling with free agency decisions, and Toronto was shaken to the core with Kawhi Leonard’s heart-breaking decision, a much more serious storm not related to entertainment was rumbling in East Asia. It is raging in Hong Kong right now and gathering force everyday. The Kawhi Leonard episode now seems so trivial compared to what others in the world are going through at around the same time between June and July. While Toronto was plane chasing a sports figure and stalking him from Niagara Falls to Home Depot, somewhere else in this world, people are fighting for their freedom. In 2019, how could people living on two continents have such disparate concerns?
The storm is a metaphor for the restlessness of Hong Kong residents in standing up for their right not to be subject to mainland law. Although the extradition law has been suspended, the protesters are not any less angry because they no longer trust the government. It is not known how long this protest will last but one thing is for sure: this tenuous relationship between HK and China is extremely fragile; this one-country-two-systems formula is unlikely to be sustainable. In the short-term, this arrangement is a facade. In the long term, there really is only one country and one system. We have reached a point where this charade is finally being exposed for what it is. This is why people spill into the streets in 2014, 2019 and into the future.
China is between a rock and a hard place. Crush the protesters as they had done on June 4, 1989 in Tiananmen Square, they would become international pariahs with economic sanctions that would choke its economy. It would be hard to pretend to be a world leader while crushing your own people. Let the protesters have their way, they fear losing Hong Kong and not to mention the spillover effect on nearby mainland, which could be a precursor to the government’s collapse, a consequence of epic proportions for a government that prides itself on stability and harmony (only because there is no opposition in China).
As an outsider watching all this unfold, the protesters seem so distant yet what they are seeking is what is also close to us all in the West: rule of law. The protesters do not want want to be subject to arbitrary law in a country where individual rights are not exactly upheld the way constitutional law is understood in the West including Canada (Charter of Rights and Freedoms) and the US (Bill of Rights). As a region with British roots and British common law, which gave birth to both American and Canadian legal systems, HK residents just want China to honor the “one-country two system” arrangement. Until China fully honors it without chipping away at it through one loophole or another, the world will continue to witness more protests. Who knows what the future will bring?
As Toronto went on a rampage chasing a sports celebrity this summer, another part of the world is fighting for freedom and rule of law. If chasing Kawhi Leonard was the only worry of the day, then Canada is very lucky. We are in a very fortunate position but we must never forget what it takes to build a country such as ours.