Over the centuries, repressive regimes the world over have learned the same lesson: Once accustomed to freedom and participatory democracy, people will cling to it with a grip that cannot be broken.
A heartening reminder of that fact comes from Hong Kong, where, despite the overbearing communist government in Beijing’s best efforts to paint the pro-democracy resistance as illegitimate, violent revolutionaries, district council elections yielded a resounding win for the good guys (and girls).
A 25-year-old who crowdfunded his campaign took down the vice-chairman of the main pro-Beijing party. A 23-year-old reformer beat a three-time incumbent. As turnout surged, the defenders of Hong Kong’s independence and special history of freedom took 17 of 18 districts, and 80% of all council seats, compared to just 30% before.
The ball is now in Beijing’s court: continue to escalate its crackdown on protesters, trying to make millions of newly emboldened young people fear for their safety, or begin to make meaningful concessions to those who demand preservation of the separate system by which Hong Kong has for decades thrived.
Choosing the path of confrontation is doomed only to straighten the spines of the newly resistant. Down that road is unrest, bloodshed and economic pain.
Beijing must, must, must, must relent.
— New York Daily News