Two items of unconnected resistance on the international scene
went virtually unnoticed last week, but they were of considerable
significance for China's communist regime.
In Hong Kong, the former British colony now part of China,
thousands mounted a huge rally for full democracy, rather than the
limited political changes Beijing is permitting. Organizers claimed
250,000 people turned out, but the police put the crowd at 63,000.
The legislature is due to vote on a package of limited political
changes Dec. 21, but prodemocracy forces are campaigning for one-
person, one-vote elections for the chief executive and all members
of the legislature.
In an unrelated incident, security forces opened fire on
residents of Dongzhou, a village in southern China, reportedly
killing as many as 20. Officials have admitted far fewer deaths.
Demonstrators had been protesting plans for a new coal-fired power
plant to be built on local land for which they claimed they had been
inadequately compensated. They also claimed it would produce harmful
pollution. Although the cause of this ferment was economic and not
political, it was a rare demonstration of opposition to authority
and apparently drew a swift reaction from security forces.
Interestingly, the village is in an area close to Hong Kong and,
like other coastal areas in this region, has access to Hong Kong
television, which is substantially freer than mainland television
which is under the Beijing government's thumb.
All this is anathema to the Beijing regime, which uses communism
and its structure to maintain a firm political grip on territory
under its control, while at the same time promoting the capitalist
methods that have fueled China's remarkable economic growth.
Outbursts of opposition in Hong Kong and southern China raise for
Beijing the specter of copycat defiance elsewhere in China and
particularly Taiwan, which is politically and economically a
different entity, but which China claims as its own territory,
although the island is not under its control.
How this balancing act plays out is a matter of immense
importance to the United States, whose relationship with China is
currently one of its most important bilateral concerns.
The White House is observing an energetic Chinese trade and
diplomatic offensive around the world as Beijing seeks to compete
for oil and other resources in Africa and Latin America in order to
keep its economy expanding. …