America’s founders understood that the free expression of ideas was paramount; a God-given mandate. It’s the first thing needed for a free country, and it’s the first thing taken away to enslave one.

You need not look any further than the current situation in Hong Kong, where hundreds of thousands of people have been protesting in the streets over the Chinese government’s latest attempt to encroach on their sovereignty.

The pro-democracy protests began June 9, when more than a million citizens were reported to have marched down the streets of Hong Kong in opposition to the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill proposed by the government, which would allow Hong Kong citizens to be extradited to the mainland, effectively putting the special administrative region under Beijing’s jurisdiction.

Hong Kong has operated as a semi-sovereign entity separate from mainland China since 1997. Under the “one country, two systems” principle, Hong Kong was to be a democracy, but has felt the increasing weight of Beijing’s bootheel since 2003, when Hong Kong’s legislative government tried to implement a national security law “to prohibit treason, secession, sedition and subversion” against the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

During the current protests, now extending well past 100 days, the people of Hong Kong have been seen waving American flags and spray-painting classic quotes from American heroes — such as Patrick Henry’s famous line: “Give me liberty or give me death!” — on buildings and walls throughout the city. To them, the U.S. flag is a symbol of hope, a synecdoche representing the whole of freedom and the price that often must be paid.

Many Americans have championed support for Hong Kong since the protests began, even more so after seeing images of our flag. However, the PRC has been doing its best to quell any endorsement of the people of Hong Kong.

China has long been a fan of censoring dissent, both inside the country and out. As the country’s influence and power grows, more and more people are starting to bow to its totalitarian whims, the most recent and egregious examples being in the U.S.

After tweeting a rather anodyne statement supporting Hong Kong protestors, National Basketball Association (NBA) team owner of the Houston Rockets Daryl Morey was forced to apologize to China for any offense. The NBA released its own statement distancing itself from Morey. Unsatisfied, businesses in the PRC either threatened to or went ahead and cut ties with the team, causing the organization to potentially lose millions of dollars.

Ng Wai Chung, a prominent Hong Kong player of the video game “Hearthstone,” was not only banned from competition by Blizzard Entertainment — an American video game company — for expressing support for his homeland but also had his previous winnings of close to $10,000 rescinded, he said.

The cartoon “South Park” was also banned in China for satirizing Hollywood’s increasing efforts to fashion its content to please the communist country. Show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone made a mock apology after the ban, sarcastically saving face much like Hollywood and the NBA have actually been doing.

It’s safe to say, while China’s motivations are political, for companies in the U.S. wanting access to a multi-billion dollar market, it’s just business. Trading with a bad actor like China does have its benefits— it might be the only thing currently keeping us from World War III — but we can’t be blackmailed into ceding even the smallest bit of our sovereignty to anyone; not over ideas, and certainly not over money.

Attacks on freedom are not always as direct as the current situation in Hong Kong. Outrage culture and political correctness are blights on American society today, threatening to redefine language into oblivion, de facto eliminating free speech. Like a Chinese propagandist, certain members of an unhinged fringe will tell you, straight-faced, something is what it is not, but the damage is done by placatory adults who should know better.

More and more Americans are flirting with communism, while the people of Hong Kong fight against it. Freedom must be consciously and actively maintained, or it will erode and be lost. That’s what our founding fathers believed when they codified our rights, and that is what the people of Hong Kong are fighting for as they wave our flag.

Daniel Taylor is a staff writer for The Reporter. His email is daniel.taylor@sandmountainreporter.com.

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