A Nobel Prize for Hong Kong
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Is there a minimum age for winning the Nobel Prize for Peace? We ask because of the astounding events that are unfolding at Hong Kong. They are being led by a young student with — as William McGurn pointed out on Mary Kissel’s broadcast for the Wall Street Journal — thick spectacles and a bowl haircut. He’s risking his own life to emerge at the head of a protest seeking to claim for his generation their future rights. He’s Joshua Wong, 17 years old. How can he be so much wiser than all the so-called adults in communist China?
It’s not just the communists. Fifty-nine financial leaders have reportedly just signed a letter to the protestors. “Disrupting the social order of Hong Kong is not helpful to the development and discussion of the political reforms,” they harrumphed. “Nor would it solve any problem.” Among the signatories, according to the South China Morning Post, are some of the most powerful bankers in the city. “If the situation continues to worsen, the success made after the hard work and efforts of generations of Hong Kong people would go down to the drain. The victims will be Hong Kong people.”
What balderdash. If the people of Hong Kong will be the “victims” of this trouble, who is the perpetrator? Not the protestors, for sure. They are peaceful, middle-class youths (and no doubt some who are upper class and lower class) seeking to redeem promises that Red China made by binding international treaty, on file with the United Nations. Democracy. Mr. McGurn pointed out that this is nothing like the “Occupy” protests that struck in New York. They were a Marxist movement, like the democracy-denying communists in Beijing. The communists are the threat to Hong Kong’s people.
The financiers’ letter reminds us of the notorious statement in the 1980s by Thomas Thebald, head of international banking for Citibank. It was the time when bank lending to communist Poland and other regimes in the Soviet bloc was being uncovered and was emerging as a political issue. “Who knows what political system works,” Mr. Theobald said. “The only test we care about is: Can they pay their bills?” The cynicism — not to say ignorance — of the statement shocked America’s intelligentsia, among others, as the Reagan revolution was gathering steam.
It’s a footnote to this story — but an important one — that the Wall Street Journal is in the thick of it across two generations. It is the journalistic tribune whose motto is “free people and free markets.” The message was taken into Asia in 1976 via its Asian Wall Street Journal, its first overseas edition. (Its visionary editor, Peter Kann, ended up as chairman of the home company.) It was a time when the establishment mantra was build the economy first and political freedom will follow. It was a invitation to tyranny.
What the Journal stressed is this: There is no difference — none — between economic freedom and political freedom. They are the same thing, the warp and woof in the fabric of freedom. This is not a Republican or a Democratic point. One of the best articulators of the principle was President Jimmy Carter, who, speaking at Notre Dame, declared: “The great democracies are not free because we are strong and prosperous. I believe we are strong and influential and prosperous because we are free.” It’s one of those mysteries how 17-year-old Joshua Wong can grasp this point when his elders can’t. But we say give him the Nobel Prize. He’s earned it.