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Much of main Hong Kong was awash in American flags on Sunday, as 10s of thousands of pro-democracy protesters marched peacefully previous the us consulate, imploring Congress and President trump to assistance their battle to keep Hong Kong free. Thousands of demonstrators sang the “Star-Spangled Banner.” many held placards fostering the Hong Kong human Rights and Democracy Act, a bipartisan measure up on Capitol Hill come authorize penalty on Chinese officials that suppress democracy and the rule of regulation in the city. Other signs straight addressed the united state president: “Please liberate Hong Kong,” castle pleaded. “Defend ours Constitution.”

The Hong Kong protests have so far yielded few concessions from China, which has reneged ~ above its 1997 vow come respect Hong Kong’s autonomy for 50 years. Whether Washington is ready to get more directly involved is an open up question. Trump card himself has sent blended signals. Last month, echoing the Beijing party line, he referred to the marches together “riots,” and said it was approximately China to resolve them. However he has additionally warned Chinese leader Xi Jinping against quelling the protests with a violent crackdown.

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In mine view, the unified States must be unambiguous in its support for democracy and human civil liberties in Hong Kong. There is room because that reasonable debate about how far to walk in backing the protesters or confronting Beijing. However when liberty is being choked turn off by a dictatorship, us policy must never be one of neutrality.

Barack Obama’s greatest failure in people affairs to be his paralysis in the face of atrocious persecution by tyrants. For are afraid of being “seen as meddling,” he decreased to assistance brave pro-democracy protesters in Iran, or come act once Syria overcome his “red line” and also murdered civilians through chemical weapons. George H.W. Bush similarly blundered in 1989, once he refused to utter any type of word of encouragement for the throngs of Chinese citizen peacefully protesting for an ext freedom — or any type of word that condemnation as soon as the tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square and thousands were eliminated or maimed.

US leaders who share this reluctance come champion democratic ideals and promote freedom abroad think the themselves as realists, yet a short-term emphasis on security and stability has actually never remained in America’s long-term interest. ~ above the contrary: an explicit policy of expanding liberty and the ascendancy of law at some point keeps America safer than excusing or accommodating despotic regimes.

But that isn’t the just reason to have a freedom-oriented foreign policy.

Ending repression and upholding democracy in the world are not simply uplifting ideas. They space also, in a sense, America’s enduring mission. The United claims is the only nation in history founded ~ above the conviction that liberty is one inalienable right. No other civilization has ever cared for this reason deeply about advancing person rights and also self-government past its very own borders, nor done so together successfully.

That is why thousands of Hong Kong protesters sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” together they march for your rights. It’s why Chinese students throughout the substantial pro-democracy upwelling of 1989 constructed a “Goddess that Liberty” modeled top top the good statue in brand-new York Harbor. The why American flags were flown by demonstrators in Libya throughout the short-lived “Arab Spring.” that why Azerbaijanis clamoring for cost-free elections in 2004 held up posters showing the American president v the native “We want Freedom.”

The United says doesn’t constantly live approximately its ideals, yet the strength of those ideals to accumulate beleaguered human being everywhere never ever weakens. When John Quincy Adams in 1821 proclaimed the United states “the well-wisher come the freedom and independence the all,” he could not have conceived just how much America would perform over the next two centuries to make the world freer, safer, and happier. Or the activists on the various other side of the world would take it heart native the Stars and also Stripes, and also from the example of the Republic for which the stands.

Our politics and also civic discourse space pretty destructive these days. Too many of those we selected to high office space shallow windbags or cynical opportunists. It have the right to be hard, at times, to see 21st-century America together anything yet a grave disappointment.

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But the sea of united state flags top top the streets of Hong Kong is a vivid reminder of the abiding definition of America in the world’s imagination. We space still, in the famed phrase, as a city upon a hill. We may shed sight of that at times, yet the remainder of mankind doesn’t.