How democracy is dismembered

What's occurring in Hong Kong is a reminder of how fragile democracy is. Without leaders who dare to speak out, the erosion of freedom is all but inevitable.

By

Columnists

January 12, 2022 - 9:40 AM

Protesters chant slogans during a rally against a new national security law in Hong Kong on July 1, 2020, on the 23rd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

Can democracy be snuffed out? You bet it can. Just look at what’s happening in Hong Kong.

My last visit there was at the end of 2019, right before the pandemic, during what seems in retrospect to have been the final stand of the pro-democracy movement. In those days, pop-up demonstrations were a regular event, including clashes in the streets between masked activists and police officers.

The Hong Kong government was already cracking down on dissent and increasingly siding with Beijing’s efforts to bring the city under its total control. But independent news organizations still challenged the erosion of democratic freedoms. Opposition politicians spoke out in defense of autonomy and independence.

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