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A threat to freedom everywhere

Freedom and democracy will always be precious because life is precious, and a human basic instinct is having the right to freedom. This upholds decency and respect for different views with neither condemnation nor persecution.

Most people want to live in an atmosphere of freedom, peace and security. Sadly, there are regions where maintaining power at any cost creates challenges for those striving for freedom and common values that promote civil order, justice and peace.

World history is packed with story after story, of dreadful events such as major wars, brutal acts of terrorism and the lethal crushing of men, women and children because of ethical, religious or political differences.

Although such turmoil has been occurring for centuries, with millions of lives lost, the hunger for true freedom and justice remains alive. That struggle is often so vast and complicated that the United Nations, a body established for the purpose of improving international civil order, is often criticised for failing to stamp out misuse of power, especially when freedom plays second fiddle to political dominance.

In fact, there are countries where the free press are viewed as the enemy because certain leaders resent being held accountable for whatever they do — even when policies create hardship instead of helping the most vulnerable. Many journalists have paid the ultimate price for exposing wrongdoing by questionable leaders.

The free press must be vigilant in seeking truth and revealing facts that keep people around the world informed, no matter the risk. Without unwavering dedication to truth, democracy is in danger of crumbling one country at a time.

When events occur thousands of miles away, creating danger for justice and freedom if ignored, it could be only a matter of time before the dark shadow of dictatorial power becomes the norm.

As much of the world confronts a pandemic that has crippled global economies, and also claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, the escalating disputes between Hong Kong and China could mark the beginning of yet another battle — this time over what constitutes rights and freedom.

In 1997, Britain ended 150 years of involvement with Hong Kong, having assisted in carving out a major success story with international business, along with progressive global commercial activity. It would seem China was simply waiting in the shadows for that lease to expire before reclaiming Hong Kong as part of the mainland.

The emotional handover ceremony was more than impressive, with full military displays, along with the young people of Hong Kong. Pouring rain throughout the ceremony did not dampen the spirit of schoolchildren, who gleefully sang in the hope of future friendship. That was the hope.

Encouraging speeches from the last governor to serve there, Chris Patton, and another from the Queen, read by the Prince of Wales, provided a glimmer of hope for the people of Hong Kong, as they were about to enter a new chapter of life under Chinese authority.

There seemed little doubt that things would change, especially in the area of basic freedoms experienced under the British system.

With China anxious to bring Hong Kong under the umbrella of Chinese control, it was not long before the country became embroiled in protests that erupted into violence. Thousands took to the streets to oppose China taking away freedoms that included Hong Kong's constitutional law. China's position? Our land, our system.

After months of discord, China has now instituted new laws that will bring greater power in dealing with any forms of protests. Despite criticism from several countries for this action, it is not likely much will be done to alter the course China is taking in tightening its grip on Hong Kong and its people.

Perhaps this troubling struggle should drive home the message that democracy and freedom should never be taken for granted, no matter how wonderful things seem. We all know the world will never be a perfect place, but when a piece of freedom is lost, for whatever reason, it should send signals that nowhere is safe from those seeking ultimate power.

All freedom-loving people should let their voices be heard in demanding justice and respect in sharing life on this planet.

Gloomy prospects: the view from a ferry in Hong Kong with the business district in the background. China's legislature endorsed a national security law for Hong Kong on Thursday that has strained relations with the United States and Britain, prompting new protests (Photograph by Kin Cheung/AP)

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Published May 30, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated May 30, 2020 at 8:57 am)

A threat to freedom everywhere

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