Giving Thanks for Hope: A Thanksgiving Dedicated to the People of Hong Kong

Today is Thanksgiving. Happy thanksgiving to you and your family - the one you were born into, and the one you chose.

The world can look so bleak these days. We look out and see ethnic conflicts rising all across the globe along with totalitarian rule. We look around and see a planet in crisis and politicians in denial. We look inside and wonder what has broken us so that so much of our body politic is about punishing, tearing down, and division instead of unity, construction, and forgiveness.

Still, as much as the modern world seems a place replete with conflict, we see also the rays of common human hope rising: we see Americans standing up for the health care of their neighbors; we see millions of Indian women rise up against sexual assault and rape being swept under the rug so the courts can no longer ignore these vicious crimes; we see young Africans lifting up their countries and communities with technology.

But perhaps no movement this year has better represented the hopes of human dignity, freedom, and self-rule than the democracy movement in Hong Kong.

What started as protests against a bill that would allow Hong to extradite critics of the Chinese Communist government to mainland grew into a mass movement that has now lasted for months. As the government of Hong Kong attempted to quell the protests, the cries of change only grew louder. The more the Beijing-allied Hong Kong government tried to brand the protesters as troublemakers, the numbers of protesters grew and grew and poured through the streets of Hong Kong. They clashed with police, suffered tear gas, beatings, and bullets, but nothing could slow them down.

On June 16, the democracy movement held the largest march in the history of Hong Kong, which over 2 million people attended (almost a third of the population of Hong Kong).

The people of Hong Kong did what no one has been able to do in the past half century. They humiliated China’s powerful central government, as the government of Hong Kong first suspended, and then fully withdrew the extradition bill.

But by that time, the movement had expanded to far, far beyond the withdrawal of a single bill. The democratic movement in Hong Kong was determined to claim the right to define their own destiny.

The movement culminated days ago with local elections that devastated the pro-Beijing parties. The pro-democracy parties won their biggest victory ever, and they will now control 388 of 479 local government seats. Their overwhelming victory has left Pro-Beijing forces with a loss of over 100 seats. And this movement so stirred the global and American consciousness that the US Congress nearly unanimously passed a bill in support of the Hong Kong’s democracy movement that Trump was forced to sign over China’s strident objections.

And the people of Hong Kong are not done. The people of Hong Kong are determined in their struggle for self-rule, and they have the support of every small-d democrat across the globe.

For those of us who live with the attitude of gratitude, there are so many things to be thankful for even in times of great trial: The company of our loved ones, the inspiration of our heroes, the kind hello from a stranger. And in the movement in Hong Kong, I feel that we have all three: they are strangers fighting for a cause we love and cherish, ordinary people who have taken it upon themselves to do something extraordinary in the face of insurmountable odds. In the hopes and dreams of the people of Hong Kong lie all of ours.

I dedicate this Thanksgiving to the people of Hong Kong.

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