In recent months when we’ve talked about tyranny in the lands of our supposed allies (or at least economic trading partners) most of the discussion has centered on Turkey and President Erdogan’s bloody crackdown on his citizens. But this week we received a not very gentle reminder of how things are in China. While they still have a deeply complicated economic relationship with the United States, there’s nothing approaching real democratic reform taking place there and dissent is not tolerated. This message was driven home when two Hong Kong candidates with separatist views were elected to the legislature. When the time came for them to take office, China stepped in and said not so fast. (Associated Press)

China’s top legislature effectively barred two democratically elected separatist lawmakers from taking office in Hong Kong with a ruling Monday on the city’s constitution, an intervention into a local political dispute that’s likely to spark further turmoil in the southern Chinese city.

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee in Beijing said it adopted an interpretation of an article in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution on oath-taking. It acted after a provocative display of anti-China sentiment by two newly elected pro-independence Hong Kong lawmakers at their swearing-in ceremony last month.

Thousands of people protested in Hong Kong on Sunday, demanding that China’s central government stay out of the political dispute, saying the move would undermine the city’s considerable autonomy and independent judiciary. Police used pepper spray and batons to contain some of the demonstrators, arresting two.

This may sound like some far off, minor election event which is far removed from American concerns, but when you consider our global position with the Chinese this story is nothing short of horrifying. The residents of Hong Kong held an election, the results of which don’t appear to be in dispute. But Beijing stepped in when they didn’t approve of the outcome and essentially nullified it. That would be the equivalent of the White House barring a new congressman from taking their seat in Washington because they’d been critical of the President. When protesters took to the street to voice their displeasure they were pepper sprayed and beaten with police batons. That’s not democracy.. it’s the mark of an iron fisted tyrant.

Prior to 1997 Hong Kong was essentially a free nation under the control of the United Kingdom, but they were returned to Chinese Control amid wide scale protests. Everyone saw this coming because China has made no secret of their feelings regarding independence for any territory within easy reach. Despite the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, freedom and local control for Hong Kong’s residents has largely been a pleasant illusion. As long as they don’t make too much unpleasant noise or rock the boat, Beijing seems largely willing to ignore them. But any upstart talk of actual freedom brings down the hammer hard and fast.

Being “disappeared” in China is, if anything, even less fun than having it happen to you in Turkey. And these are the people we choose to continue to do business with and pretend that we’re all one big, mostly happy family. We’re not. China represents an obvious threat to American interests in much the same way that Russia does and their list of “friends” is growing.

Hong Kong