- Saturday, October 15, 2022

In “Darkest Hour,” when members of his Cabinet press for a negotiated peace with Nazi Germany, Winston Churchill roars: “When will the lesson be learned? When will the lesson be learned? How many more dictators must be wooed, appeased — good God, given immense privileges — before we learn? You cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth.” Elon Musk, take note.

The electrifying entrepreneur is urging Taiwan to do just that — to stick its head between the jaws of an insatiable man-eater and trust in its reputation for honesty and fair play. LOL.

In an interview with Financial Times, the Tesla owner, who has a major manufacturing center in Shanghai, said tensions in the Taiwan Strait would magically disappear by making the independent nation of 23 million a “special administrative zone” of Communist China.

Great idea, but why limit it to Taiwan? We could end the war in Ukraine by making it a special administrative zone of Russia. We could defuse the situation in the Middle East by making Israel a special administrative zone of Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon. Soon the world would be full of metastasizing tyrannies and once-independent states whose existence depends on the nonexistent goodwill of tyrants.

But we don’t have to speculate on Taiwan’s fate under Chinese rule, with Hong Kong staring us in the face.

When the United Kingdom transferred the sovereignty of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic in 1997, the communists solemnly pledged that residents would continue to enjoy all of the rights they had for at least 50 years under “one country, two systems.” It was a monumental lie.

Hong Kong once had a vibrant society where civil liberties were protected and dissent flourished.

All of that changed in 2020 with Hong Kong’s national security law, which criminalizes protest. Anything that challenges Chinese rule is a “security threat,” including demonstrations, pamphlets and books. Violations are punishable by up to life in prison. Defendants are tried not in Hong Kong but on the mainland. Under the law, thousands have been arrested.

For an idea of just how far the communists will go to punish any perceived threat to their rule, on Sept. 7, the authors of the “Sheep Village” series of children’s books were found guilty of “conspiring to print, publish, distribute or display seditious publications.”

The seditious publication in question was an allegorical tale of a flock of sheep resisting the tyrannical rule of a pack of wolves. The court deemed this to be “separatist.”

The indoctrination of children starts with elementary school. Education guidelines explain: “The fundamentals of national security education are to develop a sense of belonging towards the country (Communist China), an affection for the nation, a sense of national identity, as well as an awareness of and a sense of responsibility to safeguard the nation” by obeying the edicts of the CCP without question.

The exodus, which started even before Beijing’s takeover, has accelerated. In the next two years, the United Kingdom alone is expected to take in more than 600,000 from its former colony.

Hong Kong is a place without a future.

That would be Taiwan’s fate as a special administrative zone. Gone would be almost 40 years of democratic reform since the lifting of martial law in 1987. Gone would be Taiwan’s freely elected legislatures at the national and local levels, where control regularly changes hands between the major parties.

Gone would be freedom of speech, press and religion. Human rights groups rate the Republic of China on Taiwan one of the freest nations in Asia, along with Japan and South Korea. Taiwanese children would be indoctrinated in communist schools, just like their counterparts in Hong Kong.

Taiwan’s fate would be in the hands of the PRC, wearing the same jackboots it’s sported since 1949. The character of the regime is reflected in photos of tanks rolling over demonstrators in Tiananmen Square 33 years ago.

What guarantees can Beijing possibly give that it will keep its word? At Munich, Hitler solemnly pledged that the Sudetenland was the end of his territorial ambitions. A year later, German tanks rolled into Poland and World War II began.

Once the communists control the streets and skies of Taiwan, assurances of one nation, two systems will be meaningless.

By then, the tiger will be resting contentedly after its latest meal and wondering what’s next on the menu. 

When will the lesson be learned?

• Don Feder is a columnist with The Washington Times.

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