Hong Kong’s Handover and Canada’s Unsung Anthem: The Week in Global-Affairs Writing

The highlights from seven days of reading about the world

The Chinese flag is raised by People's Liberation Army soldiers to signal Hong Kong's return to Chinese sovereignty after 156 years of British rule in Hong Kong on July 1, 1997.
The Chinese flag is raised by People's Liberation Army soldiers to signal Hong Kong's return to Chinese sovereignty after 156 years of British rule in Hong Kong on July 1, 1997.  (Dylan Martinez / Reuters)

The Reichstag Fire Next Time
Masha Gessen | Harper’s
The thinking that transforms tragedy into crackdown is not foreign to the United States. During the crisis that followed the Alien and Sedition Acts at the turn of the nineteenth century, the ruling Federalists and the opposition Republicans accused each other of treason and a fatal lack of vigilance, of being Jacobin puppets. The courts, stacked with Federalist appointees, wasted no time shutting down opposition newspapers.

Half a century later, Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, the right not to be imprisoned without civilian judicial review. He did this to be able to indefinitely hold rebels whom he judged a danger to the Union—but whom, he said, ‘the courts, acting on ordinary rules, would discharge.’ It wasn’t until 1866 that the Supreme Court ruled the practice unconstitutional.

By the next major war, the First World War, speech perceived as critical of or detrimental to the American war effort was punished with prison sentences as long as ten years. Historian Geoffrey Stone has called Woodrow Wilson’s Sedition Act of 1918 ‘the most repressive legislation in American history.’ Thousands of people were arrested—many without a warrant—and 249 anarchist and communist activists were deported to Soviet Russia. It wasn’t until later that Supreme Court Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Louis Brandeis started on a dissenting streak that ultimately restored and clarified free-speech protections.”

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The Devil’s Henchmen
Kenneth R. Rosen | The Atavist Magazine
Hasan saunters along the road to show me more of what the liberation of Albu Saif left in its wake. A fully clothed skeleton lies prone on the hillside, frozen in what looks like an attempted escape from the wadi. It’s a strange relief to see something still lying in the place where it fell, appearing unmolested by nature or man.

‘All that is left of them are bone,’ Hasan says with cool bravado. He wears his camouflage cap with its brim tilted upward, his bootlaces loosened. He wipes a bead of sweat from his brow. ‘Our force came from above and passed them here. This is just what we found when we killed them.’

They were Islamic State fighters. Hasan’s unflappable demeanor tells me that he doesn’t give a damn about them and that I shouldn’t either. They were scarcely human when they were alive, just bone, flesh, and evil. Now I could kick a rock at them, too, if I wanted. Maybe Hasan expects me to.”

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Nikki Haley and Trump’s Doctrine of Diplomatic Chaos
Colum Lynch | Foreign Policy
The suggestion by Haley, a diplomatic novice, that U.S. leadership in the world is enhanced by its unpredictability struck some delegates as naive and a bit troubling. Traditionally, American allies have looked to the United States as a force for consistency and stability.

Haley’s remarks appeared aimed at demonstrating that there is a method behind what many international leaders see as the foreign-policy madness of the Trump administration, which has zigzagged on everything from the importance of NATO to the risks Russia poses to the Western order.”

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The Strange History of ‘O Canada’
Peter Kuitenbrouwer | The Walrus
“My anthem-less childhood was—and remains—a common experience in Quebec. Unlike other provinces, Quebec has no guidelines or laws requiring principals to play ‘O Canada,’ and many administrators are happy not to, even now, as the country marks its 150th year of Confederation. The song’s absence is felt in these communities. The hamlet of Calixa-Lavallée, population 504, is a perfect example. Regardless of the fact that the burg gets its name from its most famous son, Calixa Lavallée, who composed the anthem nearly 140 years ago, the town has no Canada Day celebrations planned, and its council members do not sing his anthem before meetings.”

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Twenty Years After the Handover to China, Hong Kong Remains a City of the Edge
Nick Frisch | The New Yorker
“To this day, Hong Kong remains the sole place on Chinese soil where citizens can march and speak and publish freely, and where discussions of the Tiananmen massacre can be full-throated rather than furtive. This past June 4th, protesters gathered in Victoria Park—still named for the British Queen—as they do every year, to memorialize those killed at Tiananmen. The authorities did not interfere with the demonstration. In the past two decades, Beijing has allowed dissent in Hong Kong, and has even let the territory’s citizens vote for several directly elected seats on a local legislature otherwise stacked with appointed loyalists. In 2014, when Beijing derailed a plan for local direct elections, it sparked the biggest protests in China since Tiananmen. And yet, even then, Beijing resisted an outright crackdown in Hong Kong, opting instead for a policy of bu tuoxie, bu liuxue—no compromise, but no bloodshed, either. This relative tolerance has always been aimed at maintaining global markets’ trust.”