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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: human rights

UN General Assembly Suspends Russia From Human Rights Council

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday suspended Russia from its 47-- member Human Rights Council amid widespread reports of war crimes in Ukraine. The vote was 93 to 24 with 58 nations – including China India, Brazil, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates – abstaining.

The body expressed “grave concern” over Russia's “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights," according to The Washington Post.

Russian troops are facing accusations of brutally massacring civilians, particularly in Bucha, a suburb of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, where hundreds of victims have been found shot in the head with their hands bound behind their backs. In some instances, piles of corpses were burned or dumped into mass graves as if to cover up the atrocities.

Russia's Deputy United Nations Ambassador, Gennady Kuzmin, said that the move was “an attempt by the US to maintain its domination and total control” and to “use human rights colonialism in international relations.” Kuzmin maintained that the allegations are “based on staged events and widely circulated fakes.”

The Russian delegation on Wednesday had threatened to retaliate against nations that vote to boot it from the HRC.

"It is worth mentioning that not only support for such an initiative, but also an equidistant position in the vote (abstention or non -- participation) will be considered as an unfriendly gesture," the note read, according to reporting by Reuters. "In addition, the position of each country will be taken into account both in the development of bilateral relations and in the work on the issues important for it within the framework of the UN."

Russia's bluster notwithstanding, the evidence is mounting that Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces are intentionally unleashing hell onto the Ukrainian population.

In addition to the flood of photographic and video documentation that has circulated on social media and international news outlets, "Germany’s foreign intelligence service claims to have intercepted radio communications in which Russian soldiers discuss indiscriminate killings in Ukraine," the Post reported. "In two communications, Russian troops described how they question soldiers as well as civilians, and proceed to shoot them, according to an intelligence official familiar with the findings who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity."

Last month, the HRC established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate Russia's genocidal actions in Ukraine. On Saturday, ex -- United Nations prosecutor Carla Del Ponte called for Putin to be arrested and tried by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Meanwhile, in the United States, President Joe Biden has for weeks designated Putin as a war criminal. On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted unanimously to strip Russia of its preferential trade status and ban imports of its oil and natural gas.

Printed with permission from Alternet.

If Afghan War Ends, Will Guantanamo Finally Shut Down?

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch

The Guantánamo conundrum never seems to end.

Twelve years ago, I had other expectations. I envisioned a writing project that I had no doubt would be part of my future: an account of Guantánamo's last 100 days. I expected to narrate in reverse, the episodes in a book I had just published, The Least Worst Place: Guantánamo's First 100 Days, about — well, the title makes it all too obvious — the initial days at that grim offshore prison. They began on January 11, 2002, as the first hooded prisoners of the American war on terror were ushered off a plane at that American military base on the island of Cuba.

Needless to say, I never did write that book. Sadly enough, in the intervening years, there were few signs on the horizon of an imminent closing of that U.S. military prison. Weeks before my book was published in February 2009, President Barack Obama did, in fact, promise to close Guantánamo by the end of his first year in the White House. That hope began to unravel with remarkable speed. By the end of his presidency, his administration had, in fact, managed to release 197 of the prisoners held there without charges — many, including Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the subject of the film The Mauritanian, had also been tortured — but 41 remained, including the five men accused but not yet tried for plotting the 9/11 attacks. Forty remain there to this very day.

Nearly 20 years after it began, the war in Afghanistan that launched this country's Global War on Terror and the indefinite detention of prisoners in that facility offshore of American justice is now actually slated to end. President Biden recently insisted that it is indeed "time to end America's longest war" and announced that all American troops would be withdrawn from that country by September 11, the 20th anniversary of al-Qaeda's attack on the United States.

It makes sense, of course, that the conclusion of those hostilities would indeed be tied to the closure of the now-notorious Guantánamo Bay detention facility. Unfortunately, for reasons that go back to the very origins of the war on terror, ending the Afghan part of this country's "forever wars" may not presage the release of those "forever prisoners," as New York Times reporter Carol Rosenberg so aptly labeled them years ago.

Biden And Guantánamo

Just as President Biden has a history, dating back to his years as Obama's vice-president, of wanting to curtail the American presence in Afghanistan, so he called years ago for the closure of Guantánamo. As early as June 2005, then-Senator Biden expressed his desire to shut that facility, seeing it as a stain on this country's reputation abroad.

At the time, he proposed that an independent commission take a look at Guantánamo Bay and make recommendations as to its future. "But," he said then, "I think we should end up shutting it down, moving those prisoners. Those that we have reason to keep, keep. And those we don't, let go." Sixteen years later, he has indeed put in motion an interagency review to look into that detention facility's closing. Hopefully, once he receives its report, his administration can indeed begin to shut the notorious island prison down. (And this time, it could even work.)

It's true that, in 2021, the idea of shutting the gates on Guantánamo has garnered some unprecedented mainstream support. As part of his confirmation process, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, for instance, signaled his support for its closure. And Congress, long unwilling to lend a hand, has offered some support as well. On April 16, 24 Democratic senators signed a letter to the president calling that facility a "symbol of lawlessness and human rights abuses" that "continues to harm U.S. national security" and demanding that it be shut.

As those senators wrote,

"For nearly two decades, the offshore prison has damaged America's reputation, fueled anti-Muslim bigotry, and weakened the United States' ability to counter terrorism and fight for human rights and the rule of law around the world. In addition to the $540 million in wasted taxpayer dollars each year to maintain and operate the facility, the prison also comes at the price of justice for the victims of 9/11 and their families, who are still waiting for trials to begin."

Admittedly, the number of signatories on that letter raises many questions, including why there aren't more (and why there isn't a single Republican among them). Is it just a matter of refusing to give up old habits or does it reflect a lack of desire to address an issue long out of the headlines? Where, for example, was Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's name, not to mention those other 25 missing Democratic senatorial signatures?

And there's another disappointment lurking in its text. While those senators correctly demanded a reversal of the Trump administration's "erroneous and troubling legal positions" regarding the application of international and domestic law to Guantánamo, they failed to expand upon the larger context of that forever nightmare of imprisonment, lawlessness, and cruelty that affected the war-on-terror prisoners at Guantánamo as well as at the CIA's "black sites" around the world.

Still, that stance by those two-dozen senators is significant, since Congress has, in the past, taken such weak positions on closing the prison. As such, it provides some hope for the future.

For the rest of Congress and the rest of us, when thinking about finally putting Guantánamo in the history books, it's important to remember just what a vast deviation it proved to be from the law, justice, and the norms of this society. It's also worth thinking about the American "detainees" there in the context of what normally happens when wars end.

Prisoners Of War

Defying custom and law, the American war in Afghanistan broke through norms like a battering ram through a gossamer wall. Guantánamo was created in just that context, a one-of-a-kind institution for this country. Now, so many years later, it's poised to break through yet another norm.

Usually, at the end of hostilities, battlefield detainees are let go. As Geneva Convention III, the law governing the detention and treatment of prisoners of war, asserts: "Prisoners of war shall be released and repatriated without delay after the cessation of active hostilities."

That custom of releasing prisoners has, in practice, pertained not only to those held on or near the battlefield but even to those detained far from the conflict. Before the Geneva Conventions were created, the custom of releasing such prisoners was already in place in the United States. Notably, during World War II, the U.S. held 425,000 mostly German prisoners in more than 500camps in this country. When the war ended, however, they were released and the vast majority of them were returned to their home countries.

When it comes to the closure of Guantánamo, however, we can't count on such an ending. Two war-on-terror realities stand in the way of linking the coming end of hostilities in Afghanistan to the shutting down of that prison. First, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that Congress passed right after the 9/11 attacks was not geographically defined or limited to the war in Afghanistan. It focused on but was not confined to two groups, the Taliban and al-Qaeda, as well as anyone else who had contributed to the attacks of 9/11. As such, it was used as well to authorize military engagements — and the capture of prisoners — outside Afghanistan. Since 2001, in fact, it has been cited to authorize the use of force in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. Of the 780 prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay at one time or another, more than a third came from Afghanistan; the remaining two-thirds were from 48 other countries.

A second potential loophole exists when it comes to the release of prisoners as that war ends. The administration of George W. Bush rejected the very notion that those held at Guantánamo were prisoners of war, no matter how or where they had been captured. As non-state actors, according to that administration, they were exempted from prisoner of war status, which is why they were deliberately labeled "detainees."

Little wonder then that, despite Secretary of Defense Austin's position on Guantánamo, as the New York Timesrecently reported, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby "argued that there was no direct link between its future and the coming end to what he called the 'mission' in Afghanistan."

In fact, even if that congressional authorization for war and the opening of Guantánamo on which it was based never were solely linked to the conflict in Afghanistan, it's time, almost two decades later, to put an end to that quagmire of a prison camp and the staggering exceptions that it's woven into this country's laws and norms since 2002.

A "Forever Prison"?

The closing of Guantánamo would finally signal an end to the otherwise endless proliferation of exceptions to the laws of war as well as to U.S. domestic and military legal codes. As early as June 2004, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor flagged the possibility that a system of indefinite detention at Guantánamo could create a permanent state of endless legal exceptionalism.

She wrote an opinion that month in a habeas corpus case for the release of a Guantánamo detainee, the dual U.S.-Saudi citizen Yaser Hamdi, warning that the prospect of turning that military prison into a never-ending exception to wartime detention and its laws posed dangers all its own. As she put it, "We understand Congress' grant of authority for the use of 'necessary and appropriate force' to include the authority to detain for the duration of the relevant conflict, and our understanding is based on longstanding law-of-war principles." She also acknowledged that "if the practical circumstances of a given conflict are entirely unlike those of the conflicts that informed the development of the law of war, that [the] understanding [of release upon the end of hostilities] may unravel. But," she concluded, "that is not the situation we face as of this date."

Sadly enough, 17 years later, it turns out that the detention authority may be poised to outlive the use of force. Guantánamo has become an American institution at the cost of $13 million per prisoner annually. The system of offshore injustice has, by now, become part and parcel of the American system of justice — our very own "forever prison."

The difficulty of closing Guantánamo has shown that once you move outside the laws and norms of this country in a significant way, the return to normalcy becomes ever more problematic — and the longer the exception, the harder such a restoration will be. Remember that, before his presidency was over, George W. Bush went on record acknowledging his preference for closing Guantánamo. Obama made it a goal of his presidency from the outset. Biden, with less fanfare and the lessons of their failures in mind, faces the challenge of finally closing America's forever prison.

With all that in mind, let me offer you a positive twist on this seemingly never-ending situation. I won't be surprised if, in fact, President Biden actually does manage to close Guantánamo. He may not do so as a result of the withdrawal of all American forces from Afghanistan, but because he seems to have a genuine urge to shut the books on the war on terror, or at least the chapter of it initiated on 9/11.

And if he were also to shut down that prison, in the spirit of that letter from the Democratic senators, it would be because of Guantánamo's gross violations of American laws and norms. While the letter did not go so far as to name the larger war-on-terror sins of the past, it did at least draw attention directly to the wrongfulness of indefinite detention as a system created expressly to evade the law — and one that brought ill-repute to the United States globally.

That closure should certainly happen under President Biden. After all, any other course is not only legally unacceptable, but risks perpetuating the idea that this country continues to distrust the principles of law, human rights, and due process – indeed, the very fundamentals of a democratic system.

Karen J. Greenberg, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law and author of the forthcoming Subtle Tools: The Dismantling of Democracy from the War on Terror to Donald Trump (Princeton University Press, August). Julia Tedesco helped with research for this piece.

Blinken Scraps Trump Administration’s Global Attack On Gay Human Rights

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

The Biden administration has thrown out a report from the Trump administration that human rights groups criticized for devaluing LGBTQ rights across the globe.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the announcement during a press conference on Tuesday to discuss a 2020 report on the status of human rights that includes some 200 countries and territories.

"There is no hierarchy that makes some rights more important than others," Blinken said. "Past unbalanced statements that suggest such a hierarchy, including those by the recently disbanded State Department advisory committee do not represent a guiding document for this administration."

In 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, created the "Commission on Unalienable Rights," which was chaired by Mary Ann Glendon, an opponent of abortion rights and LGBTQ equality, and supported by Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group. Last year, Pompeo announced the release of a report from the commission.

During that press conference, Pompeo said, "Americans do not only have unalienable rights but also positive rights: rights granted by governments, courts, multilateral bodies. Many are worth defending in light of our founding. Others aren't ... More rights doesn't necessarily mean more justice."

Amnesty International, Equity Forward, Human Rights First, and Human Rights Watch, among other advocacy groups, contacted foreign diplomats last fall to oppose that message. Human rights experts saidthat Pompeo's efforts could result in uncertainty among LGBTQ people that might affect whether they felt safe turning to U.S. embassies for support.

Ryan Thoreson, a researcher for Human Rights Watch's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights program, wrote at the time, "The report focuses at length on the US Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The report pays little attention to what followed these, including advancements in the rights of racial minorities, women, children, people with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, as well as the growing realization of economic and social rights."

Blinken said on Tuesday, "One of the core principles of human rights is that they are universal. All people are entitled to these rights no matter where they were born, what they believe, who they love, or any other characteristic. Human rights are also co-equal."

During the press conference, the new secretary of state mentioned LGBTQI people multiple times.

"Human rights are also interdependent," he said. "If you're denied equal access to a job or an education because of the color of your skin or your gender identity, how can you obtain health and well being for yourself or your family?"

He said that an important part of monitoring human rights issues includes awareness of how the COVID-19 pandemic affected marginalized groups, including LGBTQI people. Blinken added that the Trump administration's reports on the status of human rights abroad had also removed a section about reproductive health and that the Biden administration plans to release an addendum later in 2021 covering those issues and including them in future reports.

The announcement is part of a broader promise by President Joe Biden, who gave a speech at the. State Department in February saying he would "reinvigorate our leadership on LGBTQ issues."

Biden issued a memorandum later that day which required executive agencies to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance officials both protect LGBTQ rights and promoted them whenever possible.

The memorandum also urged agencies engaged abroad to fight against the criminalization of LGBTQ people and give equal access to assistance and protection for LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers.

"Around the globe, including here at home, brave lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) activists are fighting for equal protection under the law, freedom from violence, and recognition of their fundamental human rights," the memorandum read. "The United States belongs at the forefront of this struggle — speaking out and standing strong for our most dearly held values."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Border Patrol Seeking To Deport Sick Immigrants From Hospitals

An armed Border Patrol agent roamed the hallways of an emergency room in Miami on a recent day as nurses wheeled stretchers and medical carts through the hospital and families waited for physicians to treat their loved ones.

The agent in the olive-green uniform freely stepped in and out of the room where a woman was taken by ambulance after throwing up and fainting while being detained on an immigration violation, according to advocates who witnessed the scene.

The presence of immigration authorities is becoming increasingly common at health care facilities around the country, and hospitals are struggling with where to draw the line to protect patients’ rights amid rising immigration enforcement in the Trump administration.

Some doctors say this increased presence could undermine public health in cities with large immigrant populations, frightening patients who need care and prompting them to avoid hospitals.

Normally, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and Border Patrol agents enter hospitals when detainees require emergency medical services or specialized care. In many cases, agents escort sick immigrants to the hospital after apprehending them at the border. In some instances, they have detained them after leaving a hospital.

In 2017, Border Patrol agents followed a 10-year-old immigrant with cerebral palsy to a Texas hospital and took her into custody after the surgery. She had been brought to the U.S. from Mexico when she was a toddler.

Doctors, lawyers and family members have complained about immigrants being shackled in hospitals and the intrusive presence of uniformed agents in exam rooms during treatment and discussions with physicians about medical care.

The American Medical Association Journal of Ethics devoted its entire January issue to medical care for immigrants who are in the country illegally, including a discussion of whether medical facilities should declare themselves “sanctuary hospitals,” similar to sanctuary cities.

“Our patients should not fear that entering a hospital will result in arrests or deportation. In medical facilities, patients and families should be focused on recovery and their health, not the ramifications of their immigration status,” the association said in a statement.

But Dr. Elisabeth Poorman, a primary care physician at the University of Washington in Seattle, says facilities need to constantly train staff on how to interact with law enforcement and immigrant patients in these situations.

“The ground is constantly shifting. I can tell the patient I am committed to your safety, but in the current administration we cannot tell everyone that they are 100 percent safe,” she said.

Earlier this year, the agency that oversees Border Patrol said its agents averaged 69 trips to the hospital each day across the country. In the first half of the year, the federal government said Border Patrol agents had spent about 153,000 hours monitoring detained people at hospitals, as more families and children were crossing the border from Mexico. That’s the equivalent of about 20,000 8-hour shifts spent at hospitals.

Hospitals, schools and places of worship are considered “sensitive locations” by a government policy and are generally free from immigration enforcement. But the rule is discretionary and ambiguous when an enforcement action begins before a trip to a hospital or when an immigrant is already in custody.

Thomas Kennedy, policy director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, says his organization received a call on Sunday alerting them of the detention and hospitalization of a woman in the suburb of Aventura. The woman’s identity was not disclosed by the group, saying the family asked for privacy.

The woman and her ex-husband were driving with their two children, who are U.S. citizens, after a day at Haulover Beach on Sunday when a Border Patrol car flashed its lights to pull them over. Border Patrol conducts operations within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of a U.S. land or coastal border, and Florida lies entirely within this zone.

Kennedy said the agents told her she had to go with them, and shortly after, she threw up and fainted. The agents then called for an ambulance.

Keith Smith, a spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, said the woman was detained for being “illegally present” in the United States, and clarified Border Patrol does not conduct any enforcement operations in hospitals in Florida.

“However, agents will transport persons in custody and remain with them until medically treated and cleared,” he said in an email. Smith added agents were following national standards when escorting the woman to the hospital.

In what Kennedy says is a recorded exchange between him and the Border Patrol agent with their faces off camera, Kennedy is heard asking the agent to show a warrant. The agent’s response: I don’t need one.

“It is a little unorthodox to have a Border Patrol officer outside of her room and going in and out while she is receiving medical treatment,” Kennedy said. “This type of stuff creates fear. It prevents undocumented immigrants from seeking care.”

Kennedy said he confronted the staff at Aventura Hospital and Medical Care, but employees told him they didn’t want to get involved and were simply providing care. The hospital, which is part of the Nashville-based health care giant HCA, Inc., did not respond to questions regarding cooperation with immigration authorities.

The immigration agency said its agents must document the hospitalization providing a discharge summary, treatment plans and prescribed medications from any medical evaluation.

Health care lawyers and medical associations say providers generally should not allow law enforcement unrestricted access to treatment areas, to comply with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA. The law protects against improper disclosure of confidential information that may result from offering such access.

A spokesman for NYC Health and Hospitals, which operates the public hospitals and clinics, said that when patients show up in custody of immigration enforcement, officers would be posted outside the treatment room, the same way it happens with police officers.

But hospitals have yet to come up with a universal set of policies on how medical staff and physicians interact with immigration authorities. Dr. Poorman said she hopes that hospitals start doing more on the issue.

“There is a lack of courage from the hospital systems to really acknowledge what is happening to our patients,” she said.

Trump’s Revealing ‘Joke’ Stunned Diplomats Into Silence

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

A new report from the Wall Street Journal revealed Friday that President Donald Trump is just as indifferent to democracy and tactless behind closed doors as he seems in public.

Reporters Nancy Youssef, Vivian Salama, and Michael Bender found that ahead of a meeting last month in France with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Trump loudly boomed: “Where’s my favorite dictator?”

The Journal explained:

The witnesses said they believed the president made the comment jokingly, but said his question was met by a stunned silence.

It couldn’t be determined whether Mr. Sisi was present or heard the remark.

The White House declined to comment. Egyptian officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

Even if lighthearted, Mr. Trump’s quip drew attention to an uncomfortable facet of the U.S.-Egypt relationship.

The report’s reference to the witnesses thinking the comment was a “joke” is a bit odd. Of course, it was a joke. It’s not clear what it would otherwise be.

It also seems to suggest that the main issue with the remark is that it could have offended Sisi or created tensions in the relationship. But foreign leaders know who Trump is as much as anyone else, and they’re not going to be thrown off by an offhand quip. Sisi values Egypt’s relationship with the U.S. because of its strategic advantages, not because of Trump’s fine mastery of etiquette.

But what’s truly disturbing about the remark is that it reveals just how cavalierly the American president regards the values of democracy and the violation of human rights. As the Journal noted, Sisi’s rule in Egypt has been widely criticized for his authoritarian use of power and imprisoning of political opponents. Trump, though, doesn’t actually care about any of that. If he felt any inclination to push Sisi or other strongman rulers toward more democratic governance, he wouldn’t be joking about them being dictators, among whom he has a “favorite.”

Of course, this facet of Trump’s personality and approach to international affairs has been readily apparent since 2015. Most notably, of course, his ample praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin has been disturbing to many Americans for years. But his florid boasting of his relationships with other leaders with varying levels of authoritarian tendencies — Kim Jong-un, Jair Bolsonaro, Rodrigo Duterte, Xi Jinping — has made clear that Trump has no interest in promoting liberal principles on the global stage.

The president’s defenders deny this, though, and they say that he genuinely cares about human rights and democracy. But as the new report from the Journal shows, Trump is in some ways quite transparent. His apparent disdain for democracy isn’t masking any deep commitment; he thinks human rights are a joke.

Will The Hong Kong Protests End In Tears?

The mass protests in Hong Kong have been the most thrilling news of 2019: a daring, dramatic movement involving people asserting their fervent support for liberty, democracy and the rule of law.

On some weekends, a quarter of the territory’s 7.4 million people have thronged the streets to demand reform from the Beijing government, which had tried to force through a new law allowing extradition to the mainland. They persisted, sometimes violently, even as police resorted to tear gas, rubber bullets and arrests.

On Wednesday, they got a major concession from Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who finally agreed to kill the bill. Her hope is that it will douse the discontent. But as is often the case in such crises, it may serve as an accelerant.

Pro-democracy legislator Claudia Mo said Lam’s decision was “too little, too late.” Adjunct professor Willy Lam of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told The New York Times it would “not have any impact.” But Regina Ip, a pro-Beijing member of the Executive Council warned, “There are no more concessions we can make.”

The protesters’ demands have long since expanded to include amnesty for the demonstrators, an investigation into police brutality and democratic reforms. Underlying the movement is a desire to preserve Hong Kong’s broad freedom from the tight control the Beijing regime exerts over the rest of China.

When the British colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, it was assured substantial autonomy until 2047. But when an overreaching central government put a cloud over its special status, Hong Kongers took to the streets.

That spectacle has inspired admiration and awe. But to anyone who has watched events in China and the world in recent years, the central emotion has to be dread.

The protests represent a direct challenge to the sovereignty and power of the ruling Communist Party. It’s a challenge the central government is not likely to endure for long. After Oct. 1, when the party commemorates the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic, it may be less reluctant to crack down.

For China’s rulers, the movement brings flashbacks of 1989, when students calling for democracy occupied Tiananmen Square in Beijing. That demonstration arose amid a worldwide surge that brought democracy to places ranging from South Korea to the Soviet Union to Chile. It was natural to expect that China would also make the transition.

It didn’t. The government instead chose to crush the opposition with armed troops who killed hundreds if not thousands. The Communist Party held on, and international outrage eventually dissipated. China proceeded to become an economic powerhouse.

It’s hard to imagine President Xi Jinping tolerating unending turmoil or accepting the other demands. He is bound to see the unrest as a mortal danger to both China’s system of government and its territorial sovereignty.

Letting the protesters win would weaken Beijing’s control over its people by signaling that determined, mobilized citizens could defeat the government. Xi did not achieve the most powerful position in China in order to dismantle the system that put him there.

Backing down in Hong Kong would violate what the rulers learned from Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, whose liberalization led to the demise of his government. It would also contradict the lesson they took from the Arab Spring: With sufficient brutality, autocratic regimes can put an end to popular uprisings.

A retreat would also embolden advocates of independence in Hong Kong — and, even more alarming to Beijing, fuel separatist sentiment in Taiwan. Granting demands for autonomy would call into doubt Beijing’s professed commitment to prevent Taiwan from declaring its independence at all costs. The Chinese leaders and people are stalwart in their belief that Hong Kong is theirs – a claim accepted by the rest of the world.

China’s rulers obviously hope that withdrawing the extradition measure will soon bring an end to the turbulence. But there is no reason to doubt that if Beijing needs to use overwhelming force, it will do so — and ignore the condemnations from abroad.

The brave idealism of the people of Hong Kong is enough to stir the heart of anyone who cherishes freedom. But the harsh reality is that they are unlikely to get more of what they demand. The movement could end because they accept this modest victory and go back to their normal lives. Or it could end in tears and blood.