BERLIN — Germany is facing the biggest crisis in post-War history … So why should we be interested in Hong Kong right now? Quite simply because the threat Hong Kong is currently facing is even greater than the pandemic. Germany and Europe will eventually defeat the virus, we will survive the economic crisis, and at some point, move on to a brighter future. However, this will only happen if our greatest achievement — freedom — is not lost along the way. And that's exactly what is at stake in Hong Kong.

Autocracies and dictatorships always try to use force to bring more and more people under their control. History has shown us that strongmen cannot be stopped by policies of appeasement, but only by determination and intransigence. Hitler's takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1938 is the best-known example where a nation was sacrificed in the cowardly and deceptive hope of others being spared in the future.

This is not an abstract debate on freedom or lack of freedom on the other side of the world

As for Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea in 2014, the ending is still an open book — after all, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken an uncharacteristically hard line. But the most important historical precedent is often overlooked by Germans: Stalin's ambition to annex West Berlin. Whether it was the 1948/49 Airlift or the second Berlin crisis in 1958, the United States always remained steadfast and unwavering in its defense of West German freedom.

And Hong Kong? Britain has the moral, economic and legal duty to stand up for its former crown colony, handed over to China in 1997, the colony's last British governor Chris Patten, wrote last week for The Times. The West should not be tempted by the illusory prospect of trade advantages to kowtow to China – a message that is clearly also relevant to Germany.

This is not an abstract debate about freedom or lack of freedom on the other side of the world. The young demonstrators in Hong Kong are fighting for us, defending the freedom that was given to Germany by courageous people after the War. And anyone who considers Hong Kong's current situation none of our business betrays that very heritage.


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