Occupy the Tunnel!


(The flag of the People's Republic of China flies over the railway tunnel Thursday.)


I have gone on about flags before.

More specifically, I have gone on about the bad timing of the raising of particular flags, of particular countries, around Brockville facilities.

I understand the need to be courteous to dictatorial countries that are also our trading partners and, on occasion, our friends. Geopolitics is a complicated and morally ambiguous business.

But I grow increasingly alarmed at the divorce that has happened, in this generation, between economic imperatives and moral ones.

So I ask the simple question: Would the flag of the People's Republic of China have flown over Armagh S. Price Park in 1989 during the Tiananmen Square crackdown?

And then the follow-up question: Why is that very flag flying there now, as thousands of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong are risking a fate similar to the victims of the Tiananmen repression?

The basic answer is simple, of course. Wednesday was the National Day of the People's Republic of China, and city hall, to its credit, routinely hoists the flags of other countries behind the Victoria Building to mark those countries' national holidays.

(As one Twitter user put it Wednesday: “Happy 65th birthday, China. You'll never guess what the people of Hong Kong got you.”)

Brockville is home to a small but well-rooted Chinese-Canadian community, and it is well to honour their culture and traditions.

It would also be well, however, to recall that many, if not most, of those established families came here to flee the repressive regime in Beijing the Hong Kong protesters are now trying, at great risk, to change.

City councillors, to be sure, did not know the unrest in Hong Kong was going to explode into the “Umbrella Revolution” when, some weeks ago, they approved this latest exercise in flag protocol.

However, now would be as good a time as any to take this symbol of repression down.

Here's a polite suggestion: why not replace it with an umbrella?

Or is it just that trade really does trump democracy?