“The revolutionary war is a war of the masses; only mobilizing the masses and relying on them can wage it.”—Mao
Tuesday, Hong Kong’s Chinese anointed leader of the Legislative Council, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-Ngor, assured protesters that the controversial extradition bill was ” dead.” Previously she had assured the protesters that the same bill was “suspended.” The protesters ain’t buying it.
The one word the protesters want to hear, the one Chinese lap dog Carrie Lam will not utter, is “withdrawn.” A complete retraction. It is likely too late for this. The people of Hong Kong have been provided with a whiff of “hope” and a glimmer of “revolution.” Lam and China will now have to force this genie of freedom back into its bottle of Chinese dominance.
World democracy continues to go the way of the Dodo, forced into extinction for the sake of providing ever more to those who already have more than enough: Greed. It knows no bounds. Greed has no soul. But, greed always justifies itself…with lies!
Tiananmen Square and its massive slaughter past at the hands of the Chinese regime appears about to repeat itself. Why? Tiananmen was not a mere brutal crushing of a populist protest. It was the destruction of an example of human principal: The snuffing out of a spark that would have ignited into flame. Like protests in Sudan and Algeria, the protesters in Hong Kong now face a simple choice: acquiesce… or fight! Beijing does not care about which choice they make. China has the guns.
Democracy in Hong Kong has been simmering on the griddle of tentative Chinese permission and its steady decline for many years. What is taking place on the streets of Hong Kong today is, for modern authoritarian China, the final straw.
In Hong Kong, this day, there are many lies. The truth, however, can be found only on the streets. This reality has been thus far distorted, covered, and bludgeoned away from view or correct examination. These massive protests are not, as currently glossed over by the western press, merely about an extradition treaty with China. These protests are not just about waning democracy. What these protests are about is a renewed spark of freedom and… the long-term future of Hong Kong.
A fight is brewing. Fast.
“It is man’s social being that determines his thinking. Once the correct ideas characteristic of the advanced class are grasped by the masses, these ideas turn into a material force which changes society and changes the world.”– Mao.
Indeed. Would Mao grasp the irony of his words now inversely applied on the streets of Hong Kong?
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under the fiction of a “one country, two systems” doctrine that was always doomed to failure. After more than a decade of relatively quiet but rapid Chinese capitalist ascendancy via Hong Kong’s equally growing financial power—and the directly proportional rise of Hong Kong poverty and inequality from their “democracy”—in June 2014, Beijing’s communist leaders released a policy “white paper” that clearly revealed who was running this facade of democracy by stating that the Chinese government had “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong and further, that the city’s “high degree of autonomy … comes solely from the authorisation by the central leadership.” In China.
The Chinese white paper, however, was just a reaffirmation of the obvious. The current proposed extradition law follows another white paper statement which added, “loving the country is a basic political requirement” for judges as they must also “safeguard the country’s sovereignty and security.” This, of course, also does not bode well for the democratic opposition, nor its leaders.
Hong Kong’s leader—the now quite infamous Carrie Lam, who started the mess by dutifully attempting to pass the extradition legislation—is not elected by the voters but suggested by a committee accountable to Beijing. Half of the seventy seats in the Legislative Council are permitted to be directly elected; the other thirty-five seats are occupied by mostly pro-China politicians from corporate and special interest groups, primarily Chinese. The recent expulsion of six pro-democracy representatives and the barring of its candidates has created a new form of gerrymandering that US Republicans can only drool over. The result has seen the Hong Kong government effectively weaken the pro-democracy camp’s opposition power to block unpopular public policies in the legislature.
Democracy? Probably not.
As the first protests in 2014—known as the Umbrella Movement—hit the street by the 100s of thousands subsequent to China’s white paper, political tensions spiked when China refused to grant Hong Kong genuine universal suffrage. Next, China dictated that the city’s top political post—that of chief executive currently held by Carrie Lam—would be chosen by a “nominating committee” of 1,200 people, most of whom turned out to be pro-Beijing elites. Just to make sure, Chinese approval is also required of this one nominee. The currently proposed extradition law follows the white paper which also says “loving the country is a basic political requirement” for judges and they must also “safeguard the country’s sovereignty and security.” China’s.
Together, these decisions sparked the 79-day Umbrella movement, which sought – but failed – to press Beijing to grant people an unfettered vote. The Chinese authorities said pro-democracy advocates were used by western forces as “tools of subversion”. Well, this was at least the excuse the Chinese used when they affected a brutal crackdown and all those non-violent umbrellas were proven no match for a massive military machine raining down on them.
“The role and power of newspapers consist in their ability to present the Party’s line, its specific policies, goals and work methods, to the masses in the most effective and rapid of ways.”—Mao.
Continuing to follow the western business model of propagating Authori-Capitalism by indoctrination via media propaganda, post-2014 China went fully in this direction. Previously, Hong Kong’s media had mostly self-censored, but this was not good enough. Mainland-owned Hong Kong media sought to present themselves as credible news outlets but were actually beholden to the Chinese government, which regularly provides them exclusive stories or information they rarely decline to publish. Today, eight out of Hong Kong’s twenty-six mainstream media outlets are either under mainland Chinese ownership or have significant mainland interests. The rest are owned by Hong Kong conglomerates with significant business interests in China. The sole exception is the recent addition of the Hong Kong Free Press and the Asia Times.
Book burning, too, is becoming quite popular of late. Hong Kong’s publishing business has also vastly declined, as Chinese-backed chains dominate the trade and independent bookshops struggle to survive. An investigation by the public broadcaster RTHK last year showed that China’s representative office in Hong Kong has indirect ownership of a local publishing conglomerate that runs more than half of the bookshops in the city and owns more than thirty publishers in Hong Kong.
As a precursor—and further reason— for these 2019 street protests, Hong Kong’s book trade was badly shaken in 2015 when five publishers and booksellers from the Causeway Bay Books shop disappeared in mysterious circumstances. Turned out, they all had been victims of China’s new US-style rendition program. Lui Por, Cheung Chi-ping, Lam Wing-kee and Lee Bo had been rendered from Hong Kong while Gui Minhai was snatched from Thailand. They subsequently showed up again on Chinese TV, spouting confessions that Lam Wing-kee, who jumped bail for Taiwan, claimed were coerced under torture. Other Hong Kong dissidents were also to suffer a similar disappearance. Their crime? Providing knowledge.
After completing an indoctrination program in China that would have Mao ever so proud, the pre-2014 Hong Kong government plan of 2012 that would have introduced “national [ Hong Kong] education” classes in the school curriculum was shelved after the mass umbrella protests. Hence, Chinese patriotic elements have been injected into the education system. Most Hong Kong schools now have a regular Chinese flag-raising ceremony. Textbooks provide the greatness of the Chinese nation and praise its historical authoritarian rulers who got the job done in China long ago. Sensitive incidents such as the crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen are conveniently omitted. The use of Mandarin instead of Cantonese (the native tongue of 90% of Hong Kong residents) in Chinese language classes leaves the eventual transition of mind and nation in Hong Kong moving along nicely.
Students and academics now also need to be “politically correct” if they wish to enter the Chinese management, seek promotion or gain tenure. Those whom China sees favourably can access lucrative funding in China. Those who cross the line of perceived allegiance can quickly run afoul. This was seemingly evidenced at the University of California/San Diego in 2016. A one semester masters student’s class in Student Affairs completely funded by China was held exclusively for Chinese students. After three years, and all the students reportedly finishing their course work with excellent results, the course was suddenly cancelled without explanation and all the students returned to China. The student liaison to the university, although contacted, did not respond.
“Revolutions and revolutionary wars are inevitable in class society, and without them, it is impossible to accomplish any leap in social development and to overthrow the reactionary ruling classes and therefore impossible for the people to win political power.”—Mao
This scheme of faux democracy was merely tolerated as Hong Kong became the financial hub for China’s entry to the world economy. Behind the scenes, China, like modern Myanmar is a facade of democracy at best, its true face masked to appear palatable enough to western purchasing markets. In reality, its economic, education and social opportunities are only allowed to the small percentage of Chinese willing to sell their personal free will for the trappings of their country’s new adherence to Capitalism and money: Greed. The disease of capitalism.
Democracy? That is not good for capitalism’s bottom line.
But freedom is a peculiar trait of humanity, one not so easily stamped out as western or Chinese leaders continue to delude themselves to be possible. For freedom and its quest are not merely options of conscience, they are, and always will be, fundamentals of the human mind.
And so we again, turn back to the current protests in Hong Kong. Due to the aforementioned brief history applied to this fundamental, the Hong Kong protests are growing.
Over the past few weeks, millions protested regularly against the proposed extradition law that allows individuals to stand trial in China’s opaque courts. Many young people have also expressed their sense of helplessness in the face of a political system in which they obviously have little say. The protests forced the government to temporarily suspend the bill and Carrie Lam to pathetically apologize for the crisis. At the minimum protesters remain dissatisfied that she refused to fully “withdraw” the bill. Their other demands beyond the formal withdrawal of the bill include Lam’s resignation, the release of dozens of arrested protesters, an independent investigation into a police crackdown on the June 12 protest that included tear gas and rubber bullets and not legally denoting the protests as “riots” and the protesters as “rioters.”
One protester charged in a siege of police headquarters on June 21, Pun Ho-Chiu, appeared in court Friday, Hong Kong media reported. He was the first of those arrested to do so. Giving the protesters further reason, he was denied bail and when Pun accused police of mistreating him while in custody, the judge said his complaints are outside the court’s mandate.
Last week, on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s 1997 return to Chinese rule on Monday, July 1, western and Hong Kong media reported that, after a mass peaceful demonstration, hundreds of young protesters stormed and vandalised the legislature building. On Tuesday, Hong Kong authorities declared their ransacked halls of government “a big crime scene.” This is, in reality, hyperbole – -lies—designed for a purpose.
The actions of a splinter group of unarmed pro-democracy protesters did occupy the Legislative Council (LegCo) building—where, once inside the council chambers, they did spray-paint anti-Chinese slogans and tear down politicians’ portraits, and raised a British colonial-era flag— but this appears to have been precipitated by forces loyal to Beijing in an attempt to divide public opinion against the overall body of protesters.
There were not “hundreds” of protesters in the chambers that day as routinely reported, just a dozen or so. Their actions once there have been substantially distorted. What is missing is that the protesters had not occupied the building for many hours before because it was guarded by the Hong Kong police.
Recalled democracy activist Denise Ho on Twitter, “The strangest thing was, police were there all along in the morning, confronting the protestors and standing guard inside LegCo. Suddenly they all disappeared late afternoon, leaving an empty LegCo wide open for the protestors to enter.”
Once there, as reported by some of the protesters themselves, they had no idea what to do next. Settling for the few acts of petty vandalism and an impassioned speech that was live-streamed, when fearing police reprisals they ultimately left. Peacefully. Outside, tens of thousands were finishing their march of that day.
Chinese propaganda on this event need not have bothered. The vast majority of capitalist world media demonized and distorted the entry into the legislature and the protesters while strangely siding with authoritarian China and failing to examine its diktat of communism. Even alternative media absurdly sided with China, defending China’s society, its capitalism and its ongoing influence over all Chinese. These kinds of lies could only come from a Teleprompter or the pen of those who have never visited China and its realities.
“What we need is an enthusiastic but calm state of mind and intense but orderly work.”—Mao
Now in full propaganda mode, Beijing, via the Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, called the actually very small occupation “shocking, heart-breaking and angering,” adding ominously that it was “totally intolerable.” A separate statement by the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of China’s State Council labelled the protest “a blatant challenge to the bottom line of the ‘one country, two systems’ formula.”
Had western media done its job, one might have walked through the outskirts of a “modern” city like Guangzhou and taken a left or right turn up any side street from the scripted boulevards. Observation would have noticed poverty and overcrowding equal to third world standards. Had the pundits visited the always dark Ghost Cities made up of dozens of massive twenty-five story apartment blocks—all sitting empty—one would notice a better example of the Chinese economic miracle. Claims that poverty is 1% in China is utter balderdash and belies all facts in virtually all areas of China beyond the cities it showcases to a western press that is too lazy to any longer do its job.
And if one was to actually be interested in the true direction and goals of Authori-Capitalism in China applied to the western model of the same, one might also take a moment to view the smuggled footage of the complete social lockdown of the Uighurs—Chinese Muslims—in northwest China, who are under constant surveillance, monitoring and restriction in an effective societal cage that they cannot escape, much less resist. China, its benevolence supposedly misunderstood, is now culling Uighur children from their imprisoned parents and into Chinese indoctrination camps – schools—in an effort of its own “final solution” of genocide. This is the future of China.
Beyond the atrocious coverage by western media, objective observation reveals that this Chinese future is likely to be the future for the world’s populations as well. Unless…?
The media dutifully vilified the Hong Kong protesters en mass. In a sign that the people of Hong Kong saw through this ruse, last Friday 30,00 mothers—yes mothers, mothers of protesters—marched themselves down the same streets in support of the ongoing efforts of the new generation. University professor Sealing Cheng when asked who was responsible for the destruction of the legislature, implied that an arrogant government had driven the protesters to break into the building and rampage through it. “Our hearts ache for the young protesters and our society torn apart,” she said in a speech to the crowd of mostly women.
The next protest on July 7 saw a renewed protest of between 56,000-230,000 (as reported by the two sides) hit the streets again. Video suggests the larger number to be closer to the mark. The march was billed as an opportunity to explain to mainland Chinese tourists in the city what their protest movement is about given the massive censorship that Beijing’s leaders wield. So, thousands amassed outside West Kowloon station, where high-speed trains depart for the Chinese mainland. This tactic was chosen since the railway station is the terminus for the majority of Chinese who have already relinquished their personal freedoms in order to reap the rewards of being within China’s elite percentage and have thus come to spend their windfall on the trappings of capitalism in China’s capitalist capitol. This strategy was a good one since, as revealed by interviews of these many Chinese nationals, none – zero—knew of the Hong Kong protests.
Police and train staff guarded every exit barring entry into the station. Travelers wheeling suitcases out said they were not aware of the protests and did not know about the extradition bill. They told Reuters they were told the government had blocked off sections of the station for security. Protesters corrected them, chanting in Mandarin instead of Cantonese, the language used in Hong Kong. Earlier on Sunday tens of thousands of people marched through the harbour-front district of Tsim Sha Tsui, an area popular with Chinese tourists and challenged them with very inconvenient truths. What they did not know, they well know now.
Beijing knows that they know. They know that soon other Chinese will know. For China, as with all totalitarian regimes, encouragement—even knowledge—of populist reform coming via the tools of real democracy must be blocked from society…and the mind. In their actions, the protesters have now crossed this line. They have become, like Tiananmen, an example. An example of hope.
This hope will in the next few days likely be crushed in a jack-booted attempt to whitewash – again—the minds and conscience of China… and Hong Kong. Beijing has no choice. Hope, to authoritarian doctrines, is historically lethal. It breeds—and then feeds—the First Rule of Democracy.
Hong Kong police are woefully over matched by the sheer volume of the protests and have generally resorted to violence in the waning hours of any day’s protest only when the First Rule of Democracy has dissipated and then favours their limited forces and light crowd control weaponry. However, when China steps in it will not have any such limitations or reservations.
China maintains three garrisons in Hong Kong, the largest, Shek Kong, San Wai in the New Territories and Stonecutters Island in Kowloon that house a combined status quo of 7,000 PLA troops. The armouries of these military bases are stuffed with an array of weaponry sufficient for any contingency and much more than is needed by a mere 7000 troops. These armouries were deliberately showcased to Hong Kong the week of the 22nd anniversary protests of July 1, when some 30,000 locale citizens were given free tickets admitting them to these bases and were then allowed to view examples from these military stores and play with a few unloaded automatic weapons and rocket launchers, etc., all to good effect.
With the world watching it is not likely that China will respond this time with tanks, but China cannot any longer allow this display of public opposition to fester. Many are predicting a hardline response to come. Likely at this coming weekend’s protest. Tom Grundy, the founder of crowdfunded media outlet Hong Kong Free Press, tweeted that the coming crackdown “may be worse than post-2014,” predicting that China would attempt to justify the clampdown on pro-democratic forces in the name of “public safety” and “national security.” The LegCo incident being the likely link.
Carrie Lam continued to deflect from the reality of the situation by inviting pro-democracy leaders to meet behind closed doors. This move was rejected by student unions at two Hong Kong universities as insincere and a publicity gimmick. Not taking the bait, Jordan Pang of the University of Hong Kong Student’s Union stated the obvious. “A closed-door meeting does not have any witnesses to prove what was discussed, the public does not know what the dialogue was about. The public has the right to know,” he said. Ng Yat Ming, vice president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Students’ Union, said they would be condemned as traitors if they negotiated with Lam on behalf of the public.
So, the two sides are firmly entrenched. China and its iron will to dictate and define at its whim what at any time will be deigned to be personal liberty: against those who understand that liberty is the right of mankind itself.
This ain’t gonna go well.
“To rebel… is justified”—Mao
Twenty-five-year-old Brian Leung Kei-Ping, it was reported by Asia Times, was the only individual to remove his mask and let the media capture his face when he made a passionate appeal to his colleagues from the rostrum of the temporarily captured Leg Co chambers, before disappearing back to the University of Washington. In an interview with the South China Morning Post, he summed up why this protest would not merely dissipate: “I took off my face mask because I want to tell you all, that we Hongkongers, have nothing more to lose. Hong Kong can’t lose anymore. If we lose again…our civil society would sink to the bottom.”
Joshua Wong, a student activist who was previously jailed for his role in the 2014 umbrella movement, echoed Ping’s emotion but stressed the protesters were non-violent and had exhausted all other means to force the government to change course. “They [the protesters] wanted to make the regime hear Hong Kongers’ voice, and they had no other option. WE ALREADY TRIED EVERYTHING ELSE,” he tweeted adding that the protests had “already defied the expectations of not just every commentator and scholar but also myself as an activist. I would be foolish to try to predict what is next.”
Well, when studying current authoritarian regimes across the globe that are scratching and clawing to similarly crush by any means populist dissent, the prediction should actually be an easy one. One might ask, at this juncture in Hong Kong, what would America, or France, or Brazil, or Honduras, etc., would these countries do?
Based on this history, the protesters can expect a brutal crackdown that will likely, at the least include mass arrests of dissident leaders, curfews, social media closure and restricted access to Hong Kong. As one protester accurately commented, “[This] will inflame opinions even more, and put Hong Kong into an escalatory spiral.”
When that happens it will be well beyond the capabilities of the Hong Kong Police. We have already seen the First Rule of Democracy produce protests in excess of one million. One million is a very large protest. But what happens when that next protest becomes two million and when the military unloads and massacres 100s as was seen this past month in Sudan? In Sudan, their massive protests have proven the proper effect of the First Rule. Democracy appears to have won.
However, China’s military is not that of Sudan and President for Life Xi Jinping is not going anywhere. Power corrupts absolutely. That corruption is not merely a corruption of society it is a demand for the corruption of the human mind. Correctly, Hong Kong will resist.
There will be blood soon. How much?
That is strictly up to China.
Brett Redmayne-Titley has published over 170 in-depth articles over the past eight years for news agencies worldwide. Many have been translated and republished. On-scene reporting from important current events has been an emphasis that has led to his many multi-part exposes on such topics as the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, NATO summit, Keystone XL Pipeline, Porter Ranch Methane blow-out, Hizbullah in Lebanon, Erdogan’s Turkey and many more. He can be reached at: live-on-scene ((at)) gmx.com. Prior articles can be viewed at his archive: www.watchingromeburn.uk.