by Rainer Shea
I’m very grateful for the fact that my ideological development as a socialist has led me towards the principled anti-imperialist worldview which informs my opposition to the project for colonialist insurrection in Hong Kong. I could easily have gone in the opposite direction; for a while, I routinely sought out the authority of the World Socialist Website, the Trotskyist publication that’s given very sympathetic coverage to the anti-Beijing protesters. But my views on Hong Kong have developed the opposite way that the U.S. empire and its narrative enforcers in outlets like the WSWS have tried to steer me towards.
The view of the protests that’s been promoted by imperialist politicians like Hillary Clinton, by the corporate media, and by consequently suspect left-wing publications like the WSWS is one of admiration for a movement that seeks “democracy.” The self-proclaimed socialist commentators who repeat this line have presented it from an angle of class struggle, wherein the People’s Republic of China and its partner government in Hong Kong are the big business interests and the protesters are on the side of working people. This is shown in the take on the protests from the social democrat magazine Jacobin, which is presumptuously titled “Everything You Need to Know About the Hong Kong Protests.” The article, which consists of an interview with several Hong Kong residents who support the protests, makes the labor organizing aspect of the protests appear to be the most important issue to focus on while giving the barest of attention to the matter of U.S. involvement. The issue of colonialism is of course omitted from the piece entirely. This is how America’s role is addressed in the piece…
Interviewer Kevin Lin: There are often accusations of foreign powers instigating Hong Kong’s social movements, whether it’s the Umbrella Movement or the current protests. What is your response to such accusations?
Writer and activist Au Loong Yu: The Beijing and Hong Kong governments have said that the protests are funded by the American NED [National Endowment for Democracy]. It is true that most pan-democrat [pro-democracy] parties have received funding from the NED. But it is also undeniable that both the big protests and clashes on June 9 and 12 were not called by these parties. The Civil Human Rights Front is a coalition of more than fifty organizations, most of which are civil associations and trade unions. The main pan-democrat parties are part of it, but only constitute a minority. The Front was founded in 2002, in a moment when the main pan-democrat parties were afraid to take the lead in mobilizing people. Precisely because of this history, the main pan-democrats have not been dominant within the Front. Not to mention the fact that the Front possesses no authority over the people who come to their rally. Often the young people just do what they want upon joining.
Is this actually a realistic estimate of the involvement that the U.S. foreign destabilization machine has had in the protests though? Especially as the U.S. is now doing all it can to strong-arm China into submission in order to preserve its own threatened global hegemony, America has every interest in wresting control over Hong Kong away from China. This is the context behind the NED’s efforts to give the protesters resources, and behind the Western media’s frequent public relations boosts to the insurrection efforts in Hong Hong. So America’s role doesn’t stem from the innocuous motive of “funding pro-democracy movements” that Yu makes it out to have, nor is its extent limited to what Yu describes.
In addition to the NED’s funding for the parties of the Civil Human Rights Front, the NED has two branches that are active in Hong Kong and that aren’t in the Front’s coalition: the Solidarity Center and the National Democratic Institute. Given these activities from the NED, as well as the close ties that the NED has to the organizations of the Front, Alexander Rubinstein of MintPress News has written that “It is inconceivable that the organizers of the protests are unaware of the NED ties to some of its members.”
The NED’s funding for Hong Kong-based groups, which dates back to 1994, has been consistent since 1997, the year when Hong Kong was transferred from the control of the British and when the NDI became active in the island. So the NED’s influencing efforts in Hong Kong have been going on for a longer time and in a stronger way than Yu implies they’ve been.
There’s also the historically supported possibility that the protests have received direct aid from the NED’s parent agency the CIA. As Reagan advisor David Stockman has said in an interview this week on the Ron Paul Liberty Report:
The whole thing smacks of a warfare state apparatus not only looking for an enemy, but actually trying to provoke hostile actions that can then justify even more money and an even more threatening posture.
On the recently revealed photograph of protest leaders Joshua Wong and Nathan Law meeting with the political unit chief of the U.S. consulate general in Hong Kong Julie Edaeh, Ron Paul assessed that:
This isn’t State Department employees. The person you refer to allegedly runs the political affairs desk at the consulate in Hong Kong. But obviously that’s not a political affairs desk, that’s a cover for a CIA [psyop]. We need to stay out of that. And see, here’s the thing about Washington. When the Cold War ended, you had a whole military industrial intelligence foreign policy apparatus that was out of business in 1991. And it should have been wound down and dramatically reduced. We could have reduced the defense budget by a hundred million at most. We should have dismantled NATO. We should have gotten out of the Korean Peninsula. But instead, they’ve taken the thing in the opposite direction.
Yet another U.S. fingerprint in Hong Kong is the tactic that protesters have taken upof goading the police into responding violently so that the Chinese government can be delegitimized in the minds of those who follow the movement’s propaganda. This approach of “aggressive nonviolence” was developed by U.S. soft power operative Gene Sharp, who’s now indirectly helping the protesters manufacture violent confrontations that the American media can exploit to the advantage of the anti-Beijing faction.
It’s clear that what outlets like Jacobin have presented about Hong Kong doesn’t represent “everything you need to know” about the issue. The lies by omission that Jacobin and other “socialist” sources in its vein have told about Hong Kong are very detrimental to the anti-imperialist movement, because these sources are supposed to be reliable alternatives to the neoconservative propaganda of the American political and media class.
Jacobin has gone along with the establishment line on Hong Kong because Jacobinis already known to support regime change campaigns against existing socialist states; the WSWS has gone along with it because China is one of the “Stalinist” powers that the site’s Trotskyist writers see as tyrannical and pro-capitalist. These ideological and political motivations have lead towards widespread leftist complicity in the Western imperialist agenda within Hong Kong, with the obvious U.S. involvement being denied or downplayed so that the protests can be framed as a “proletarian revolution.”
The irony is that while most of the Western world unquestioningly supports the anti-Beijing protests with the assumption that they represent the righteous side, there’s a different and arguably stronger faction of the Hong Kong public which supports China. There have been massive pro-Beijing protests which the American media has ignored because their goals don’t align with the colonialist and pro-capitalist agenda that America’s involvement has infused the anti-Beijing protests with.
To understand why America’s appeals for Hong Kong residents to rise up have gained so many genuinely passionate volunteers, and why these volunteers have gone so far as to fly the American and British flags, we must recognize that the point of view of those in the anti-Beijing camp is fundamentally different from that of the China supporters in Hong Kong and the mainland. The experiences of these two groups are inverse; as the anti-imperialist journalist Jay Tharappel has written:
When the British began their conquest of India in 1757, it was rich, when they left in 1947, it was poor, whereas with Hong Kong it’s the other way around, when the British acquired it from China after the first Opium War in 1841, it was a mere fishing village, when they left in 1997, it was first-world wealthy, largely because its status as an entrepot meant that it attracted British investment, paid for with the looted wealth of India and mainland China.
Having grown up amid this historical perspective of British rule representing an era that was better in ways, many of the young people of Hong Kong have joined the crusade to reinstate Western colonial control over their land. This cultural trend towards anti-China sentiment and British chauvinism is mainly centered around Hong Kong’s upper and middle classes, but the trend’s arbiters have been able to gain supporters from some within the lower classes by taking advantage of recent economic factors; in the past ten years, real estate prices in Hong Kong have skyrocketed while worker wages have not kept apace. This is what’s behind the zeal of the protesters, and what’s caused a movement which is backed by the corporatist U.S. empire to gain support from labor organizers.
The dissonance between the legitimate (or at least understandable) grievances of the anti-Beijing protesters and the solution they’re pursuing is that cutting Hong Kong off from China’s authority would realistically exacerbate Hong Kong’s problems. Alex Au of Liberation News has written that “Seeing no economic future, some protesters blame their woes on Beijing rather than the Hong Kong real estate tycoons who are profiting off increased rent, land speculation, and tax-free profits under legal conditions stipulated by the Hong Kong handover agreement implemented when Chinese sovereignty over the city was formerly restored in 1997.”
While Hong Kong’s Chinese loyalists recognize this reality and have been rallying around the red and yellow flag, those who’ve been won over by Western propaganda have instead waved the red, white and blue flags in the hope that this will bring improvement to their lives.
Hong Kong faces a choice between the continued partial control of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and a move towards a new government that would without a doubt be dominated by Western capitalist interests. Given the collusion among American officials and Hong Kong insurrection leaders that’s already begun to happen, the fulfillment of the anti-Beijing protesters’ demand for an “independent” new government would inevitably entail a U.S. operation to help design this post-coup power structure.
The end result would be what the American corporatocracy has imposed upon the places it’s subdued throughout the last century: mass privatization, deregulation, austerity, and a growing divide between rich and poor that might be enforced through efforts towards militarizing Hong Kong’s society. Hong Kong could become the violence-ridden and impoverished police state that the U.S.’ actions have madeHonduras into.
To stand in solidarity with Hong Kong’s poor and working people, and ultimately to support democracy in Hong Kong, we must combat the propaganda that the West is using to legitimize this attempted corporate coup. A narrative war between Washington and the Chinese Communist Party is well underway; as China tries to expose America’s subversion efforts, state-controlled U.S. media outlets like the New York Times are trying to cast doubt on China’s reports with headlines like “China Is Waging a Disinformation War Against Hong Kong Protesters” and “Beijing’s Paranoia Sees the CIA Under Every Rock.”
If the entire American socialist movement joins in on the effort to reveal the true nature of these protests, Washington and its operatives in Hong Kong will see their ambitions set back further.
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