The Nature of the Hong Kong Protests

Democratic freedoms aside, many nations in the world but particularly the U.S., Britain and China have interests to protect in Hong Kong, writes Mary Beaudoin.

Entrance to the Cross-Harbour Tunnel in Hong Kong. (Hokachung, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Mary Beaudoin
WAMM Newsletter 

Should peace and justice advocates support pro-democracy efforts whenever they arise in the world? Even some U.S. alternative media identifying as liberal and progressive have joined the chorus, portraying the protests in Hong Kong as the noble pursuit of democratic freedoms, brave resistance to the authoritarian Chinese government oppressing the people.

Democratic freedoms aside, many nations in the world but particularly the U.S., Britain and China have interests to protect in Hong Kong. The island-city is a special administrative district within China with a unique history. It was subject to British colonial rule for approximately 150 years but, under an agreement with the People’s Republic of China, in 1997 it was returned to China and governed as “one country, two systems” with its own legal and administrative systems. Hong Kong’s special status enabled it to become a leading financial center and tax haven for international corporations. Its free market is so free from regulation and accountability that the conservative American think tank, the Heritage Foundation, has consistently ranked the city as No. 1 in its Index of Economic Freedom.

The arrangement has been of mutual benefit to both foreigners and the PRC. As a Reuters primer explains: “China uses Hong Kong’s currency, equity, and debt markets to attract foreign funds, while international companies use Hong Kong as a Launchpad to expand into mainland China.” 

Waters of then-British Hong Kong as viewed from space in 1994. (Wikimedia Commons)

Hong Kong’s particular legal characteristics have not only enabled China to rise as an economic power and shelter foreign corporations from taxes and tariffs but they have also allowed an individual to get away with murder. That’s because Hong Kong lacks an extradition treaty for those who commit crimes in Taiwan and China. When a resident of Hong Kong was alleged to have murdered his pregnant girlfriend while on vacation in Taiwan in 2018, the accused fled back to Hong Kong where he couldn’t be prosecuted. Hong Kong’s administrative government attempted to amend its extradition law as a result of the incident. But protesters claimed extradition would extend to overreach by the People’s Republic and cause Hong Kong citizens to be deprived of their freedoms.

Anti-Extradition Protests

The following commentary, complaining of Washington’s and London’s interference in Chinese internal affairs, appeared in the government-sponsored China Daily, HK edition:

“There are two reasons why they chose the extradition law amendment bill as a turning point in their disruptive Hong Kong strategy. One is their failure to seize Hong Kong’s governing power through their political proxies with ‘true democracy’ as an excuse. The other one is the need to facilitate the U.S. government’s updated global strategy since 2018 that regards China as its main rival.” – Zhou Bajun.

The protesters looked to London to assist them in their cause. Wearing hardhats, they smashed into the Hong Kong legislative chambers and raised the Union Jack. On the street, people could be heard singing the British anthem “God Save the Queen” while waving the flag of their former colonial master. 

But it’s not just the British that protesters appealed to for support. American flags were also prominent in street protests. The leader of the Hong Kong activist organization Demosisto, Joshua Wong, called for outside intervention by the U.S., Western Europe and Japan to “liberate Hong Kong.”

And U.S. Officials Responded

With Wong by her side, on Sept. 18, 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a press conference in Washington on human rights in Hong Kong. Something not lost on astute observers was that she made a statement reminiscent of one delivered by Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland in 2013, when, against the backdrop of a Chevron logo, Nuland praised “the brave people of the Maidan” as she encouraged the overthrow of the Ukrainian government in a color revolution. Pelosi welcomed the “very brave champions for democracy, for freedom of expression in Hong Kong,” advocating for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 (H.R. 3289) “to send an unequivocal message that the protesters of Hong Kong have the full support and backing of the United States in their quest for justice and freedom.”

On Oct. 13, in an interview with CBS Face the Nation,”Ted Cruz, the U.S. senator from Texas, in a new rad persona, announced from Hong Kong: “I’m here, I’m dressed in all black standing in solidarity with the protesters.” (When asked about reported violence, Cruz later claimed not to have observed any.)

Hong Kong protesters waving U.S. flags. (YouTube)

This color revolution is characterized by wearing black clothing. Fewer in number than the masses of protesters in the street were those among them disguised by masks and with helmets protecting their heads, causing mayhem by destroying the commons – subway stations, buses, and the Hong Kong International Airport – as well as local businesses. These actors wielded steel rods, have beaten people considered the opposition, and threw gasoline bombs at police. Asia Times columnist Pepe Escobar, who lived in Hong Kong, describes the destructive acts as black bloc tactics borrowed from anarchist groups but more incendiary than the usual.

Back in the U.S., the House of Representatives passed additional legislation based on the “responsibility to protect,” the humanitarian interventionist policy used to defend people in foreign countries from their own governments on the premise that they need to be protected and the U.S. should do it. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act passed the House with bipartisan support on Oct. 15. The House also passed a resolution condemning the Chinese government in Beijing and, in addition, the Protect Hong Kong Act, which restricts non-lethal crowd control equipment exports to Hong Kong. (While in July, the U.S. State Department had approved $2 billion in arms sales to Taiwan and continues, under the 1033 program, to allow local U.S. law enforcement agencies to obtain surplus military equipment.) As of this writing, the Hong Kong bills are expected to pass in the Senate. 

A port in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong. (I, WiNG, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Comparing this to American media and government reactions to our own protests, the China Daily commented: “It’s not hard to imagine the United States’ reaction if Chinese diplomats met leaders of Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, or Never Trump protesters.”

The ordinary people of Hong Kong do have reason to be angry. The city is the most expensive in the world to live in with the highest rent, according to Deutsche Bank’s 2019 “Mapping the World’s Prices.” Many people experience extreme poverty. But their anger is directed at the Hong Kong city administration and Beijing, not the wealth gap.

Jimmy Lai, the Hong Kong billionaire and media mogul, widely believed to be funding the Hong Kong protests, came to the United States in early July to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and some senators. His visit to Washington was preceded in March by a delegation of Hong Kong “democracy” advocates.

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) fosters movements in foreign countries. Since its inception during the Reagan administration in 1983, the NED, a private foundation funded by the U.S. government but for which there is no government oversight, has been providing grants to nonprofit organizations, labor, and political parties in foreign countries to influence their populations. It boasts of the ability “to respond quickly where there is a need for political change.” In 1991, Allen Weinstein, NED founder and acting president said, “A lot of what we do today was done 25 years ago by the CIA.” David Ignatius as the foreign editor of the Washington Post, referred approvingly to the NED as “the sugar daddy of overt operations.”

“The NED should be called the “National Endowment for Attacking Democracy,” says Stephen Kinzer, who wrote “America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq” (Henry Holt & Co., 2007).

In a not to be missed video, Mintpress News Editor Mnar A. Muhawesh pointed out that neo-cons, the notorious Elliot Abrams and Victoria Nuland [her again] sit on the NED board of directors. Muhawesh reports that:

“Since 2014, the year of Hong Kong’s Umbrella protests, the NED has officially poured over $29 million dollars into the island city in order to identify new avenues for democracy and political reform. But as the NED has already identified the Chinese government as despotic and a threat to democracy, this means that much of that money is de facto supporting groups to undermine that government and as Mintpress has previously reported much of that money went to the current groups that organized the protests.”

Dimsum Daily, a Hong Kong-focused internet publication reporting from Norway on Aug. 16, 2019, also traced the current anti-extradition protests back to Hong Kong’s 2014 Occupy Central (part of the Umbrella movement of agitators):

“In an article we wrote yesterday, we detailed that the frontline anti-extradition protesters were potentially funded by Jimmy Lai and the American National Endowment for Democracy. Co-incidentally, Oslo Freedom Forum is also a New York-based non-profit Human Rights Foundation founded by human rights activist Thor Halvorssen. As exposed by the BBC documentary (website), 10,000 protesters during Occupy Central were trained as early as two years ago. Hence, it is highly possible that thousands of anti-extradition protesters were trained in 2017 or even 2018 to prepare themselves for the current anti-extradition protest.”

NOTE: Since this writing there is no longer access to Dimsum Daily through Google. The search engine is reported blocking sites critical of the Hong Kong protests.

Sara Flounders of the New York-based International Action Center, which advocates against war and racism, locates the Hong Kong demonstrations within a true global perspective of empire: “The escalating demonstrations are linked to the U.S. trade war, tariffs and military encirclement of China. Four hundred — half — of the 800 U.S. overseas military bases surround China.

Our antiwar call should be: “U.S. out of Hong Kong and the Asia Pacific!”

Mary Beaudoin is the editor of the “Women Against Military Madness Newsletter.”

This article is from the Women Against Military Madness Newsletter.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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12 comments for “The Nature of the Hong Kong Protests

  1. Lawrence Magnuson
    December 1, 2019 at 00:53

    First rate, clarifying and putting a lot of this together in the best way I’ve seen and I’v followed this since the late summer. Thank you.

  2. Tobin
    November 28, 2019 at 16:33

    I unite with the comments I’ve read. This should be part of reading for anyone not up on anything but msm accounts of HK protests. However, I was able to access the Dimsum Daily site through Google. It may well be that links to certain articles have been blocked or otherwise manipulated, like the embedded one in the story.

    • November 29, 2019 at 06:28

      Dimsum Daily became inaccessible at the time of the final fact check of the article but later could be accessed.

  3. Zhu
    November 28, 2019 at 08:36

    Hong Kong prospered for couple decades after 1949 because the PRC focused all its foreign there. Now, Canton and Shanghai are open to the world again, and Hong Kong has lost its reason for existing. Meanwhile, Hong Kong govrrnment has allowed monopolies and cattels to keep prices high, wages low. Ordinary people are hard pressed, without much prospect of improvement. In Shenzhen across the border, wages and prices are rather more reasonable.

  4. November 27, 2019 at 22:36

    NOTE: Since this writing there is no longer access to Dimsum Daily through Google. The search engine is reported blocking sites critical of the Hong Kong protests.

    It is not that simple. I just searched “Dimsum Daily” and got access to their website. The blocking is in Google News that uses some opaque method (manipulates, if you will) to determine “allowed sources”. For Hong Kong, these would be leading Western press agencies and “most reputable” sites like NPR and Washington Post, only from USA and UK. No lowlives that actually live in Hong Kong were deemed not ready for Google News. Sometimes a wider spectrum of opinion is tolerated, e.g. Deutche Welle, and at some times and some topics one could see Al Masdar News on Syria etc.

  5. Hide Behind
    November 27, 2019 at 11:29

    Democracy, what form, Classroom, ideals, or actuality, and then there is the questions of what is of more import sovereignty of the person, or sovereignty of a National Government.
    In Hong Kong’s case it seems the masses do not care what government they want installed to be sovereign over them, note the preponderance of US and British Flags, it is financial relief, and a belief instilled after 150, actually 300 years of foreign rulers that they are seperate peoples than mainland Chinese.
    British and other Nations took over Hong Kong as a major import export clear Back before the Opium Wars, and during years Of British Colonial Wars there were many an uprising against the British by Hong Kong residents that the Briyish Military using local police put down violently, no rubber bullets back then.
    The educational system is modeled much the same as British with a two tiered , one where wealthiest send their children to become educated managers of buisness and government and the other where those less wealthy find their children trained in skills needed for industry and small buisness, or
    construction and maintenance of infrastucture.
    The real economy has always had but a minority of born and raised residents that own and controll its capital formations, and a government whose soul purpose has been to control the people through heavy taxation of the masses but hands off the Buisness sector.
    An economy where those who rule are actually owners of its sovereign wealth, use its banking to finance their endeavors.
    Nothing is built, no new Buisness allowed to enter and some are removed outright that compete against long standing rivals.
    The demographics of students by US own figures shows a vast preponderance of upper income students, and those tourist, couple hundreds of thousands adults and tens of thousands of students yearly, go to foreign nations, Europe, US, Australia and Canada.
    Cultural exchange student programs, funded by pseudo non government funds of politicly oriented US Think Tank tax free non profit organizationsre, Carnsgie, Ford Hudson And CFR affiliated groups, which are part and parcel of the Empires Intelligence and Militarys Full Spectrum Warfare Policy.
    There is little left that China mainland can do, even 50 years from now to ever gain full sovereign control over Hong Kong.
    China needs that financial clearing house as much as foreign interest need it, they are in a symbiotic relationship.
    Hong Kong cannot fully support its growing numbers of youth to the same standards of upward mobility of past, the aged are complacent and comfortable having grown semi affluent under old systems but are now seeing those comforts being reduced as most are no longer contributors to economy.
    Can China infuse foreign capital away from Hong Kong and into some newly constructed financial center?
    It is doubtful because the economic system of Hong Kong is largely outside of normal channels, more s tax haven and money Laundering part of the massive off shore tax haven economies of wealthy individuals and Crooked politicos and Crooked Government officials world wide.
    China in last 20 years has been worlds leader in cracking down on all forms of Domestic financial corruption, and due to geopolitical situation cannot get criminals that skip outside their borders returned.
    Criminals that used Hong Kong’s financial systems to move their illegal gains into foreign based and untouchable off shore banking.
    Wealthy tax and other wealth stolen from China does find outlets for investment in US and other European economies, money does make world go round.
    Many a foreign holder of illegal funds in off shore banks can be induced to contribute funds to Democracy movements, and in return be guaranteed protection from prosecution both from old homeland and within their new homes.

  6. Mike Madden
    November 27, 2019 at 10:41

    Citizen journalists like Ms. Beaudoin put the mainstream “professionals” to shame. Thank you CN for publishing this excellent piece.

  7. Donald Duck
    November 27, 2019 at 07:08

    All rather reminiscent of the Ukrainian Maidan. The protesters wanted to be in the EU/US zone to enjoy the putative ‘freedoms’ of the west. What they got was rather different, and they have had plenty of time to rue their actions. I think this HK brouhaha could be a rerun. Ukraine is now ruled by a combination of ruthless oligarchs and neo-nazi militias. It is also the poorest country in Europe. There should be a lesson there for the young protesters in HK. Don’t trust the west or you’ll be sorry. In the meantime enjoy your riots.

  8. elmerfudzie
    November 27, 2019 at 02:20

    The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 paves the way for a much wider examination of both the CCP and IMF-World Bank policies towards Island nations such as Taiwan, Cuba, Philippines, Haiti, Puerto Rico, even Greece and many more. Domestic riots, economic distress, U.S. or rather, deep state inspired coups, interference’s by international corporate entities must be met with a new Enlightenment. I say Enlightenment because history itself is turning a page not unlike the eighteenth century Age of Enlightenment that rose from the ashes of a collapsing Roman Empire, currently several empires. Again, looking back over many centuries we find a China that willingly opened up gates along an Ancient Wall, mingling with the western Occident nations by land via a Silk Road and sea, by maritime trade. This decision was an invitation to disaster because the west is plagued with many assorted Black Death(s). unregulated financial speculation, capitalist imperialism, fascism, illegal narcotics, corporatism and a host of other ills. Maoists with their Great Leap Forward policies, were and are in a word, agony for the Chinese. This agony still persists for the ninety nine percent of the population and even tho an upper middle class has suddenly appeared, approximately four hundred million, must be acknowledged as nothing short of a miracle, a staggering achievement. That said, Chinese citizens stage daily riots that our MSM never heard of or refuse to broadcast. The rural provinces suffer from many human rights violations not only within Hong Kong. Now to my point….

    The CCP views the Western Occident nations including its greatest trading partner the USA as an enemy, despite the presence of many, formerly American, corporate manufacturing and R & D facilities now situated on their soil, who’s influences must be carefully sifted through bureaucratic Maoist fingers before assimilating foreign technologies, inventions, financial instruments, corporate law, currencies, religious ideologies or other belief systems. In stark contradiction to Marxism, these same members of the CCP enjoy a lavish life style with supreme powers over their peoples, in effect a cabal of aristocracy. As this epic historical page turns, a grand treatise has appeared on the internet, nothing short of another Magna Carta begins to emerge for island nations everywhere. Island peoples and their equivalents, historical plights, sufferings, have made the rest of humanity aware of the ever present, Big Brother Syndrome.

    I’d like to witness our POTUS, Xi and other members of the G 8 (not G 7), stand together at the podium of the UN to announce the creation of a New Deal, for the world’s island nations; French Polynesia, Cook, Marshall, the Samoans, Macao, Madagascar, Guam, Malta and others previously mentioned here, to recognize them as any other intergovernmental alliance such as SCO, ASEAN, BRICS and so on. More than a another seat, more than a permanent mission to the UN rather a recognized and unified voice with a separate assembly, creating a Head Quarters at par with the UN, negotiating on behalf of all these disparate peoples and nations. A single diplomatic corps interacting with governments, bankers, corporations, NGO’s et cetra. This action will put to rest, the whole ugliness of disenfranchisement, poverty, helpless, no longer under the thumb of powerful conquistadors, but instead with a new optimism that encourages taking charge of domestic and foreign issues collectively, among themselves.

    These are my hopeful thoughts to share with everyone. Some or all these suggestions may actually move the doomsday clock from two minutes to a half hour!

  9. jaycee
    November 26, 2019 at 22:55

    Leaders of the protests were also in Washington in May, before the protests started. During a meeting with Sec State Pompeo the importance , to the US politicians, of passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act was stressed. Sure enough, random protesters quoted in the media early in the event (June/July) mentioned the Act as something they supported. The Act will likely be a prime generator of future meddling.

    China has not broken with any provision of the Basic Law, which codifies the relationship between the mainland and Kong Kong. Claims of Chinese encroachment on Hong Kong’s freedoms rely on referral to 1984’s Joint Declaration between China and UK. The Declaration was not a binding treaty, and its brief itemizing of aspirational generalities was designed to lead to the binding Basic Law. The conflation of the two, or the deliberate misrepresentation of the 1984 statement as a legal document (G7 statement from August), is a bad faith measure which relies on most persons’ lack of knowledge or understanding of these differences.

    It’s hard to tell if Hong Kong’s “pro-democracy” leaders are being deliberately provocative and confrontational through their acceptance/alliance with the potentially malign intentions of their western patrons, or whether they are just naive.

  10. Jeff Harrison
    November 26, 2019 at 19:00

    Ms. Beaudoin left out that the 1 country 2 systems agreement lasts only 50 years. HK will fully revert to being Chinese weather the HKers or the US likes it or not. We would be unwise to try to pry HK away from China as we have pried so much of Eastern (or as my wife would have it, Central) Europe way from Russia.

  11. Antiwar7
    November 26, 2019 at 14:11

    This is an accurate summary. All of the worst violence, reprehensible atrocities, has been caused by the protesters. And it seems their main motivation is a racist hatred of mainland Chinese. It’s appropriate they wear black.

Comments are closed.