HONG KONG – the real story behind the protests

The growing influence of the United States in the pro-independence movement in Hong Kong

By Pat Byrne (Brazil) and Khalid Bhatti (Pakistan)   
Published by The Socialist Network 
7th September 2020

Things in Hong Kong are not as they seem. In an Alice in Wonderland scenario right wing political leaders like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, who invariably defend their states against violent attack, now applaud demonstrators in Hong Kong as they confront local police with weapons and firebombs.
Where normally such reactionary capitalist leaders would be condemning damage to shops and businesses, in Hong Kong they have been cheering protestors as they do so on a daily basis.
Likewise, they are loudly condemning the introduction of security laws into Hong Kong which are far less draconian than those that operate in their own countries.

What can explain such glaring contradictions?
How has Hong Kong become such a cause celebre for the far right, fake news brigade?
And why have so many liberals and left-wing commentators on Hong Kong ended up joining common cause with the most reactionary forces on the planet?

What is really going on in Hong Kong? 

Hong Kong has been continuously in the news for the last couple of years. On our television screens we have seen massive pro-democracy marches involving millions of citizens protesting against perceived threats to their democratic rights. And demanding the extension of the vote to cover all governing positions in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Side by side with the peaceful demonstrations have been increasingly violent protests and clashes with the local police.
Now, in order to break the stand off, China has recently introduced a Security Law for Hong Kong which applies the regulations used by most countries against treason and sedition, subversion and sabotage. And begun arresting some of the leaders of the protest movement.
In response to this, the United States, UK and other countries have started to impose sanctions on China.

Britain taking over Hong Kong in its infamous ‘Opium Wars’

British Hypocrisy
As the former colonial power in Hong Kong, Britain is playing a particularly hypocritical role in the current dispute over the Territory.
For example, Britain is demanding the extension of elections in Hong Kong. Yet, it ran the area for 150 years without any elections! In fact, Britain governed Hong Kong as a colony not a democracy.
In the first place, Britain only gained control of Hong Kong and its surrounding territory through naked conquest in the two Opium Wars between 1841-1860. These wars were so-called because of the resistance of the Chinese to the sale by the British of opium from India as unwanted payment for chinese silk, porcelain and tea. Understandably, the Chinese emperor opposed the idea of his population becoming a mass of drug addicts. But the British used their naval technological might to defeat chinese opposition and impose their will. And then demanded the key deep water port of Hong Kong and its surrounding territory as colonial possessions.
During its colonial rule, far from standing up for Hong Kong’s local population as Britain is pretending to do now, the British introduced anti-chinese racial zoning with the best areas in the extremely limited land area reserved solely for europeans (and their servants). Signs were erected in public places such as parks excluding ‘chinese and dogs’.
Under British rule, chinese people in Hong Kong faced many other discriminatory regulations including higher taxes. Plus, a requirement to carry lights and written passes at night which for many poor chinese meant that a curfew operated for them every night.

Democracy Thwarted
At the end of the Second World War there was a worldwide move towards decolonisation. But Britain decided to keep Hong Kong under its control for military and strategic reasons.
In compensation, a promise of more democracy was made in the Young Plan. But, because of the success of the Chinese Communist revolution on the mainland in 1949, and the threat the British felt it posed to their dominance in the region, even these modest proposals for democratic reform were withdrawn in 1952. Thus, leaving the local people of the Territory without any voice at all.
Following the Chinese revolution, many people fled to Hong Kong from the mainland. Some because they had been on the losing right-wing nationalist side. Some because they feared to lose their wealth in the major changes that followed the revolution.
Another wave of refugees came during the late 1950s escaping the poverty and famine of the disastrous Great Leap Forward. And again during the massive disruption of the Cultural Revolution. Unsurprisingly, many of these refugees from the chinese mainland were fanatically anti-communist and have long influenced the political makeup of Hong Kong (HK), rather like the older Cuban exile community in Florida. Only in the last few decades have more ‘normal’ mainlanders come for work or settlement in HK.

Hong Kong’s Handover To China
In 1997 the official lease for Hong Kong between the UK and China came to an end. The British wanted to extend the lease but China demanded the return of its territory. Britain had no practical choice but to comply.
However, there was a major contradiction posed by the Handover. Hong Kong was run on private capitalist lines dominated by a few wealthy families, while the rest of China operated as a bureaucratic planned economy. But it so happened that the Chinese needed a gateway to the world capitalist market for its now booming economy. And so it came forward with the idea of a 50 year ‘One Country, Two Systems’ transitional system which would allow capitalism to continue for a long period in HK, along with various democratic rights of free speech, assembly and private media. Many observers have since assumed that the ‘two systems’ referred to here are only the different political setups in mainland China and HK. But it actually referred to the two different economic and political systems.
In the run up to the Handover, Governor Chris Patten, acting on behalf of Britain’s Thatcher government, cynically introduced a number of democratic changes in order to tie up Beijing in the Accession process and protect capitalism in HK after the handover. This was part of a wider preparation for the transfer which included large scale privatisation of public utilities and the sale of public land to the rich families that dominated Hong Kong.
Thus the 1997 Hong Kong Handover to China Agreement left many things unresolved including the lack of a National Security Law which has only now been introduced.

Hong Kong Since the Handover
Despite repeated forecasts of communist domination and oppression by the mainland since the handover in 1997, Beijing has allowed Hong Kong to remain a capitalist enclave with low taxation, freedom of speech, assembly and press. Indeed, the Cato Institute, a Washington-based, neoliberal think tank set up by the far-right Koch brothers, recently declared it to be third freest place in the world. Ironically, with the United States being in 17th place!
A common image fostered by the right-wing media in Hong Kong is that HK was better off economically under the British. In relative terms this was partly true. But, only because of its role as an exclusive gateway between the world and booming China. Once China allowed direct investment and trade from the rest of the world into mainland China, especially after it joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001, it was no longer necessary for outside companies to go through Hong Kong and vice versa. As a result, HK lost a major part of its attraction to international business and its importance to China’s economy – since the Handover HK has rapidly declined from a position accounting for 20% of China’s GDP to only 3% today. As a result, Hong Kong has fallen behind many mainland Chinese cities including its neighbouring technological powerhouse in Shenzhen.
But this was only a relative decline not an absolute one. Hong Kong still offers many advantages for companies wanting to do business in China. More importantly, in real terms the incredible rise of China’s economy has also raised HK’s standards. Thus, Hong Kong’s GDP has nearly trebled from $165 billions dollars since China took possession in 1997 to $455 billion dollars today, with a corresponding trebling of per capita wealth ($25,000 to $61,000). On the other hand, with the private ownership and massive inequality of capitalist Hong Kong this big increase in wealth has not gone to the ordinary people of HK but overwhelmingly to the capitalist elite.

Comparisons to the Berlin Wall
Comparisons have been regularly made between Hong Kong’s situation and the Berlin Wall erected in Soviet East Germany to prevent its citizens from defecting to the capitalist west. The obvious difference being that HK citizens are free to go back and forth. And unlike East Germany which was considerably poorer than West Germany, mainland China is increasingly on a par with Hong Kong and in some cases is surpassing HK in terms of jobs, living standards, housing and other opportunities.
Thus, there is no need for a Berlin Wall to prevent people from going from the mainland to Hong Kong. Indeed, the flow of people for work is often from HK to China rather than the other way round. To further emphasise the difference between the situation in HK and Berlin, far from trying to impede travel between HK and the mainland, Beijing has spent massive amounts of money to build the world’s longest series of bridges and tunnels to connect Hong Kong and Macau with the mainland. This has dramatically cut down the time it takes to travel between HK and the mainland.
Far from making it extremely difficult for its citizens to travel abroad, for fear of them defecting as the Soviet Bloc did in the 20th century, chinese students, business people and tourists travel freely. Indeed, last year 150 million Chinese tourists travelled on foreign holidays and rather than defecting returned to their homes in China. So much for the prison house image of China portrayed in the western media!

The Pro Democracy Movement
Last year’s protests in Hong Kong were not the first. There had been earlier demonstrations in 2014 with the Umbrella Revolution and the Occupy Central Movement.
The latest upsurge came last year in response to the introduction of a local regulation proposing extradition to China. This arose because of a murder of a Hong Kong woman in Taiwan and the fleeing of her alleged HK murderer back to the territory. There being no extradition treaty between Taiwan and Hong Kong because of Taiwan’s undetermined national status (either as part of China or an independent country), Beijing’s solution was to introduce a rule that allowed people to be extradited from Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland. This frightened many HK residents who feared it would open the way for the extradition of dissidents for punishment on the mainland. Such fears had been stoked by the earlier disappearance of two Hong Kong booksellers who later turned up on the mainland charged with selling books critical of the Chinese leadership.
To voice these fears in HK, a huge movement was launched against the proposed extradition rule helped by the support of the right-wing media. This movement initially represented the majority of people in Hong Kong and included voices from both left and right.
In response to the massive protests of millions of HK people the Chief Executive of the local Legislative Council suspended the proposed extradition rule. The protests continued. Then the rule was withdrawn. But still the protests continued with its demands widening to include: the withdrawal of the extradition bill; retraction of the “riot” characterisation; release of students and the injured; and Lam’s resignation as Chief Executive. A fifth demand went much further in demanding universal suffrage for the whole Legislative Council and the Chief Executive.

Last year’s pro-democracy movement began with massive peaceful crowds

Genuine Protests Morph into a Reactionary Movement
From a broad and peaceful protest the pro-democracy movement rapidly changed into something else. Increasingly, it was taken over by right-wing, pro-American forces and its aims shifted from protecting the democratic rights of Hong Kong people towards denunciation of the chinese political system and for complete secession from China.
A key part of this transformation was the role of the right wing media led by Apple Daily and Next Digital both owned by Jimmy Lai, a well named publisher who copied Rupert Murdoch’s combination of gutter journalism and sex to build up his media brand. Lai, who is a fanatical neoliberal, has played a leading role in directing and funding right wing elements in the protest movement.

Pro-democracy protestors breaking into the Legislative Council

Violent Actions
The pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong soon split into two factions. On one side is a mass movement that demonstrates peacefully in huge numbers. On the other, an extremely violent masked and helmeted action force dressed in black and carrying weapons that call themselves among other things ‘the Braves’.
These ‘Braves’ have become increasingly more aggressive beating up anyone who dares to argue with or oppose them, attacking shops, buildings and important targets such as the local Legislative Council building.

Invading the Legislative Council and raising British colonial flags

In the latter case, hundreds of protesters broke through the glass walls and metal doors and entered the building, ransacked and vandalised the interior with anti-government and anti-People’s Republic of China slogans. They defaced the local Hong Kong flag and city emblems, waved British and colonial flags and sprayed slogans such as “Destroy the Chinese Communist Party,” and “Hong Kong is not China”.
The protestors also blockaded HK’s airport, Hong Kong’s most important lifeline. And have been setting parts of the HK train system on fire. The core of these Braves are easily manipulated 14-15 year olds, even youngsters as young as 11 or 12.
Imagine the reaction of the authorities in America or Europe is such things were to happen there? They would crack down on the perpetrators like a ton of bricks. While there have been incidents of overreaction from the Hong Kong police, in comparison with police actions elsewhere they have been remarkably restrained. In the clashes with protestors one can see them regularly backing away from the demonstrators. As a result, there have been no deaths during the long conflict. Compare that to the way that the police in other countries deal with less violent protests such as the aggressiveness of the police in America with their armored vehicles and military style uniforms and readiness to use rubber bullets, tear gas and batons. Or the number of deaths and serious injuries inflicted by the police against the yellow vest protestors in France. Or the absolute brutality in the way that the pro-Madrid police treated the independence demonstrations in Barcelona. Or the 29 deaths and thousands of injuries used last year against demonstrators in Chile.
Meanwhile, the violent wing of the pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong, while preaching non-violence has been practicing its opposite on a daily basis. Accordingly, they appear with weapons and molotov cocktails, and have beaten women on the streets, burnt people, stabbed a policeman in the neck, and thrown acid on another.
All of their violent acts are edited out of the videos broadcast or used by the foreign media who consciously ignore the comparison with much greater police violence in other parts of the world. But clear evidence has surfaced in hundreds of eyewitness videos posted by shocked, ordinary citizens on Twitter.

New US Destabilisation Strategy – Combining Peaceful Protest with Violent Assault
Normally, non-violent mass movements distance themselves from the destructive actions of minority violent factions. But in the case of Hong Kong, both sides have a pact to positively support each other irrespective of the actions taken. Thus, the non-violent side refuses to criticise or distance itself from the violent side, and vice versa.
In contrast to the Ghandian non-violent tactics of civil disobedience, this is part of a new CIA/Defence Department strategy that combines mass protests with violent attacks including firebombing on police, institutions and civilians. This strategy has clearly become a key part of the CIA’s manual of operations designed to destabilise governments and effect regime change.
This new strategy uses the highly detailed, non-violent tactics of the late Gene Sharp which sought to overthrow dictatorships. And then co-opted them into something entirely different. In particular, former American Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, Col. Robert Helvey, helped to develop “a blueprint that weaponized protest as a form of hybrid warfare, aiming it at states that resisted Washington’s domination.”
The CIA took this further and integrated the strategy with violence including the use of unemployed youth as thugs.

The Example of Venezuela
This approach has been used in a number of pro democracy uprisings around the world. But nowhere has its method of operation been more clearly demonstrated than in Venezuela. As far back as 2005, with Chavez at the peak of his popularity, five right wing Venezuelan student activists identified by the US as promising candidates were sent to Serbia to begin training in civil disobedience insurrectionary tactics. One of these was none other than Juan Guaidó, later to become America’s self-declared alternative “leader” of Venezuela.
These student activists began their work in 2007 leading protests in defence of the right-wing media. Then in 2010, a plan for widespread street violence in Venezuela was developed at a meeting in Mexico. After Maduro was elected President in 2013 in succession to Chavez, the plan was put into operation. Barricades were erected across the country, turning opposition-controlled quarters into violent fortresses known as guarimbas. These tactics of violent disruption proceeded over the course of several years and resulted in massive damage to Venezuela’s economic and social life, along with the deaths of hundreds of civilians through the widespread use of fire to burn property and individuals.
The aim of the street barricades was to destabilise the country and was part of preparations for a hoped-for coup by the venezuelan military to overthrow the Maduro government. However, the venezuelan army has been so radicalised by the struggles of the last two decades and the continuing influence of Chavez’s popular ideological legacy, it has been unwilling to be used in these US-hatched plans for overturning the democratic institutions of the country.
In the absence of a coup, the never ending barricades and street violence began to alienate even the majority of the anti-Maduro middle class.

Clear Parallels between Venezuela and Hong Kong
The widespread use of street violence by the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong has paralleled the experience of Venezuela. While such tactics might work in a short sharp protest uprising, the longer they continue the more they serve to alienate the wider public. It was to avoid such reactions that the Ghandian protest movements were so insistent on rejecting violence and disassociating themselves from it.
The same process has happened in Hong Kong. From having a large majority behind them in the early days, many citizens have become disgusted and frightened by the tactics of the violent minority. And grown weary by the constant disruption and economic dislocation that have resulted from it. No wonder that 3 million HK citizens, nearly half of the adult population, have now signed a petition supporting the new Security Law introduced by Beijing. This is a devastating setback to the image of a protest movement that was supposed to represent the vast majority of HK’s population.

Ordinary worker disagreeing with attack on train station is set on fire by ‘the braves’

The Role of US Agencies in the Protest Movement
There is growing evidence that the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong has been operating with the close assistance of US government agencies. Despite this, there is a reluctance by some commentators to openly admit that the HK protest movement is being directed or influenced by an American intelligence operation for fear of being accused of supporting conspiracy theories. However, what would be very strange would be if the Central Intelligence Agency and its front groups were not organising a major operation in Hong Kong. Especially, given the history of the CIA which since the 1953 coup in Iran onwards has been shown to be involved in trying to overthrow almost every government deemed to be acting against American interests.
China is now declared America’s ‘enemy number one’ and Venezuela its ‘enemy number two’. Are we seriously expected to believe that it has only been operating a regime change policy in Venezuela and not in Hong Kong?
So, the question is not: is there a CIA conspiracy in Hong Kong? But, why wouldn’t there be?
In fact, the CIA and its complementary agencies in the US, the State Department, USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, etc. are all fully supporting the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong politically, financially and tactically. As such, they are supporting the opposition parties and put millions of dollars into last year’s elections to the District Councils.
Naturally, the US agencies have supported the frequent trips of pro democracy leaders to America and Europe. For example, to the so-called ‘Summer of Discontent’ hearings that were held last year in the US Congress with Joshua Wong, Denise Jo and Nathan Law talking to US lawmakers about how to “contain China”.
It also appears that the US have helped train some of the student leaders of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement who emerged in the 2014 protests. Just like they did in Venezuela. For example, leading HK pro democracy leader Joshua Wong was filmed several years ago attending seminars on how to organise civil disobedience actions at the Oslo Freedom Forum, another US financed right-wing front group.
Meanwhile, a whole number of US intelligence agents have been identified accompanying and advising the leading figures in the pro-democracy movement.
Meanwhile, right wing US Senators fly over and openly walk around the pro-democracy demonstrations. And in the demonstrations we now see the regular sight of American flags and posters saying things like: ‘President Trump, please liberate us‘.
If the pro-democracy movement were a genuine movement for independence why are they flying British and US flags and not their own independence flags? And why are they singing the US Anthem and not their own local songs?

What is America and the UK’s Strategy?
Hong Kong is clearly being used in the geopolitical conflict between the US and its allies on one side, and China and its allies on the other. The US and the UK know that China will never allow Hong Kong to break away and are cynically using the pro-democracy protestors to help them in their new cold war against China.
Part of this strategy was to use Hong Kong’s Legislative Council elections due this month to further destabilise and undermine China’s authority in the Territory. Just as they did in Venezuela, US agencies have used their financial and political power to force the bickering and divided right-wing and liberal parties in Hong Kong to work together. Thus, we have seen the highly unusual agreement of the various opposition parties and factions in HK to conduct a joint primary in which they all agreed in advance to respect the results and present a united front in the September elections for half the seats of the Legislative Council. This was likely to lead to a sweeping victory for the pro-democracy movement and the potential emergence of a leading figure that the US, UK etc. could then declare as the true leader and voice of Hong Kong. As they did with Juan Guaidó in Venezuela. Recognising this person as the ‘real leader’ of the territory, parading him or her around the world in a big propaganda effort to build support for sanctions against China.
No doubt, China has recognised the possibility of such an outcome. Accordingly, the elections have been postponed until the summer of 2021, and actions are being taken in Hong Kong to break up the united front arising from the primary by disqualifying many candidates and arresting some on charges of collusion with external powers.

More US Hypocrisy
In public, the most reactionary Republican US Congress representatives and senators have been praising the protestors in Hong Kong to the skies calling them “heroes”. At the same time they are describing the millions in the US protesting against police violence against black people as “thugs”.
Likewise, throughout last year the US threatened China with major consequences if it introduced a curfew to deal with the riots in Hong Kong (which it didn’t). Then the US went on to to rapidly introduce curfews in many American cities in response to the Black Lives Matters protests.
Then, there were threats made against China if it brought its People Liberation Army units onto the streets of Hong Kong, but despite the length, ferocity and destructiveness of the violent actions last year the chinese army never once appeared on the streets. Contrast this to America to see how quickly the army was brought onto its streets to confront the anti-racist protests.
But do the international media highlight such double standards? Of course not. They are up to their necks in a one-sided propaganda war against China.

Racism Against Mainland Chinese
Another objectionable side to Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy movement is its growing racism against the mainland Chinese population. Throughout this whole period there have been an increasing number of racist attacks on mainland Chinese with insulting signs appearing in some pro-democracy restaurants and businesses refusing trade with mainland chinese. This has been translated into actual assaults on mainlanders.
We see this racism even reflected among the elected political representatives of the pro-democracy movement such as its district councillors.
The negative results of this have been entirely predictable. At the beginning of the campaign there was significant support in mainland China for the protest movement. But this anti-mainland Chinese racism has killed that support. This combined with the violence and unreasonableness of the protests have united chinese people on the mainland behind the new Security Law and its application to the pro-democracy movement.
Normally the leadership of a genuinely local movement in Hong Kong would have recognised that they needed to win the mainland chinese people’s support for their demands. But they actually did the opposite. Undoubtedly, this was because they were encouraged by the US and British to believe that they could achieve the dream of independence. To this end, the leaders of the protest were feted around Washington where they addressed Congress and the White House, and later in London and the European Union. The many promises of money and support they received abroad obviously went to their head.
Now that China has begun to take even minimal action against the pro-American pro-democracy leadership in recent weeks, the bubble has quickly burst. A number of key protest leaders like Nathan Law have fled to the West while the others have resigned their positions and folded up their organisations, despite previously boasting that they would rather die than give up the cause.

Pressing Local issues
There are a number of social and economic problems in Hong Kong that need serious attention. Top of these is a growing housing crisis. Major progress is being made on this in China but not in Hong Kong. Accommodation is actually getting smaller and smaller in newer apartments with the animals in HK’s zoo have bigger living space! At the heart of the problem is the ownership of so much land by a few wealthy families who are only interested in the building of luxury apartments and office buildings. This is a legacy of the British who ruled Hong Kong in favour of these property tycoons. In the period before they left they sold a lot of land off to just four companies, plus many other public utilities and assets. So, these ruling families virtually own HK.
Other problems facing HK’s citizens include rising unemployment, especially among younger people, and an increasing cost of living rising beyond the reach of ordinary people living in the Territory.
Elected representatives of the pro-democracy movement have been criticised for not addressing these issues but they say that the priority has to be to deal first with the relationship between China and Hong Kong. In this way, they show that their real allegiance is to their rich backers and not the ordinary citizens of HK.
Even where major progress has been made such as in transport, the pro-democracy movement is so against steps to improve links with the mainland that they have been trying to persuade people not to use the new high speed train.

The Left in Hong Kong
There is a significant left-wing movement in Hong Kong. But much of it has become overshadowed by the increasingly right-wing pro-democracy movement. Many on the left in Hong Kong go along with this because they think that China is just another form of capitalism whether state capitalist or dictatorial capitalist. So they see it as a struggle between two capitalist factions the outcome of which need not concern them.
We don’t have space here to deal with this superficial and illogical position, but if China was just another version of capitalism why would the international champions of capitalism be trying so hard to overturn it? And be framing this as an anti-communist struggle into the bargain? The reality is that the US, the UK, the EU etc. are against China because it is an alternative economic system that threatens their future rule. A planned economy in which the state, the publicly-owned banks and state-owned enterprises dominate the economy and effectively dictate the direction of its private companies. Where public investment is at the heart of development. A form of economy that they see as directly counterposed to their own capitalist economies which are unplanned and dominated by the private sector.
It is no accident that all the talk is of a Second Cold War. The First Cold War was between the capitalist countries on one side and the planned economies of the Soviet Bloc and China on the other. This is now being replaced by a new cold war against the state-managed economy of China. The difference this time around is that the Chinese planned economy is proving itself more and more effective than its capitalist rivals. This explains the growing intensity of the media propaganda war against China and the attempts to isolate and sanction it.

Which Way Forward for Hong Kong
In our view, the first thing for the Left in Hong Kong is to disassociate itself from the pointless calls for independence from China – after waiting more than a century for it to be returned, there is no way that China is going to allow Hong Kong to be separated from the rest of the country. Indeed, the idea that HK would do better by breaking away is lunacy. For one thing, by separating it would very quickly lose its unique advantages in relation to the chinese mainland and have to compete as just another financial centre / tax haven. And this would just see its already high inequality intensify even further for ordinary HK citizens.
As it happens, a plurality of residents in HK (37%) see their future more with mainland China than in closer relations with the United States (30%), according to a recent poll by London-based Redfield & Wilton Strategies.
Instead of seeking to break away from China, the logical road for Hong Kong is to positively accept itself as part of it. To co-operate more closely with the mainland and gain from its growing employment opportunities, rising living standards, housing facilities and so on. And to build upon HK’s autonomy and major freedoms as a model for the rest of China to follow.
On the economic front, the mainland has proposed the development of an integrated Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) as a triangle area for development which would include Hong Kong, Macau and the whole Guangdong province (which includes the technology hub of Shenzen). This region, covering 80 million population would be the most open and vibrant economic area in the whole of China.
To facilitate such integration, Beijing has offered special facilities to those HK residents who wish to work in Guangdong such as continued tax exemption, free local schooling, health etc. However, the pro-democracy movement has spurned such offers in favour of a programme for independence. In contrast, fellow ex-colony Macau has responded more positively, and its growth and development is reflecting this.

A Capitalist Future for Hong Kong?
Under the Handover Agreement capitalism in Hong Kong is only guaranteed until 2046. That is just one generation away. Now is the time to begin to take steps to move on from HK’s incredibly unequal model of property ownership and financial capitalism. Far from the common image of a Hong Kong of skyscrapers and prosperity, out of 7.5 million people in HK there are 1.37 million living below the poverty line.
The Left in Hong Kong needs to be able to reach ordinary HK citizens and give them the chance to voice their demands for increased public housing and renovation, better wages, affordable transport, more secure jobs, an end to the super exploitation of immigrant labour, and so on. And work together with them in genuine methods of co-productive design and partnership through which to develop a democratic socialist plan to overcome these problems. A new model of democratic public ownership and public investment that can shape the Territory’s economy in the interest of the mass of its citizens.

The Issue of Democracy
Hong Kong already has key elements of democracy in the form of free speech and assembly. The proposal to extend the right of citizens to vote for the whole of the Legislative Council and to have a directly elected Chief Executive appears on face value to be an eminently reasonable demand that would further provide the citizens of HK with a real say in the future of their city. However, this is a mirage. Behind this demand lie the rich tycoons of HK who intend to combine this extension of the franchise with their existing ownership of media channels and political parties to extend their power and wealth.
As we can see from competitive capitalist democratic systems elsewhere, gaining the vote does not mean gaining real power. The rich are able to manipulate the narrow and limited democracies of the West to deliver what they want and shut out the demands of the mass of the population. That is why all the western governments are being able to systematically reduce living standards and public services in face of popular discontent.
HK citizens should not be listening to the false promises of Trump or Boris Johnson who constantly lie to their own populations as they push them further into inequality and poverty. Nor to link its fortunes to the declining and decaying West.
The Left in Hong Kong needs to urgently separate themselves from and expose the violent forces in the pro-democracy movement. And to support the demand for all foreign funding and manipulation to be ended and punished – all those parties and individuals in HK who have accepted it should be publicly disgraced and barred from public life.
If HK citizens really want a say in the future of their territory they will need a very different kind of democracy beginning with the democratisation of the newspapers, television and social media. To this end, they need to create grassroots organisations with independent public funding to ensure that they have independent voices free from elite support and manipulation. The ordinary people of Hong Kong need a real democracy that delivers full participation in the decisions that affect their lives.
Hong Kong does not need to move towards the fake capitalist model of democracy. We have seen the results of this in the Soviet Union and Eastern European where the peoples’ hopes of a post-stalinist society were betrayed and power ended up in the hands of a few rich oligarchs. A better HK cannot be based on a society owned by a rich elite but by a truly democratic and publicly-owned system. Such a real democracy could provide a very attractive model for the rest of China instead of alienating them as it now does.

Hong Kong’s future cannot be to fruitlessly go it alone. Or to rely on the hypocritical support of the reactionary rulers of America, Europe and Australasia who seek to use HK’s citizens as pawns in their rivalry with China.
The people of Hong Kong should reject the racist and short-sighted anti-mainland voices. Instead, they need to grow closer to the fast expanding Chinese economic system and benefit from its success. And to use HK’s existing autonomy and freedoms to develop new forms of democratic public power that can appeal throughout China.

This article is the first of a series on the nature of Chinese society and the challenges facing it. It will include original insights and positive proposals for how China can better answer its critics and overcome its current problems. If you would like to receive future articles on this subject or give us feedback please send a message to us at our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thesocialistnetwork

Leave a comment