Hong Kong is fast becoming another frontline in the struggle between East and West, between the forces of unipolarity and multipolarity.
The initial proximate cause of the unrest in this semi-autonomous former British colony – as those who’ve been following this crisis will know – was controversy over the city’s authorities attempt to introduce an extradition bill that would have meant those accused of crimes on or involving mainland China, and who had fled to Hong Kong or were resident there, could be sent for trial back in China.
The fact the extradition bill has been suspended in the face of the protests has done nothing to blunt their momentum. Instead the protests have grown in size and militancy, to the point where the possibility of the Chinese deploying troops to the city to quash them with force looms ever larger.
Underlying this crisis, of which the proposed extradition bill was merely a catalyst, is the fact that two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time. In other words, the ‘one country, two systems’ mode of governance, which has been in place since Britain relinquished its sovereignty over Hong Kong to China in 1997, is an inbuilt contradiction that could never have remained long-term.
Either Hong Kong is fully independent and autonomous, or it is fully part of Chinese sovereign territory and governed as such.
The protests, which have been going on for two months, are, on the surface, driven by the collective determination of thousands living in the city to push back against Beijing’s creeping encroachment on the city’s state of semi-autonomy and the rights enjoyed by its residents as part of that status.
There does come a point, however, when the question of ‘what’ is behind the protests must give way to the question of ‘who’ is behind them?
Far be it from me to allege or claim the active involvement of external forces. But equally it would be utterly naïve, given the malign legacy of the series of so-called ‘color revolutions’ in Eastern Europe in the 1990s, Maidan, Kiev in 2014, and other places too numerous to mention, to completely rule out the possibility.
Interestingly, this particular ‘possibility’ when it comes to the unrest in Hong Kong is supported by recent images, circulated by Chinese media, of leading activists engaged in the protests in the company of Julie Eadeh, political chief of the US Consulate in the city. Perhaps they just happened to find themselves in the same hotel lobby, at the same time, and the meeting was entirely innocuous.
And perhaps pigs can fly.
The presence of Western mainstream media representatives in the city, which in the accustomed manner arrived in great profusion to cover (or cheer on?) the unrest, tells its own story.
That many of these journalists would have had to have flown over France to get there – the same France, where for the past 40 weeks or so, has seen thousands of protestors in yellow vests taking to the streets to demand an end to President Macron’s rule, and experienced the tender mercies of the French riot police for their trouble – will not be lost on those who retain the ability to tie their own shoelaces.
Such a heavy Western media presence will inarguably have been a serious factor in the growing militancy of the protestors, people with a vested interest in inviting a heavy police and security crackdown by which to stir and attract the support of Western public opinion. Speaking of which, as if lifted straight from the color revolutions playbook, a huge proportion of the signs being wielded by the protestors happen to be in English. Funny that.
Oh, and let not us not allow the activities of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Hong Kong detain us either. After all, according to the website of this most notorious of US NGOs, in 2018 it only threw chunks of money at various programs designed to ‘expand workers rights and democracy,’ ‘facilitate engagement on Hong Kong’s growing threats to guaranteed rights,’ and to ‘strengthen democratic institutions and human rights protections.’
It is not possible to gainsay Washington’s involvement in stoking the unrest that is currently clogging the output of Western media outlets. The burgeoning anti-China lobby in the West has grasped the opportunity to discredit and impugn Beijing over the course of the tempestuous events that have created so much turmoil in the city.
Though this lobby talks the language of democracy and human rights, in truth it is motivated by nothing more than hegemony and unipolarity. China’s centrality to the aims of the War Party in Washington is no secret. Obama signalled it with his ‘Pivot to Asia’ speech back in 2012, while Trump has unleashed a full-on trade war with Beijing, determined to push back against its economic clout and growing regional and global influence.
Provocative actions by the US Navy in waters claimed by China are a regular occurrence, and with Trump choosing Mark Esper, an arch hawk and Sinophobe, as his new secretary of defense, things are guaranteed to get worse before they get better.
Returning to the unrest in Hong Kong, necessity dictates that any government, faced with a violent protest movement that evinces no sign of backing down, is left with no choice other than to deploy force. It is a necessity that applies to the US, UK, and French governments just as it does to other governments.
The problem, however, is that we find ourselves living in a world where the batons of riot police in Western countries are deemed instruments of law and order, while in non-Western countries they are decried as instruments of repression.
For its countless victims around the world there was nothing more repressive than colonialism and imperialism, and currently playing out in Hong Kong as these words are being written are the last convulsions of Western colonial influence in China.
As that powerful voice of the Algerian independence struggle, Frantz Fanon, so sagely put it: “Imperialism leaves behind germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land but from our minds as well.”
Anyone who actually believes that China is at fault for what’s taking place in Hong Kong hasn’t been paying attention.
By John Wight