I read an article from a pro-Beijing journalist stationed in Hong Kong. There are a number of reasons why I find it surprising that Counterpunch, an alternative ‘left-wing’ outlet most times, published this piece, not the least of which is its anti-democratic stance. But a key point that does need to be made about the protests in Hong Kong is that independence doesn’t just mean independence from China, but also from Western interference.
Hong Kong has, for some time now, been protesting against their government and the influence of Beijing. What started out as an uprising against a bill that would allow people in Hong Kong to be extradited to China has since turned into a long-term battle against police brutality, protester arrests, and Chinese intimidation as well. The people of Hong Kong have made it quite clear that they reject anyone but themselves running the former colony, including China and their own current government.
The article, entitled Hong Kong’s Enemy Within, starts off by saying that government is the bedrock of a society, the “manifestation of its sovereignty and protector of its people.” It then proceeds to blatantly state that disloyalty to this sovereign from its civil servants is not tolerable in normal circumstances, but that in Hong Kong – where circumstances are not normal, according to the author – this lack of loyalty is the root cause of the upheaval.
In Australia right now, a precedent has been set whereby those who work in the public service can be fired from their jobs for even privately voicing their dissidence to government policy. That isn’t maintaining ‘loyalty’, that’s enforcing complicity and authoritarian control over an individual’s personal beliefs and rights to free speech.
The same goes for Hong Kong – independent, in theory, from mainland China (which the author refers to as the ‘motherland’), but even if it weren’t, dissidence and opposition to the Communist Party should be allowed. To do otherwise, as we have seen play out with increased police and military presence, is to invite more chaos and potentially violent suppression of democratic ideals.
It’s the language of the above article that concerns me. The author refers to protesters as “democracy thugs” and “de facto terrorists”, saying that the “local government has itself become arguably the biggest obstacle in the SAR to a resolution favourable to the sovereign.” To him, apparently, the will of the sovereign, Beijing’s authoritarian government, is more important than the will of the people of Hong Kong. To hell with democracy, peaceful protesters looking to better their society are disloyal terrorists (where have we, in Australia, heard this rhetoric before?)
But let’s put the article into some perspective. The author seems very put off by the idea of “Western” influence, namely America, taking hold of what he considers a part of China. There are two problems with this apparent justification for China’s own self-interest. The first is that the US, at least visibly, does not appear to be in support of Hong Kong’s bid for independence, with Trump even setting aside his utter disdain for China by claiming Xi Jinping will do what’s right. The reason for this stance, I beleive, is tied to the second problem – the bid for independence is coming from below, not from above or externally.
Where the US has deep ties with the government and elite of Taiwan (another region China claims is theirs), including lucrative military deals, and the opposition to China comes from them, Hong Kong is the opposite. The government of Hong Kong is under fire now for bowing to pressure from Beijing, with a grassroots independence movement forming to defend their own democracy. Hong Kong wants to govern itself – not have some self-proclaimed sovereign or Western Empire subdue them. The current uprising, while it does oppose China, does not offer itself to US interference.
The people of Hong Kong are the only ones that should get to decide the fate of their society. If they want to reunite with mainland China, that has to be their choice. If they wish to be independent and govern themselves, then they should not be denied that right.
No ‘sovereign’ should ever have the power to deny that right.
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