When protests in Hong Kong exploded, knowledgeable people looked for US involvement. It was not hard to find. The overt intrusion of the US is available in budgets, documents and websites; the covert involvement has not yet been uncovered but is no doubt there. What does US involvement mean for the credibility of the protest movement and the future of Hong Kong? How should Hong Kong activists respond?
The issues raised by the protests, lack of democracy and an unfair economy, are very real. But so are the concerns of Beijing for economic growth and continuing to lift people out of poverty, something China has done remarkably well. Those who seek to transform governance and create a more equal economy now have a more challenging task than protests, they must build national consensus on their issues in Hong Kong and in China's leadership. The Chinese People's Daily quoted a Chinese-American author who wrote the Occupy Central leadership, Yin Haoliu, said: "Democracy is a step-by-step process that cannot be approached in haste, otherwise it will bring about troubles." How quickly those steps advance depends, in part, on how well the democracy movement organizes.
Now that the US has been exposed, it needs to be removed. US goals are very different than the people in Hong Kong. The US is in the process of encircling China militarily and economically. It sees China as a competitor, a nation that can undermine the US as the single world superpower. Conflict between Hong Kong and Beijing would serve US interests but undermine the Hong Kong economy which is tied to China. The protest movement has already begun to separate itself from people too close to the US. Hong Kong's people and government need to go further and expel US influence, remembering the historic imperialism of the US in China and noting the current strategic goals of the United States.
The Occupy Central Movement Gets the Attention of the World
The Occupy Central movement, or Umbrella Revolution, has gotten the attention of the world and challenged Beijing. The protests are at a turning point. The next few days will determine their immediate impact. The movement has awakened hundreds of thousands and put important issues on the political agenda. If political leadership in Beijing and Hong Kong does not respond to the issues raised, more insurrections will follow.
The protesters have gained sympathy because of their consistently nonviolent behavior which is emphasized in their Manual for Disobedience. They have been labeled the polite protest as they even divide their trash for recycling. They have used excellent symbolism and rhetoric and broadened participation in the protests so it not only includes students -- a powerful force in their own right -- but the elderly, families and workers. The protesters strategically escalated their actions and increased pressure on the government.
October 2 and 3 were turning points as the chief executive of Hong Kong gave a Mubarak-like speech and refused to resign but agreed to negotiations with the protesters; reversing his refusal to negotiate.
Thursday, Occupy Central protesters held a sophisticated debate about whether to block a key road, with some arguing that it would undermine their primary goal of garnering broad public support. Few protest movements are sophisticated enough to see the goal of protesting the government is directed more at the people, for their support, to build a mass movement.
On Friday, anti-occupy protesters, some wearing masks came into protest areas and violently attacked occupy protesters demanding they stop. Police report half of those arrested were members of the triad, organized crime. Some accuse the government of encouraging triad violence, the government denies it; this could just as easily be the covert work of the CIA (we don't know and should not assume). Occupy Central announced that due to lack of action by the police to stop the attacks, they would not be negotiating with the government. By the next morning the occupiers had rebuilt the destroyed tents and other infrastructure. On October 5, the students agreed to return to negotiations but required an investigation into whether or not the government indulged the attacks.
Monday protest will need to show signs of continued strength in the streets in order for their impact to build. Monday is turning into a pivot point as the government insists on re-opening schools and businesses; but so far, protesters are ignoring threats and remaining. If they succeed in sustaining the protest and keeping public support, more compromises, even the replacement of the chief executive are possible. If not, then the negotiations with the government need to be pursued transparently by the protest movement so if they fail -- and it is hard to imagine the governments in Hong Kong and Beijing compromising sufficiently without more protest -- the democracy can re-energize and take the streets again to show their displeasure.
While the Federation of Students has made it said their movement is "absolutely not a revolution," even if Leung Chun-ying resigns, the issues raised will not be resolved. The major changes being sought will require ongoing work, building on the awakening of recent days and convincing the population and leadership that the changes are necessary and beneficial. This will take deep organizing, persistence and refusal to compromise.
What has been US involvement?