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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 11/17/19

Revolution on a short leash: Student Protesters are Walking a Tightrope in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong protests: Students fortify universities to gear up for new battle amid escalating violence Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters paralyzed parts of the city for the fourth day in a row on Thursday, forcing schools to close and blocking highways wit
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By Dave Lindorff

It's hard to know what to think about the student protests in Hong Kong.

On the one hand they are incredibly inspiring. The courage, determination, brilliant organizing in the face of corporate blocking of the social media platforms that have been so critical early on to coordinating actions and rallying support, and the links that these masses of students have been able build with the broader Hong Kong community, have been amazing to witness. So too is the massive support that the city's residents - even its staid usually conservative business-minded bankers and shop owners - have given and continue to give to this young people's movement, for example coming out regularly on the street at lunch from their offices and storefronts, sometimes in masks, to voice their support for the kids.

On the other hand, there is the hard reality that the students' very success in standing firm against increasingly violent police repression raises the specter of an eventual Chinese military response that could end what freedom Hong Kong has managed to hang on to since the 1997 handover from colonial Britain to the People's Republic of China.

The latest attempt by students to occupy the autonomous region metropolis's universities and convert them into fortresses against police attacks, because they were so destructive and militant in nature, featuring as they did the use of bows and arrows (some of them flaming arrows), sling shots and petrol bombs, the tearing up of sidewalks for use in blocking passage on access streets and highways, and the destruction of train stations and toll booths, precisely because they have been so successful at disrupting travel and economic activity in the territory, are inevitably being viewed by the hard-line Communist Party leadership in Beijing as a potentially existential threat to their 70-year rule over China dating back to 1949.

So far the PRC, with its firm grip on news inside the country, thanks to a tightly controlled national "intranet" and state-controlled news media, has succeeded in its efforts to keep information about the uprising inside of Hong Kong away from the broad Chinese public. What news there is in China (with the exception of what's receivable in Guangdong province and Shenzhen on Hong Kong TV and radio that reaches across the border) concerning the disturbances in Hong Kong make it all out to be the result of foreign interference - a tried-and-true way to appeal to a growing Chinese nationalism and to a still widely held sense of a historic wrong suffered by China at the hands of foreign imperial powers.

The Hong Kong students, who have legitimate grievances and are trying their best to prevent what they rightly see as increasing Chinese meddling in Hong Kong local affairs and laws, and as a reneging by Beijing on promises for more local democracy in the city's governance made in 1997. The lion's share of political power in Hong Kong, whether under British or Chinese control, has always been and still is kept with the business elite in the city. Student activists need to realize that any dreams they may have of Hong Kong becoming an independent city state like Singapore are futile. China will simply never allow that to happen. Actions, even symbolic ones, that suggest the city's independence to be a goal, like waving American flags or burning the Chinese flag, are like waving a red cloth in front of a charging bull to the rulers in Beijing. So is calling for Hong Kong independence as a demand.

But if the goal is to press China to honor its promise to gradually allow full one-person-one-vote elections for all seats on the Legislative Council that is supposed to govern the city, and open election of the city's Chief Executive who to date under Chinese rule has been carefully hand-picked by Beijing's leaders (it's currently Carrie Lam, whose tone-deaf subservience to Beijing's dictates sparked the current crisis), that might conceivably be achieved through concerted peaceful protest. Indeed the effectiveness of the protests that began last June toward those ends probably explain the Hong Kong government's (and behind the scenes the Chinese government's) resort to ever more violent police repression, perhaps even in hopes of provoking a violent response.

But this means that student activists have to walk a tightrope. So far, they have managed to retain the support of the vast majority of Hong Kong's eight million residents as historically massive demonstrations supporting the students over recent months, some almost spontaneous in response to events, have demonstrated. As the UK newspaper the Guardian reports, that support has been dramatic, with a poll in late October showing that 52.5% of respondents blamed the government for the unrest and protest, while 18.1% blamed police and only 9.1% blamed the students. But as that article also reports, there are signs that this support for the students may wane as their resistance, certainly understandable, to police attacks turn more violent and destructive. The November 17 article, published a day after students had left or were driven by police from all the city's public universities, and after students had closed down key transportation hubs, rail lines and highways and tunnels, states that at least anecdotally, some ordinary Hong Kong residents who have supported the student protests are growing disenchanted. Among the concerns of those interviewed: the fear that China activate the People's Liberation Army. The PLA reportedly has some 12,000 troops stationed in the territory at this point - up until now confined largely to barracks - and has also quite publicly moved more Chinese troops and vehicles into Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong's New Territories.

China knows it still needs Hong Kong as an economic gateway to the global economy, with its relatively well-regulated stock market and British Common Law-based economy a reliable source of international investment capital for Chinese listed companies. It also values the "Made in Hong Kong" label affixed to products actually largely produced in China except for minor additions, a sleight-of-hand that is useful for insulating Chinese manufacturing products from international tariffs and costly involvement in trade disputes. But make no mistake: China's national leaders will certainly ignore all the economic benefits to China of an autonomous Hong Kong if the alternative is a loss of control over this unique piece of Chinese real estate. Hong Kong, don't forget, is where the British humiliated the Chinese empire in the mid-19th Century by grabbing the island, and from that base demanding the right to peddle opium to China's population.

As a young anti-war activist in the late 1960s an early 1970s I was a committed participant in the largely student-led struggle against the US imperial war against Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Our protests were for a long time inspired by the non-violent tradition espoused by Martin Luther King and others dating back to Henry David Thoreau. But by 1970 after Nixon's invasion of Cambodia and the murder by the National Guard at Kent State University in Ohio and police at Jackson State in Mississippi of student anti-war protesters (possibly at the urging of the White House), we became much more militant as a movement. A wildly successful national student strike was called and swept the country that spring, which, as in Hong Kong today, saw buildings occupied and classes brought to a halt. In some universities, degrees were simply awarded with seniors no longer attending class or taking final exams. In others, students were left hanging, their coursework left undone or ungraded. Things escalated further in 1972 when President Nixon ordered the mining of Haiphong Harbor in North Vietnam - a dangerous act of war escalation that risked damaging Russian ships and globalizing that conflict perhaps into a nuclear war. The anti-war movement responded with a series of quickly organized mass demonstrations across the country that featured highway-blocking sit-downs, smashing of windows and other violent disruption, even as radical militant groups like the Weather Underground were exploding bombs at locations considered to be part of the US war effort.

The results of this confrontational turn by the US anti-war movement were mixed. The increased militancy of the movement may well have contributed to the US government's decision to wind down its increasingly bogged-down war in Indochina, though it's hard to tell because of course, the main factor in that decision was the dogged resistance of the Vietnamese themselves, who were wearing down and defeating the US military. But increased militancy by US antiwar activists also certainly led to a loss of broader support for the anti-war movement. While Sen. George McGovern did manage to win nomination as a peace candidate for president on the Democratic ticket in 1972. But sabotaged by his own party leaders and a victim of Nixon campaign's dirty tricks, he went on to lose that election in November by a landslide. In the end, Nixon improbably won a second term by 60.7% of the vote to McGovern's 37.5% (almost a mirror image of Lyndon Johnson's 61.1%/38.5% romp over Barry Goldwater less than a decade earlier in 1964), capturing the electoral votes of every state except for Massachusetts.

One can easily overstate the parallel here but it seems clear to me that student activists in Hong Kong need to move carefully. It they are attacked violently by police for peacefully protesting, Hong Kong people have shown they will respond by the millions to support the kids. But if the police violence looks like it is in response to student attacks by arrows and flaming petrol bombs, that support may not be so forthcoming or so broad. Furthermore, if student movement demands go too far, to the point for example of calling for Hong Kong's independence, they risk eventually having China cross the Rubicon of activating the PLA.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)
 

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John Lawrence Ré

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Nonsense. This is the opposite of class warfare. Unlike the student/worker protests in France, the poor and native peoples protests in Latin America or even the US student protests decades ago against illegal and racist war, the Hong Kong student protest is a bourgeois theatrical performance originally against a law that was repealed (it shouldn't have been) and financed by angels from the neoliberal brain centers across the west.

Anyone cheerleading this charade is either uninformed, misled by its existential melodrama or a MSM collaborationist.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 18, 2019 at 12:05:23 AM

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And you know this because of what?


Pick one or two of the following:


a) You speak and read Chinese and have lived in Hong Kong and have lots of Chinese friends,


b) You are an academic with a specialty in Hong Kong society and history


c) You read a lot of Hong Kong newspapers


d) You live in Hong Kong and are writing from there


e) You are clairvoyant and know what people are thinking a at a distance,


f) You're making it all up because...well...it sounds sorta feasible.


g) You just don't have a clue and want to sound significant.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 18, 2019 at 1:47:33 AM

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You should have added h) from reading your article "When Governments Fall... look for a US role." Although I do have some educated friends who are Chinese nationals, and have some knowledge of Chinese history from graduate school, what I wrote was certainly not among the possibilities listed in your a) to g) recipe for placing a chill on critical opinion. According to that illogic, those who protested the invasion of Libya, for example, and who don't speak Arabic, read the Tripoli news, live in Libya, or teach Cyranaican history are either clairvoyant or trying to sound significant. No, a pricncipal reason is that the CIA, as you correctly state in the article I referenced, are ALWAYS behind any activity which benefits US imperialist goals. WIth 72 years of empirical evidence to draw on, the CIA has generously gifted us the perfect Occam's razor. Drawing conslusions is easy breezy.

There are of course other reasons to believe it's a sham protest. Many of them have been expressed quite well in Derryl Hermanutz's articulate response above.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 18, 2019 at 4:18:03 AM

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I agree, John. Read Jeff Brown's article today about Bolivia and other coup targets, where the CIA and local oligarchy brainwash enough of the people via their ownership of the mass media: TV and newspapers. I would add, especially in the US, via their ownership of academia where future servants of empire are trained in "liberal democracy" groupthink - where "free markets" means financial and economic rule by oligarchs who own the money system (banking) and industries; and where the political government serves the interests of the oligarchy, not the interests of the masses; and where "democracy" means being brainwashed by the oligarch-owned media to vote for politicians who will serve the oligarchy.


Hong Kong is the most expensive place to live on Earth, and life for all but the oligarchs and their upper echelon functionaries has become precarious and unaffordable. If the Hong Kong masses are legitimately protesting, it is against capitalism, not against China. In the West, brainwashed liberal democrats believe every ill is solved by the miracle of "voting" - even if the brainwashed population elects their own predatory oligarchs. Life gets worse for the masses, because their capitalist liberal democrat countries are ruled by self-serving oligarchies - whose ownership of academia and the mass media enables them to misdirect the ire of the masses against imaginary "dictators". So China, whose communist government serves the interests of the 1.4 billion Chinese people, is an "evil dictatorship" because there is no brainwashed "voting" to elect their own self-serving oligarchies, as the West does. Western intellectuals have been listening to echoes inside their bubble chambers for so long that they believe in their consensus delusions, and have lost the ability to see the reality that is before their eyes.


The question for the people of Hong Kong is, Will they be better off continuing to be owned as serfs by Western capitalists? Or will they be better off living as citizens of Hong Kong reunited with mainland China? Are they better off believing Western propaganda? Or are they better off looking at the reality of people's actual lives in China? The freedom to be brainwashed by an oligarch-owned "private" media, and "vote" for one's owners to sustain the illusion of democracy, is no freedom at all.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 18, 2019 at 3:09:52 AM

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Reply to Derryl Hermanutz:   New Content

The problem with your ill-informed analysis is that Hong Kong is NOT owned by "western capitalists" but by extraordinarily rich Hong Kong capitalists and since the Handover, by extaordinarily wealthy Chinese capitalists. And voting, however you may dispise it, is one way of weakening the grip of those who currently not only own the land in Hong Kong, but also have a majority of the Legislative Council seats, thanks to a UK legacy system that assigns different economic activities (industry, trade, catering, law, healthcare,commerce, arcitecture(!), education, accounting,banking, financial services, etc. seats on the council, sometimes featuring people elected by a few dozen wealthy owner who are members of trade. associations. China had promised full geographical representation by now, but reneged years back. Worth fighting for? You bet. A cureall? no of course not, but guys like you who dismiss it here where we have the vote and do't use it won't get much mileage from people who don't have it. Your argument is groundless. Students don't do what the students are doing at Polytech U for checks from Soros, and millions of people in a city of 8 million don't come out on the street and brave tear gas for money either.

BTW, Hong Kong isn't the most expensive place to live in the world. That would be Singapore, followed by Paris. Then it's Hong Kong. But having lived there, I'd have to note that you don't need a car, transport is amazingly good and takes you everywhere. College is cheap too. Tases are low, and if you eat Chinese food, that's also cheap. It's housing that costs a lot.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 18, 2019 at 10:41:51 PM

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It appears that citizens are fed up with the destruction and crippling of mass transportation and roadways including the International Airport and are out in the streets removing the barriers and clearing the roads. They have been attacked by protestors dressed in black and masked firing arrows at them and setting at least one citizen on fire for their efforts to clear the streets for transportation access. This of course is in response "to student attacks by arrows and flaming petrol bombs, that support may not be so forthcoming", indeed.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 18, 2019 at 3:55:24 AM

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Exactly, George. And the optics of protestors singing God Save the Queen and holding up Trump posters hardly suggests admirable intent.

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Thanks John for speaking up. And George and Derryl too.

The riots in Hong Kong have all the characteristics of a US sponsored color revolution. Setting people on fire and asking to be a colony again is not a peaceful protest nor is wishing to be a colony again a democratic movement.

I cannot imagine any democratic movement wanting to be like the US, exploited by the US, or part of its empire. The flags and songs are theater that plays well on Fox News to naive Americans. I've seen the US flag being used in Georgia and it looked ridiculous.

A telltale sign that the riots are US inspired is that they are being covered by US msm daily. The msm is silent on Haiti, Chile, Honduras, Palestine, France, etc.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 18, 2019 at 12:36:54 PM

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I've made that point.


Certainly when you're dealing with young people you're going to have some degree of naivety and lack of sophistication. But these kids are serious rebels with a lot of guts, and a goal in mind. We should be so lucky to have that kind of activism here.


I'm sorry, your ignorant dismissiveness about what is happening in Hong Kong is just wrong and sad.



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I'll ignore your ignorant ad hominem, and just say you're article is all about appearance and lacks substance. Years of frontline participation in demonstrations and strikes in NY and DC as a member of Columbia Anti Imperialist Movement and Vietnam Vets Aginst the War, informs my take that what these jerkoffs in Hong Kong are doing is disturbing, anti-working class and serves the interests of the US against China. If you don't see that, then tant pis.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 18, 2019 at 11:24:03 PM

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I'll stick with the ignorant, which is a factual characterization of your lack of information about Hong Kong and what is actually happening. All you are offering is extrapolation about places that have nothing in commong with this first-world city of mostly middle class people.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 at 2:16:38 PM

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Dave, you are starting to appear as either naive of world affairs of the last 50 years or more or a reaction as one scorned when your article met with other points of view of events? This is neither logical nor conductive to finding truth. Instead of being open to other perspectives of realities in debate it has degenerated into a tiring tit for tat?

This "you are with me or against me mentality" has derailed a well written article with flaws of assumptions rather than realities on the ground. There is nothing wrong with considering assumptions for a start to debate but going to battle over defending assumptions when there are competing facts is a real waste of your time as well as others. I am done with this article and maybe you should be as well unless of course you can present some hard facts for debate.

My response to this middle class remark, you missed the lesson on Libya in which living standards, education sharing of the nation's Treasure, Commons and Unalienable Rights were nothing less than a guideline for how a nation should function for its citizens across the board. Maybe it was not perfect but then again it was well into a process of forming a more perfect union of its citizens rather than Oligarchs with criminal actions and designs.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 at 3:54:54 PM

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Considering the deep state controlled media's not so subtle snares that wrangle skeptics into unpopular political ID corrals - like your childish response of posting a list of reasons for expressing my opinion - it is no wonder why everyday Americans are growing so hostile to the media. More than anything else, it is the increasing condescension and its corollary manipulation that has us calling all news "fake."

But you're not a MSM clone. I have read and agreed with much of what you've written over the years, which is why I find it so bizarre - and petty - that your responses here suggest either a thin skin or a bloated ego. For example what is truly "sad," David, is that because you're a journalist with some success, you believe ergo you're infallible and that anyone not posting a million links in support of a statement while suggesting a contrasting opinion is "ignorant." As amazing and supremely pompous as that is, it is mostly just supremely illogical. Were the "informed" experts in the media correct about Iraq? Was the highly informed Kissinger correct in his portrayal of Chile in 1973? Was Clinton correct about Libya in 2011? Yet for most people with no formal knowledge of these events none of these casus belli passed the sniff test. As I wrote, the CIA has kindly accorded us 72 years of lies for use in bracing our opinions. Whatever the spooks approve is bad, whatever they contest is good. Or to paraphrase journalist Claud Cockburn, whenever there's a stink in foreign affairs, Henry Kissinger has recently been there. Same applies to the putrid old bag, HRC. The sniff test, like the eye test in sports, works flawlessly every time. If you dismount your high horse and try it on the Hong Kong fiasco instead of creating flimsy reasons to applaud it, you might grasp the truth that yes, students make mistakes, but as I'm sure you'll remember, they also get caught up in the intoxicating thrill of rebellion if you give them a cause, any cause. The cause in France is valid, this one in HK is a fake approximation that plays into US policy objectives and therefore is not to be applauded. Unless of course the intention in applauding is a limited hangout.

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019 at 3:05:11 AM

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And yet, while that might turn Americans against protesters, in Hong Kong polls show over 51% of Hong Kongers are blaming the government and 18% the police for the crisis, and only 9% the students.


Go figure! Must be that damned Soros!

Submitted on Monday, Nov 18, 2019 at 10:43:22 PM

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Police threaten to use live ammo after protesters shoot arrows and throw gasoline bombs at officers

This next one may also be of interest as well.

Riot-weary Hongkongers clear blocked roads

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 at 4:30:17 AM

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The fact that Honkongers are volunteering to clear the streets of debris which is making it impossible to go anywhere does not mean they are losing support for the students. Far from it. Many of those cleaning the streets are supporters of the students. The poll speaks for itself.


What I am criticising is the casual lumping together of experiences of public protest and insurrection in third world countries with massive numbers of starving and oppressed poor people, and an uprising by middle class and working class students in a first-world society like Hong Kong where hunger is not a problem.


When people are starving, have no voice, and are under attack by their government, it's not surprising that they would rise up, risking gunfire and arrest. It has happened here in the US in places like Fergusson, Standing Rock, and oother places, just as it has happened in the Arab Spring uprisings, is happening now in the indigenous resistance to the Bolivian coup, and in Chile.


What is happening in Hong Kong, though is quite a different thing. The more interesting thing might be to ask why students in Hong Kong, who would apper in their love of movies, motor scooters, video games and cell phones to be not that different from their peers her in the US, are so surprisingly willing to literally put their lives and safety and futures on the line to take a stand for freedom of speech, assembly, and the right to vote for their own local government, when students here are largely content to sign internet petitions.


Dave Lindorff

founding editor of ThisCantBeHappening.net

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 at 4:35:26 PM

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From a Guardian poll, the world's leading (war) neo-liberal voice? Who is the target audience for the Guardian newspaper? Anyone who thinks newspapers don't intentionally target and their audiences are fools. The Guardian + Observer target an educated, middle-class, neo-liberal, 18+ audiences. The media in the UK is embedded in the corporate world, and therefore incapable of fulfilling its self-declared role as watchdog against abuses by the powerful. They are part and partial of what we typically call the MSM and in the US we often refer to them individually as the corporate owned groups including Fox news.

HSBC and the sham of Guardian's Scott Trust a limited company" that was accordingly re-named "The Scott Trust Limited and executive vice chairman of Rothschild, and a director at NM Rothschild and Sons.

HSBC and the sham of Guardian's Scott Trust - Jonathan Cook

Dave, don't try to pi** on my leg and tell me it is raining, shame on you!

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 at 8:16:05 PM

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