Hong Kong: Storm over Asia

August 30, 2019; An updated article based on an August 19, 2019 L’Étincelle Editorial

All summer Hong Kong has been rocked by mass demonstrations against a bill allowing the extradition of political oppositionists to mainland China. Three young oppositionists were arrested in Hong Kong just days before tomorrow’s scheduled demonstration commemorating the 5th anniversary of China’s imposition of strict limits on elections – a ruling which set off the famous Umbrella Movement. Two others have been beaten. The five activists were some of the Umbrella Movement’s most notable leaders. But many protesters have vowed to demonstrate tomorrow, in spite of the government refusal to issue a permit. Two weeks ago strikes and demonstrations paralyzed the airport, one of the largest in the world. Last week again: nearly 1.7 million people took to the streets.

This former British colony was ceded back to the People’s Republic of China in 1997, but until 2047 Hong Kong is supposed to enjoy a special status which gives it some political autonomy. Its population, somewhat privileged compared with the poverty that reigns in mainland China, would like to protect this relative autonomy against the so-called communist regime in China – in reality a ferocious dictatorship, just as capitalist as Trump’s America.

Faced with the boot of the Beijing authorities and the Hong Kong government on their throat, the mobilization has continued. For thirteen weeks now, almost a third of the population has been on the street. They demand “democracy” … formal democracy, also known as “Western democracy”, which even in the wealthiest regions of the world is flouted as too luxurious …

An Island of Wealth in the Middle of an Ocean of Misery …

Hong Kong is one of the world’s major financial markets, where UK law is still in force: with plentiful profits for speculation and investment. The territory and its skyscrapers shelter a population whose standard of living is one of the highest in the world … but this is only true on average, because the inequalities are significant. Traders, bankers, and managers of multinationals are jealous of the wonderous situation of this capital, the entranceway to and exit from the Chinese economic giant.

But Hong Kong is not only made up of traders. The demonstrators and strikers are mostly government administration employees, employees of private companies, workers in the services or transportation, and students. They are the ones who are threatened with the loss of their democratic rights and who are right to defend them tooth and nail, even if “Western” democracy is showing its limits!

Hong Kong and China Working Hand in Glove
Beijing Authorities and the Hong Kong Government are working together to suppress the protest movement. The Chinese government makes threats, speaks of the demonstrators as “rioters” who commit “terrorist acts”, and their police forces haven’t hesitated to wound, blind, or imprison. The leaders of the great powers who have nothing in common with the interests of working people, and fear all mobilizations like the plague, have waited for rumors of military intervention by Beijing to shyly call for a dialogue! Indeed, already the Chinese army has deployed 5,000 men in Hong Kong, in Shenzhen, a Chinese metropolis that is less than ten kilometers away. Could it intervene? The threat of a crackdown similar to that of the Chinese army against students and workers in Tiananmen in 1989 is looming.

More Fierce Repression? But …

As long as the international financial center of Hong Kong remains stable, repression or not, Trump and his good friends Macron and Co. will sleep more or less easily. A last tweet from the US president called Xi Jinping “a good man in a tough business”, and expressed his certainty that the Chinese president could resolve the crisis “with humanity”. On the United States’ side, just like China, they want to grow their own capital and profits. Too bad for the overwhelming majority of the people of Hong Kong who do not own shares in big companies or stock portfolios! This majority has only its fierce determination and its courage. But it has this in huge quantities! And if the Chinese and Hong Kong capitalists have a worry right now, it is this movement spreading to the exploited people of mainland China … and elsewhere!