By William Jones Source: Global Times Published: 2019-9-4
The violence that erupted in Hong Kong in what began as a peaceful protest against an extradition bill caught the world by surprise. Rioters smashing store windows and attacking police with Molotov cocktails and other makeshift weapons is unacceptable in any law-abiding society. However, international media immediately sided with the violent protester and upbraided the police who used minimum force to quell the rioters.
Now it seems, with the turnout on August 17 at a peaceful demonstration, many who remain discontented with the conditions in Hong Kong and who are also opposed to the lawlessness demonstrated over the last couple of months, there is a possibility of dialogue over the heated issues.
There are many things to be considered. The size of the demonstrations indicated there is a wide discontent among the Hong Kong citizens over and above the issue of the extradition bill, which has been tabled but not totally withdrawn.
And there are many reasons for the discontent: rising real estate prices, lack of upward mobility for Hong Kong younger generations, overcrowding - issues pre-dating the 1997 handover, but still not resolved.
Hong Kong was a British colony for a long time, and, culturally, the British influence has lingered. While those who lived in the colonial structure didn't have the much-touted "freedoms," some youth, who didn't experience this reality, have a rather nostalgic view.
Western political operatives, unhappy with the new role China is playing in the world, view Hong Kong as a "weak flank" for China. Because of its openness there is more of a play for building an anti-China consensus, especially among the youth, and since Hong Kong was a haven for many mainland dissidents during the British period, many still have the ability to operate freely in the city.
And then there are the "usual suspects" like the US government-sponsored National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its primary goal of pushing a so-called "human rights agenda." The NED has played a significant role in earlier attempted "color revolutions" in other countries and regions and is active in Hong Kong.
All of this is happening in a situation where some Western political elites are pushing a "strategy of tension" toward a rising China, looking for the "flanks" that could cause problems for the country. None of them have condemned the violence, but continually lambasted the Hong Kong police. All of this has encouraged the protesters that they had their support. Mainstream Western media have more or less followed suit in painting the situation as legitimate protests followed by police "oppression."
So, where do we go from here? A dialogue on the underlying issues needs to begin, with leading figures in Hong Kong business, society, education and culture, including the demonstrators.
Unlike the youth on the mainland, who have a healthy understanding of their country's history, there is much lacking in the Hong Kong system. It has been said many Hong Kong youth don't even know when the People's Republic of China was founded. Obviously, there is much that must be done in this respect.
The "two systems" must remain a viable part of the "one country, two systems" policy as there is no cultural basis in Hong Kong for any other option. More scholarly exchanges between Hong Kong and the mainland would be useful in creating a greater understanding of the Chinese political system. It would also be useful for initiating a broader discussion in Hong Kong of some of the major Chinese programs like the Belt and Road Initiative, the poverty alleviation program, and their implications for Hong Kong development.
Above all, Hong Kong authorities must take a closer look at the operations of Western NGOs. Hong Kong should remain open, but if subversive activities are being conducted, then they are a threat to the city's stability and should be curtailed. Given the highly coordinated student unrest, there should be an investigation into who and what was behind their organized efforts.
William Jones is the Washington Bureau Chief for Executive Intelligence Review and a non-resident senior fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.