(published originally in German on Oct. 6th, 2019 by Walter Grobe. English translation by the author)
The protests by large numbers of youths in Hongkong, China’s special administrative area, that have started several months ago and are continuing unabated, are an important crisis point. Internationally, they deserve strong attention and answers. These, however, are not easily gauged and their consequences must be considered three times.
According to reports by German mainstream papers, the protesters’ unrest and their indefatigability have several different roots.
The primal trigger was a police law intended to facilitate extraditions of suspects to police and judiciary beyond the border, that is to the control of China’s central government. Although this project had been taken back by Hongkong’s administration under Mrs. Lam already quite long ago under the pressure of millions of citizens, the misgivings of large parts of Hongkong’s population could not be made unexistant. They are afraid of coming more and more under the all-comprising system of observation and of lacking civil rights vis a vis the state authority, a system that is emerging ever clearer and horrifying in the main part of China.
So far, following the interests of the Chinese central government, Hongkong was to develop a mixed structure: on the one hand it had ultimately to come under ever stronger and more direct subordination, on the other it was to offer an incomparably attractive location for international finance for global business as well as for transactions with China’s economy.
But by increasing its penetration of Hongkong’s systems of economy, politics, police and judiciary and of culture, the central government is in fact threatening not only elementary interests of large parts of the population but also the previous relative autonomy of international capitalism in the city. Its strategy, though, cannot be simply discarded as arbitrariness or short-sightedness which could be replaced by some concessions to the ill-fortuned of Hongkong as well as to international finance – that is of Western origin to an important degree – as far as it has locations there. If the central government were permanentely to tolerate that parts of China, e.g. a special administrative area Hongkong, would guarantee a clearly better legal position – as compared to the ordinary Chinese citizen’s – to large parts of its population as well as to international capitalism, all kinds of oppositional strands in China would feel some encouragement. The whole development in China under the system Xi Jinping is running contrary to that. Hongkong has grown to be a very serious dilemma for this system.
In spite of the necessary fundamental criticism of the political situations in Western nations and above all of their, too, domination by Big Money: China’s capitalist system, culturally deeply characterized by authoritarianism, an imperial bureaucracy and a spirit of servility (as long as material well-being is given) is even less attractive.
Enthusiasm for a supposedly democratic USA, though, should be critically questioned among the protesters or those among them who might feel an inclination in that direction. In general, they would jeopardize their legitimate demands by letting themselves be instrumentalized by the US or by other powers in the so-called Free West. The rival superpower, the US, this secular violator and mass-murderer, are constantly engineering alterations of China’s system that are not intended to help the people in their struggle for better conditions of life, but solely to weaken the rising rival from inside. To be instrumental for this kind of “reforms” should not be tolerated by true democratic fighters in Hongkong or the whole of China. Solely the masses of China, not the agents of the US or the capitalist West in general, are able to find the right appraisals and decisions about how China should develop, what should be Hongkong’s future status etc.
According to many reports, the unrest in Hongkong is strongly driven also by the incredible social inequality that has not diminished but rather increased since Hongkong was given back to China. Millions of citizens cannot afford even a container-sized living space, whereas some real estate oligarchs are coffering billions of profits, and neither the local nor the central government have ever in practice put up even the least resistance to them. The billionaires’ gangs of Hongkong, as one analyst put it bluntly, are so closely related to the leadership of the ruling party “that president Xi Jinping cannot blame anybody other than himself and his predecessors for the social chaos in Hongkong.”
Regarding this, the unrest in Hongkong is aiming at these typical forms of today’s capitalism and its antidemocracy, too, which presently seem to have the upper hand globally, not only in China. Also for that it deserves great attention and sympathy internationally.
Again, I am stressing my opposition to any form of interference by other governments in the affairs of China, i.e. those of Hongkong, too. One of the reasons: China as a whole has conducted and won a huge struggle against colonialism and imperialism of the West and of Japan during the 20th century. This struggle was an inspiring example to the whole world. Any government of China, even the most hostile to its own people, would at any given moment be able to appeal to the historical consciousness of anti-imperialism and mobilize the people against attempted interferences, especially from the part of the US.
Also the fact that the last colony on Chinese soil, the British “crown colony” Hongkong, had ultimately to be given back to China less than three decades ago, is certainly part of the common political mind.
But when it is about criticizing and resisting a boundlessly greedy and antidemocratic capitalism, that in the West as well as in China as in other parts of the world is collaring everything under the sun and instigating the countries against each other, then we should clearly express our sympathy towards the movement in Hongkong and take part in promoting its legitimate demands.
[As the comment function on this website had to be blocked long ago, readers are kindly requested to send criticism, additions, remarks etc. to my e-mail address wagrobe@ aol.com. I promise to add them to this piece subsequently, if they are not lacking any factual content.]