Mass demonstrations are occurring in Hong Kong as a new variable enters the China-United States confrontation (Forbes).The protest is aimed at a bill presented in the parliament of the autonomous Chinese region to allow extradition for trial in mainland China.
An initiative more than legitimate, given that the strangeness lies in the current system, which prevents Chinese magistrates from doing their work in an area that falls under the sovereignty of the state.
It has triggered protests on a level that had been unprecendented for many years. According to the protesters, and the Western narrative, the new law will allow Beijing to stifle dissent and undermine local freedom.
The protesters are not limiting themselves to sit-ins, as was the case with the “Umbrella Revolution” of 2014, which called for more autonomy of the S.A.R. The protesters even attempted an assault on Parliament (Reuters).
Protests and outside interference
The United States is using the clash to ramp up pressure on China. It has gone so far as to warn Beijing that introducing the extradition law would violate the treaty that transferred the British colony to China. A very serious point, given that it implies revocation of Beijing’s sovereignty over Hong Kong.
Beijing, in turn, is accusing the US of interference. There appears to be a grain of truth in this, according to Forbes, which revealed that in mid-May a confidential meeting was held between Hong Kong entrepreneurs and two American politicians, the Republican hawk Marco Rubio and Democrat James McGovern, in the States.
Present, among others, was Lee Cheuk Yan, General Secretary of the Confederation of Hong Kong Trade Unions, a key figure in mobilising the masses …
The protests began to mark the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, which crushed in blood the libertarian revolt by thousands of Chinese students.
China has repressed all memory of this, as the world has for decades, when China was considered a partner and not a global competitor. Things have changed and now evoking the massacre serves the anti-Chinese narrative. The banal dynamics of propaganda.
Shadows of Tiananmen
Tiananmen, a criminal page in Chinese history, had three consequences. It blocked the reforms started by Deng Xiaoping in 1978, who had to hand power over to the hard-core nationalists and forces of repression. It closed China to the world for decades, slowing its economic development.
Finally, a detail crucial but often overlooked, it thwarted the attempt to create a Russia-China alliance, which might otherwise have flourished at that time.
In those same days, Mikhail Gorbachev’s historic visit to Beijing was meant to normalise relations between the two Asian powers, who were at loggerheads, though this was denied in the West.
The visit, begun under favourable auspices, foundered in the sea of blood of the repression. Gorbachev, a champion of Glasnost and Perestroika (transparency and reforms), could hardly sign an alliance with a country in the grip of the most retrograde communism.
Furthermore, the agreement would have strengthened Gorbachev’s reforms and Deng Xiaoping’s analogous drive to reform China. The bloodshed was fatal to both, but three years later, Deng was able to resume his policy, despite difficulty.
History repeats itself
What happened then seems to be repeating itself. The Hong Kong protests have broken out while a new strategic alliance between Putin and Xi Jinping is taking shape.
Of course, repression as violent as in the past is unlikely. But there is the risk of events precipitating, especially if the clashes become fiercer.
But apart from extreme scenarios, possible yet unlikely, the risings intersect with increased US pressure. And it is hindering the timid easing of tensions in recent days, when Xi, for the first time, called Trump “a friend,” and the President of the US delayed further sanctions.
The US-China confrontation now risks becoming existential. Significantly, as Forbes wrote: “In January, the Director of National Intelligence released its 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment report and China topped ISIS of all things.”
The comparison is loathsome, but this is the scenario created by the hawks across the Atlantic.