Friday 24th of January 2020

chinese capers...

hong kong
Protesters in Hong Kong breached the city’s parliament building, partially occupying the structure after violent clashes with police. US President Donald Trump appeared to endorse the unrest as being “all about democracy.”

The demonstrators used a metal trolley to break into the Hong Kong Legislative Council building after a standoff with riot police on Monday afternoon, smashing windows and eventually entering the building.


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saving the facade...

Police firing tear gas have evicted protesters who stormed and ransacked Hong Kong's parliament.

Activists had occupied the Legislative Council (LegCo) building for hours after breaking away from a protest on the anniversary of Hong Kong's transfer of sovereignty to China from Britain.

After midnight (16:00 GMT), hundreds of police secured the building following a warning to protesters to clear it.

It follows weeks of unrest in the city over a controversial extradition law.

Hundreds of thousands took part in the earlier peaceful protest - the latest rally against a proposed law that critics fear could be used to extradite political dissidents to mainland China.

The protesters have also been demanding an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality during an earlier protest on 12 June. 

Hong Kong's embattled political leader Carrie Lam held a press conference at 04:00 local time (20:00 GMT) in which she condemned the "extreme use of violence" of those who broke into the legislature.

How did the day unfold?

Peaceful demonstrations had been planned for Monday, the 22nd anniversary of the handover of sovereignty.

A large-scale march, involving hundreds of thousands of people, took place in the city, and passed off in a largely peaceful manner.

Separately, officials from the government raised glasses of champagne at a formal ceremony celebrating the handover.

But at about lunchtime, dozens of demonstrators broke off and made their way to LegCo. They effectively besieged the building, as a large crowd of several hundred watched from a distance, before eventually smashing their way through the glass facade.


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this is very embarrassing...

Since the transfer of sovereignty from the British Empire to the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong is along with Macao, one of the two Chinese special administrative regions. Under the 1997’s agreements, Beijing established the western democracy in Hong Kong, which had never seen it before. For the first time, the Parliament was elected by the people.

However, while the return of Hong Kong to China marked an improvement in the living conditions of the population, it remained culturally more British than Chinese. This is no surprise to travelers.

The present massive demonstrations must first be understood as the recognition of the cultural impossibility of Chinese unification. They are disturbed by the United Kingdom and the United States, involving a “diplomat” who met and coached the leaders of the protests. We saw the most prominent element of the protests, the Hong Kong Independence Movement, waving the old colonial flag in the middle of a press conference. The same phenomenon was observed in Libya and in Syria where the National Transitional Council adopted the flag of the King Idriss and the Free Syrian Army of the French mandate.

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Jean-Louis Scarsi



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This weekend there was a further intensification of police violence against campaigners in Hong Kong. Over the past two months, police officers have attacked pro-democracy protesters using teargas, CS grenades, batons and small arms. More than 1,000 rounds of tear gas and 160 rubber bullets have been used since June, with human rights monitors accusing the authorities of beating protesters and applying “excessive and unnecessary force”.

It is likely that many of the weapons being used were made in the UK: the Omega Research Foundation has published photos of UK-made CS grenades deployed by Hong Kong police against crowds. Since 2015, the UK government has licensed £8.6m worth of arms to the Hong Kong administration. This includes licences for teargas, anti-riot shields, pyrotechnic ammunition, spying technology and other equipment that could be used in the crackdown.



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the western media ignores its ignorance...

Americans are bombarded with non-stop news on Hong Kong and Moscow rallies, but how come mass protests in Honduras and Brazil aren’t high on the agenda? Lee Camp looks at why the US corporate media are keeping mum on the subject.

Honduras, a Latin American nation of nine million people, has been hit by massive unrest, with people venting anger at pro-US President Orlando Hernandez. The wave of violent demonstrations saw the US diplomatic mission attacked by protesters – but the American mainstream media didn’t say a word about it, Camp pointed out, speaking on Redacted Tonight.

“Protesters are literally burning the US embassy because we installed a f******d [Hernandez] rule over them, how is that non-news?” he wondered.

Hondurans are rightfully furious about “the neoliberal austerity measures supported by our country and the IMF.” It caused massive layoffs, increased costs of basic goods and essentially made their lives suck down there, Camp reminded viewers.

But as long as their government is pillaging the people appropriately, our government is cool with it.

All in all, Honduras isn’t the only unrest-hit country overlooked by the US corporate media. Brazil, “the largest of countries Americans don’t care about,” has been rocked by a massive strike led by trade unions. Over 45 million people there – “can you imagine 45 million Americans agreeing on everything?”– are protesting against the right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro and his controversial pension reform.

But this is “not a story your corporate media will cover,” and for obvious reasons, Camp offered. On the one hand, it may not look good for the White House administration, including a particular president. On the other hand...

The American workers might think, ’what if WE have a general strike?’

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western propaganda is well known for this type of acrobatics...

Caught red-handed! When the Chinese media published a picture showing four leaders of the Hong Kong protest movement with the head of the political department of the US Consulate, the whole anti-Beijing rhetoric took a hit. It suddenly became difficult to deny the interference of a foreign power – at 15,000 kilometres from its borders – in a situation in which that was none of its concern. Trying to conceal the obvious is always a challenging manoeuvre, and Western propaganda is well known for this type of acrobatics!

Since the beginning of the recent Hong Kong protests in June 2019, the narration of the events by the voices of the free world has been displaying a blatant lack of good faith and has been reversing all the signs, probably causing the fascination of political scientists of the future. By multiplying language distortions, it can make a Chinese domestic affair look like an international conflict, decolonisation like colonisation and a foreign interference like a humanitarian enterprise.

As with Taiwan – but for different reasons –, the Hong Kong issue is the historical legacy of a bygone era. Inherited from the salutary colonialism of the Crown, the particularity of Hong Kong gave it the right to a “special administrative regime” that the People’s Republic of China has consented to establish when the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed in 1984. We are probably stating the obvious, but let us remember that Hong Kong belongs to China, as does Beijing or Shanghai. The deliberate omission of this reality lies at the root of many confusions and endless deceptions. The colonial conquest of the “Fragrant Harbour” in the 19th century unfolded in three steps. The British first annexed Hong Kong island in 1842 at the end of an “opium war” that led to the ruin of the Qing Empire and left China at the mercy of colonial greed. Then, the Kowloon peninsula was taken in 1860 during the Franco-British military intervention that devastated Beijing Summer Palace. Eventually, the “new territories” were handed over to London in 1898 for a ninety-nine-year period, adding to the long list of humiliations inflicted to China by the foreign invaders at the beginning of the century. 

This territorial unit – now named Hong Kong Special Administrative Region – was solemnly returned to the People’s Republic of China in 1997 following the procedure detailed in the 1984 agreement. Of course, Margaret Thatcher would have preferred to keep it, but Hong Kong is not the Falkland Islands, and China is not Argentina. The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declatation is a compromise between a declining colonial power that has forfeited and a major emerging force that favours negotiation that establishes a semi-autonomous regime and sets the application of the “one country, two systems” principle up until 2047. This compromise represents a twofold advantage for Beijing. The first one is political. Inclined to long-term policies, the Chinese leaders have opted for a slow transition. Without presuming its status beyond 2047, it is clear that the growing dependence of Hong Kong territory on the continent will facilitate a progressive assimilation. The second advantage is of economic nature. Equipped with remuneration for geographical location, supported by the power of the City, Hong Kong has developed into a center for Asian financial transactions.

By preserving a special regime, Beijing will be able to attract assets from the Chinese diaspora and from foreign investors to China.
As a gateway for financial flows drawn by economic reforms, this tiny territory of 1,106 km² and 7.5 million inhabitants has continued to enjoy a special status since 1997 and has no equivalent (except Macao) in popular China. The territory has its own legislation, its own currency, its own sports teams. Combining election and co-option of leaders, Hong Kong’s administrative system is more “democratic” than the one left by the British. The demonstrators demand democracy by waving British flags, the first general elections were held in 1991, i.e. after the 1984 agreements, in order to bring the administrative system into line with the objectives of the transfer of sovereignty planned for 1997. If the current crisis were to escalate, the main losers would be the people of Hong Kong themselves. Supported by the international financial world, the prosperity of the territory would quickly be destroyed and Hong Kong would be dethroned by the southern megacities of Canton and Shenzen, both of which are much more populous and powerful than the port city.

A sleight of hand that makes foreign interference appear legitimate

With a per capita GDP ten times higher than on the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong demonstrators should reflect in good time on the consequences of violent actions for their island of prosperity. Instead of waving American and British flags, they should think about what West-imported democracy really is, not to mention the fate of those whom Washington abandoned overnight after pushing them into confrontation. Hong Kong’s special status and its insolent wealth are not eternal. Its special regime is transitional, even if the date of its possible disappearance is far off (2047). No international rule obligated China to adopt it, and China did so because it was in line with its national interest. Hong Kong was taken from China by the foreign coloniser 187 years ago and therefore rightly belongs to the Chinese state. It was returned by negotiation, and that is a good thing. But after this return, everything else is of no concern to the rest of the world. Therefore the only rational answer to Western warnings is that which has been read in the “Chinese People’s Newspaper” [“Renmin Ribao”] since the beginning of the crisis: “Mind your own business!”
But a leopard cannot change its spots! Most Western leaders and their media reprensentatives – they really can’t help it – keep indulging in wishful thinking. They see Hong Kong’s special status as a kind of international regime – which does not exist anywhere – even though it is an internal regulation under Chinese sovereignty. This sleight of hand gives an appearance of legitimacy to foreign interference. In a hypocritical way, it transforms a domestic issue into an international conflict and seems to justify the opinionated tone of Western leaders towards a manipulated public opinion. Then we hear how Western leaders, whose poor respect for international law is known from experience, teach Beijing lessons as if Hong Kong were a territory occupied by China! They even repeat the childish rhetoric of Hong Kong agitators, who claim that Beijing is responsible of “interference in the territory’s internal affairs”, forgetting that this territory is part of the People’s Republic of China. Fortunately for them, stupidity doesn’t kill. Overtaken by China on an economic level and unable to militarily defeat it – for obvious reasons – the United States is firing all its weapons to destabilise its systemic rival. Seasonal human rights activism is the only weapon they have left. They use it in Hong Kong as well as in Caracas or Tehran, and no one is fooled. 

When will there be a Chinese protest over the way the US government manages the multiple crises on its territory or over the centuries-old oppression inflicted on African Americans? Are those who denounce the unbearable repression that is supposed to reign in Hong Kong the same as those who organise deadly embargoes against Iran, Syria, Cuba or Venezuela? According to the calculations of the liberal economist Jeffrey Sachs, sanctions imposed on Venezuela since 2017 have resulted in the death of 40,000 people, including thousands of children deprived of medication. Aren’t the whiny women’s choirs from Paris, who demand our solidarity with the Hong Kong demonstrators for being exposed to “outrageous violence”, the same ones who, without complaining, accepted the action of the French government against the social movement of the Yellow Vests, with its 10,000 arrests, 1,800 convictions and 200 serious injuries, including 25 mutilations? Or like those who have no objection to France’s participation in a war of extermination in Yemen, that caused 50,000 dead, one million cholera victims and 8 million civilians threatened by starvation? But it’s true, wiping on your own doorstep isn’t very popular in Washington and Paris. And in these capitals of the civilised world, we are always ready to interfere in the affairs of others by invoking humanitarian principles that we trample on every day.•

* Bruno Guigue was born 1962 in Toulouse, France. He is a French former senior civil servant, a political philosophy researcher and an international relations analyst.


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the chinese dilemma...

This is about world power clashes

Hong Kong‘s financial capitalism insists on free ride for crime

by Kevin Zeese* and Margaret Flowers** 

Hong Kong is one of the most extreme examples of big finance, neoliberal capitalism in the world. As a result, many people in Hong Kong are suffering from great economic insecurity in a city, with 93 billionaires, second-most of any city. Hong Kong is suffering the effects of being colonized by Britain for more than 150 years following the Opium Wars. The British put in place a capitalist economic system and Hong Kong has had no history of self-rule. When Britain left, it negotiated an agreement that prevents China from changing Hong Kong’s political and economic systems for 50 years by making Hong Kong a Special Administrative Region (SAR).

China cannot solve the suffering of the people of Hong Kong. This ‘One Country, Two Systems’ approach means the extreme capitalism of Hong Kong exists alongside, but separate from, China’s socialized system. Hong Kong has an unusual political system. For example, half the seats in the legislature are required to represent business interests meaning corporate interests vote on legislation.

Hong Kong is a center for big finance and also a center of financial crimes. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of suspicious transactions reported to law enforcement agencies rocketed from 32,907 to 92,115. There has been a small number of prosecutions, which dropped from a high of 167 in 2014 to 103 in 2017. Convictions dropped to only one person sentenced to more than six years behind bars in 2017.

The problem is neither the extradition bill that was used to ignite protests nor China, the problem is Hong Kong’s economy and governance.

The extradition bill

The stated cause of the recent protests is an extradition bill proposed because there is no legal way to prevent criminals from escaping charges when they flee to Hong Kong. The bill was proposed by the Hong Kong government in February 2019 to establish a mechanism to transfer fugitives in Hong Kong to Taiwan, Macau or Mainland China. 

Extradition laws are a legal norm between countries and within countries (e.g. between states), and since Hong Kong is part of China, is pretty basic. In fact, in 1998, a pro-democracy legislator, Martin Lee, proposed a law similar to the one he now opposes to ensure a person is prosecuted and tried at the place of the offense.

The push for the bill came in 2018 when a Hong Kong resident Chan Tong-kai allegedly killed his pregnant girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing in Taiwan, then returned to Hong Kong. Chan admitted he killed Poon to Hong Kong police, but the police were unable to charge him for murder or extradite him to Taiwan because no agreement was in place.

The proposed law covered 46 types of crimes that are recognized as serious offenses across the globe. These include murder, rape, and sexual offenses, assaults, kidnapping, immigration violations, and drug offenses as well as property offenses like robbery, burglary and arson and other traditional criminal offenses. It also included business and financial crimes.

Months before the street protests, the business community expressed opposition to the law. Hong Kong’s two pro-business parties urged the government to exempt white-collar crimes from the list of offenses covered by any future extradition agreement. There was escalating pressure from the city’s business heavyweights. The American Chamber of Commerce, AmCham, a fifty-year-old organization that represents over 1,200 US companies doing business in Hong Kong, opposed the proposal.

AmCham said it would damage the city’s reputation: “Any change in extradition arrangements that substantially expands the possibility of arrest and rendition … of international business executives residing in or transiting through Hong Kong as a result of allegations of economic crime made by the mainland government … would undermine perceptions of Hong Kong as a safe and secure haven for international business operations.”

Kurt Tong, the top US diplomat in Hong Kong, said in March that the proposal could complicate relations between Washington and Hong Kong. Indeed, the Center for International Private Enterprise, an arm of NED said the proposed law would undermine economic freedom, cause capital flight and threaten Hong Kong’s status as a hub for global commerce. They pointed to a bipartisan letter signed by eight members of Congress, including Senators Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, and Steve Daines and Members of the House of Representatives, Jim McGovern, Ben McAdams, Chris Smith, Tom Suozzi, and Brian Mast opposing the bill.

Proponents of the bill responded by exempting nine of the economic crimes and made extradition only for crimes punishable by at least seven years in prison. These changes did not satisfy big business advocates.

The mass protests and US role 

From this attention to the law, opposition grew with the formation of a coalition to organize protests. As Alexander Rubinstein reports, “the coalition cited by Hong Kong media, including the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Free Press, as organizers of the anti-extradition law demonstrations is called the Civil Human Rights Front. That organization’s website lists the NED-funded HKHRM [Human Rights Monitor], Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Civic Party, the Labour Party, and the Democratic Party as members of the coalition.” HKHRM alone received more than $1.9 million in funds from the NED between 1995 and 2013. Major protests began in June.

Building the anti-China movement in Hong Kong has been a long-term, NED project since 1996. In 2012, NED invested $460,000 through its National Democratic Institute, to build the anti-China movement (aka pro-democracy movement), particularly among university students. Two years later, the mass protests of Occupy Central occurred. In a 2016 Open Letter to Kurt Tong, these NED grants and others were pointed out and Tong was asked if the US was funding a Hong Kong independence movement.

During the current protests, organizers were photographed meeting with Julie Eadeh, the political unit chief of US Consulate General, in a Hong Kong hotel. They also met with China Hawks in Washington, DC including Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Senator Marco Rubio and Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Larry Diamond, a co-editor of the NED’s publication and a co-chair of research, has been openly encouraging the protesters. He delivered a video message of support during their rally this weekend (17/18 August 2019).

Protests have included many elements of US color revolutions with tactics such as violence – attacks on bystanders, media, police and emergency personnel. Similar tactics were used in Ukraine, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, e.g. violent street barricades. US officials and media criticized the government’s response to the violent protests, even though they have been silent on the extreme police violence against the Yellow Vests in France. Demonstrators also use swarming techniques and sophisticated social media messaging targeting people in the US.

Mass protests have continued. On 9 July, Chief Executive Carrie Lam pronounced the bill dead and suspended it. Protesters are now calling for the bill to be withdrawn, Lam to resign and police to be investigated. For more on the protests and US involvement, listen to our interview with K. J. Noh on Clearing the FOG (available on Monday).

What is driving discontent in Hong Kong?

The source of unrest in Hong Kong is the economic insecurity stemming from capitalism. In 1997, Britain and China agreed to leave “the previous capitalist system” in place for 50 years.

Hong Kong has been ranked as the world’s freest economy in the Heritage’s Index of Economic Freedom since 1995 when the index began. In 1990, Milton Friedman described Hong Kong as the best example of a free-market economy. Its ranking is based on low taxes, light regulations, strong property rights, business freedom, and openness to global commerce.

Graeme Maxton writes in the „South China Morning Post“: “The only way to restore order is through a radical change in Hong Kong’s economic policies. After decades of doing almost nothing, and letting the free market rule, it is time for the Hong Kong government to do what it is there for; to govern in the interests of the majority.”

The issue is not the extradition proposal, Carrie Lam or China. What we are witnessing is an unrestricted neo-liberal economy, described as a free market on steroids. Hong Kong’s economy relative to China’s gross domestic product (GDP) has fallen from a peak of 27 percent in 1993 to less than 3 percent in 2017. During this time, China has had tremendous growth, including in nearby market-friendly Shenzen, while Hong Kong has not.

As Sara Flounders writes, “For the last 10 years wages have been stagnant in Hong Kong while rents have increased 300 percent; it is the most expensive city in the world. In Shenzhen, wages have increased 8 percent every year, and more than 1 million new, public, green housing units at low rates are nearing completion.”

Hong Kong has the world’s highest rents, a widening wealth gap and a poverty rate of 20 percent. In China, the poverty rate fell from 88 percent in 1981 to 0.7 percent in 2015, according to the World Bank.

Hong Kong in the Chinese context

Ellen Brown writes in “Neoliberalism Has Met Its Match in China,” that the Chinese government owns 80 percent of banks, which make favorable loans to businesses, and subsidizes worker costs. The US views China subsidizing its economy as an unfair trade advantage, while China sees long-term, planned growth as smarter than short-term profits for shareholders.

The Chinese model of state-controlled capitalism (some call it a form of socialism) has lifted 800 million people out of poverty and built a middle class of over 420 million people, growing from four percent in 2002, to 31 percent. The top twelve Chinese companies on the Fortune 500 are all state-owned and state-subsidized including oil, solar energy, telecommunications, engineering, construction companies, banks, and the auto industry. China has the second-largest GDP, and the largest economy based on Purchasing Power Parity GDP, according to the CIA, IMF and World Bank.

China does have significant problems. There are thousands of documented demonstrations, strikes and labor actions in China annually, serious environmental challenges, inequality and social control through the use of surveillance technology. How China responds to these challenges is a test for their governance.

China describes itself as having an intraparty democracy. The eight other legal “democratic parties” that are allowed to participate in the political system cooperate with but do not compete with the Communist Party. There are also local elections for candidates focused on grassroots issues. China views western democracy and economics as flawed and does not try to emulate them but is creating its own system.

China is led by engineers and scientists, not by lawyers and business people. It approaches policy decisions through research and experimentation. Every city and every district is involved in some sort of experimentation including free trade zones, poverty reduction, and education reform. “There are pilot schools, pilot cities, pilot hospitals, pilot markets, pilot everything under the sun, the whole China is basically a giant portfolio of experiments, with mayors and provincial governors as Primary Investigators.” In this system, Hong Kong could be viewed as an experiment in neoliberal capitalism.

The Communist Party knows that to keep its hold on power, it must combat inequalities and shift the economy towards a more efficient and more ecological model. Beijing has set a date of 2050 to become a “socialist society” and to achieve that, it seeks improvements in social, labor and environmental fields.

Where does Hong Kong fit into these long-term plans? With 2047 as the year for the end of the agreement the UK, US and western powers are working toward preserving their capitalist dystopia of Hong Kong and manufacturing consensus for long-term conflict with China. The NED-inspired anti-China protests are part of that long-term campaign.

How this conflict of economic and political systems turns out depends on whether China can confront its contradictions, whether Hong Kongers can address the source of their problems and whether US empire can continue its dollar, political and military dominance. Today’s conflicts in Hong Kong are rooted in all of these realities. 


*    Kevin Zeese is an American political activist who has been a leader in the drug policy reform and peace movements and in efforts to ensure a voter verified paper audit trail. 

**    Margaret Flowers, M.D., is a Maryland pediatrician seeking the Green Party nomination for the US Senate. She is co-director of and a board adviser to “Physicians for a National Health Program” and is on the “Leadership Council of the Maryland Health Care Is a Human Right campaign.”


Source: 19 August 2019



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