“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.”
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.
Source: https://francais.rt.com/opinions/65016-hong-kong-ingerence-occidentale-main-dans-sac from 16.8.2019
(Translation Current Concerns)
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